A look ahead
The only constant is change, and while it can be hard to predict the future, we are anticipating the following economic, environmental, social and governance trends in the coming years:
We will be monitoring UK's exit from the European Union and the associated developments. We will act to ensure that the interests of our customers, employees, shareholders, and communities are safeguarded.
Tough economic conditions will persist in the North West and we expect that a large number of our customers will continue to struggle paying their bills. We are committed to our financial support services and charitable trust to help those that need it most.
We also recognise the need to make wise investment decisions that deliver the greatest value for customers, while keeping bills affordable.
Cash flow has never been more important to our suppliers, and we will retain our commitment to prompt payments to support stability.
We contribute to the North West economy through jobs, training and spending across the supply chain. We will continue to maximise these benefits for the region, working in partnership with others where it makes sense to do so.
The North West boasts some of the most beautiful scenery in the country, and we will continue to protect those environments we touch and implement the requirements of environmental legislation.
Extreme rainfall and prolonged dry spells are becoming an increasingly common. Responding to climate change remains a key strand of our long-term business strategy. We will partner with other organisations to tackle the implications for flood risk and drought. We all have a part to play.
We expect our water resources to remain relatively resilient across most of the region, including a new supply solution to West Cumbria, where it will no longer be practical to abstract water in large quantities from local sources.
Meeting the Water Environment (Water Framework Directive) (England and Wales) Regulations 2003 for all waters to fully comply with good ecological status by 2027, and addressing water quality issues in safeguard zones will prove challenging as the measures required to meet these standards are not within our direct control.
Increasingly, it is the actions of others that have the greatest impact and we will work hard to influence a variety of parties to adopt water friendly practices. For example, we are already collaborating with others to improve the quality of the region’s bathing waters.
Interest in the concept of ‘natural capital,’ or placing an economic value on natural assets, continues. We want to understand this better to ensure that we are investing in projects that bring wider benefits. We are engaging with the Government’s Natural Capital Committee to share our experiences of natural capital accounting and its insights into strategic decision making.
We remain committed to reducing our reliance on virgin materials, stepping up to the challenge to be more resource efficient and generating more of our own renewable energy. We will maintain and enhance the region’s wildlife habitats and areas of outstanding beauty, both key drivers of tourism.
Demographic changes will undoubtedly have an impact on how we deliver our services in the future. For example, it is estimated that the number of households in the North West will increase from 3 million to over 3.6 million in the next 25 years. We will also need to tailor our approach to an ageing regional population.
The continued evolution of social media and digital technology, meanwhile, will have implications for how we interact with our customers and how our service provision will be different.
We will continue to promote social and economic wellbeing; such as increasing youth employment. In the future, we will engage with stakeholders to examine which social issues link to our business objectives and where we can make a meaningful contribution.
With public trust in big business currently at a low ebb, we understand the importance of robust governance and transparent reporting. That's why we have a Board sub-committee on corporate responsibility to oversee these key issues.
We expect that the scrutiny of corporations and the tax they pay will continue, and we are committed to complying with both the letter and spirit of the law.
Elsewhere, we will monitor and address recurrent challenges, such as increasing the proportion of women in our workforce and ensuring our supply chain shares our own responsible standards. An example of this is our response to the Modern Slavery Act 2015.
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