Coming out on top in the 2018 awards, Anglian Water was crowned Utility of the Year for being an organisation that delivered on every front, setting itself up as a benchmark for the industry.
Geographically the largest water company in England and Wales, Anglian serves more than six million customers in a region that faces unique challenges. The company’s operating area receives only two-thirds of the UK’s average rainfall, while one out of every five new homes are built in the region, putting growing pressure on a stressed water supply in an area of the country that is at particular risk from climate change.
Anglian says it leads the industry in tackling leaks, having cut losses by more than one-third since privatisation to levels that are now half the national average of water lost per kilometre of mains. The company aims to reduce leakage by a further 22 per cent by 2025, which it says will take it to world-leading levels. Anglian had its ambition and achievements recognised when it was inducted into the Leading Utilities of the World in April 2018.
Before this, Anglian received a Queen’s Award for Sustainability in 2015 and was named Responsible Business of the Year 2017 by Business in the Community.
Over the course of 2018, it has systematically, repeatedly and successfully tackled operational and reputational challenges.
Anglian says it is “doing the basics brilliantly”, and lists its achievements as:
• Number one in SIM, 2017/18, 15 years of upper quartile service performance.
• Most improved Compliance Risk Index score of any company over three years.
• Event Risk Index of 10.8, less than 5 per cent of the national average, which is 249.
• One of industry’s lowest drinking water acceptability complaint rates.
• Catchment management approach to reducing metaldehyde recognised by the Drinking Water Inspectorate (DWI) as leading.
• Never subject to punitive DWI transformation programmes.
• Eighty-four per cent blockage reduction in 2018 after 2,000 Keep it Clear visits.
• On track for four-star Environment Agency Environmental Performance Assessment.
Operating in extreme weather during the Beast from the East and the summer heatwave, Anglian successfully ensured security of water supply for its customers with no interruptions.
In 2018 Anglian launched Water Resources East, a programme that pioneers a collaborative approach to resource planning in the region, including agriculture, energy and the environment. This has built on its existing work chairing the industry’s Long Term Water Resources Planning Report, which the National Infrastructure Commission has drawn on in its own reports.
Furthermore, Anglian has created a campaign called Smarter Drop, which has been working with people in the town of Newmarket and the surrounding villages to cut water use. The town has become an innovation hub, with more than 100 partners participating in more than 95 projects that bring creative and forward-thinking tools, processes and campaigns to Newmarket first for testing.
Through this campaign, the people of Newmarket are helping Anglian to innovate and build the water company of the future.
In regard to innovation, in early 2018 Anglian made its smart pressure controls available to Cape Town during the South African city’s drought, saving the city 45 million litres a day, three-quarters of the total demand reduction.
Recognising that utilities are facing increased scrutiny from the public, Anglian has taken its steps to improve the perception of the business and the wider sector. To achieve this, it has attempted to enhance transparency by committing itself to reducing debt and gearing, changing its board so independent non-executive directors are in the majority, and making a commitment to reinvest £165 million in drought resilience and customer experience during this asset management plan period. Anglian says that it has been the most decisive and done the most to respond to this legitimacy challenge.
In response to the growing climate crisis, Anglian committed to carbon neutrality by 2050. In 2017/18 it recorded a capital carbon drop of 57 per cent and a reduction in operational carbon of 19.6 per cent. Moreover, Anglian’s director of asset management, as chair of the government’s Green Construction Board Infrastructure Working Group, delivered an initiative under which both the government and industry pledged to save 24 million tonnes of carbon and £1.46 billion per year by 2050.
In the years since 1989, Anglian customers have had the lowest bill increases, only 10 per cent compared with an industry average of 46 per cent. From 2015 to today, Anglian has reduced its bills by 10 per cent, the most by any company and twice the industry average.
What the judges said…
The judges described this as a superb entry that stood out as an example of a utility with a clear understanding of its role in terms of corporate responsibility and with clear evidence of strong leadership management, business transformation, long-term thinking and good all-round performance.
They also noted how this entry showed there was much going on in terms of dealing with the important issues of the moment in 2018 – legitimacy and leakage – along with some very clear measures on how to deal with it.
A confident company, happy to deal with difficult things. It chose to make changes, ensured employee engagement and scored lots of number ones with judges – including its long-term thinking on a green bond.
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