A lot of water will flow under this bridge

The social responsibility of United Utilities is important for everyone.

For the UK's privatised water and electricity companies, security of supply, the quality of water and of waste treatment, nature conservation, the politics of pricing, profits and regulation - all these are critical to success.

So a privatised multi-utility calls for corporate social responsibility. United Utilities, formed by the regional electricity company Norweb's take-over by North West Water (NWW) is a FT-SE 100 company with a turnover of pounds 1.5bn. It is responsible for supplying water and electricity to millions of business and domestic customers in the North-west.

Public expectations are critical. Many people are unhappy with the idea of water being privately owned and supplied for profit, and public ill-will can be triggered not only by unwelcome news about a company's operations, but also by public relations disasters elsewhere. United Utilities is therefore planning to involve the community in an integrated approach to its social responsibilities.

North West Water (NWW)'s strategic studies have confirmed a widespread view that the Government's sale of the water industry was "a privatisation too far". Customers' areas of concern include: reliability of supply; management of drought; investment in infrastructure; clean beaches; water prices; and how the benefits of privatisation are shared between consumers and shareholders.

But many of those surveyed also saw a valuable opportunity. As the largest company in the region, NNW could champion local firms and vocational training. It could also benefit the environment by investing in research and education.

NWW's planning uses the model developed by the European Foundation for Quality Management. This includes "impact on society" (with an index weighting of 6 per cent) as one of nine areas of assessment.

In United Utilities' first annual report, the chief executive, Brian Staples, cited Tomorrow's Company, a report by a group of 25 major UK companies. How could sustainable success be achieved "in a world which is not only increasingly competitive, but also increasingly critical and vigilant of business standards"? The report concluded: "Only through deepened relationships with - and between - employees, customers, suppliers, investors and the community..."

Developments at United Utilities are likely to be followed with interest. Tomorrow's Company sets clear operational guidelines, and the latest privatised utility offers an ideal test-bed for its ideasn

The writer is professor of corporate responsibility at Manchester Business School.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin (based in London)

£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Real Staffing's Pharmaceutical...

Guru Careers: Business Analyst / Digital Business Analyst

£50 - 60k (DOE): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Analyst / Digital Bus...

Guru Careers: Business Development Manager / Sales

£30 - 40k (£65k Y1 OTE Uncapped): Guru Careers: We are seeking a Business Deve...

Guru Careers: Graduate Media Assistant

Competitive (DOE): Guru Careers: We are looking for an ambitious and adaptable...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before