Anglian Water has set out its vision for the future in a bold manifesto that puts drought, flooding, sustainable growth, carbon neutrality and improving the environment at the core of its operations for the next 25 years.
The document, launched today, is a revitalised version of Anglian Water’s Strategic Direction Statement (SDS), first published a decade ago. The original SDS highlighted climate change and population growth as the two biggest challenges facing the company. The updated document acknowledges those challenges remain but builds on them, and the responses the company proposes.
Its publication follows a consultation process that underlined how customer needs and expectations – and those of the region – have changed since the publication of the first SDS. The importance of affordable bills and increased support for customers in vulnerable circumstances features prominently in the revised document.
The new Strategic Direction Statement outlines four stretching and long-term goals that have been agreed with customers:
- To make the east of England resilient to the risks of drought and flooding
- To enable sustainable economic and housing growth in the UK’s fastest growing region
- To become a carbon neutral business by 2050
- To work with others to achieve significant improvement in ecological quality across our catchments.
The document paints a picture of the long term, 25-year context for the region. This is the backdrop against which the company’s five-year business plan (for 2020-2025) will be written next year. In the SDS, the company makes clear that all of its work will be underpinned by a continued focus on helping those customers that need it most, and affordable bills, acknowledging the continued pressure on household budgets.
It highlights six challenges, and outlines the company’s response to each. Three are common to the whole of the water industry: affordability and customer expectations; the need to plan for the long term; and changing markets, structure and financing of the industry. Three challenges are felt to be particularly acute in the east of England: climate change; population and economic growth; and the need for environmental protection.
Launching the SDS, Alex Plant, Anglian Water’s Director of Regulation, said, “Customer engagement has been at the heart of much of our planning over the last decade, and this document is no exception.
“When we wrote our business plan for the five years between 2015 and 2020, we engaged around 50,000 customers in detailed conversations on what matters most to them. We spoke to both household and business customers, and wider stakeholders, to create a set of outcomes that we all agreed really matter – and we committed to deliver them.
“Our SDS builds on those outcomes. What was hugely enriching for us was the depth of engagement we were able to have with the advisory panel we created. We’re confident we changed their view of us – but in response to their challenges, we have also changed our commitments. We think the document is substantially better for this detailed engagement.”
Following the consultation, a high-level ambition of ‘driving digital transformation’ that featured in the draft document was replaced, as customers expressed a view that this should simply be how all businesses operate in the future. The company agreed, although it remains committed to making substantial investment to deliver digital transformation in the coming years.
Customer and stakeholder feedback also drove an increased focused in the final document on working with the natural environment, and making use of natural processes, to protect water and improve biodiversity – a ‘natural capital approach’.
Greater commitments were also made in the published document to smart metering, and engaging developers and customers on water-efficient homes.
Alex continued: “Put simply, we listened, and we made changes. We’re confident we now have an even stronger long term strategy thanks to the feedback we received from our customers and stakeholders.
“No-one can know precisely what the world will be like in 25 years, so we don’t look at this document as a blueprint. Instead, it sets out the challenges we face and the long-term future we want to achieve.
“It refreshes our vision, and restates our commitment to fulfilling our obligations as a 21st century water company against the backdrop of increasing pressures on water resources and the environment, rapid regional housing growth, an industry undergoing structural changes, and increasing customer expectations.”
Read the full document at www.anglianwater.co.uk/SDS