Key Performance Indicators for a water smart corporate management

In the latest ranking of the Corporate Responsibility Index released in October 2021, Severn Trent was number one of publicly traded companies on FTSE 100. For the 6th time, this Index evaluates companies on their commitment to social, environmental, and ethical objectives such as carbon emissions, gender equality and transparency.

Only one other water company, United Utilities in the Northwest around Manchester, made it to No. 14 on the list, which contains Unilever (no. 3), large Banks such as Natwest or Barclays (5 and 6), Telcom Companies BT (7) and Vodafone (12), Pharma giants Astra Zeneca (21) and GSK (24), and Big Oil, Shell (58) and BP (89).  

The rankings are made using over 5,000 data points across more than 120 indicators, which span key planet-related metrics including emissions intensity and waste recycling, as well as people-focused factors like employee satisfaction, staff training or policies relating to diversity and equality in the workplace. The public sources are freely available via company profiles on Responsibility100 website.

Severn Trent moved up 5 places to its new position at the top, even though the company’s direct emissions have seen a slight increase. Nevertheless, Severn Trent’s waste production nearly halved during the last reporting period. It also started reporting indirect emissions for the first time last year, and performs strongly across equality metrics, including a 0 percent gender bonus gap.

Severn Trent is publishing its emissions through the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) since 2010, as recommended by the Taskforce on Climate Related Financial Disclosures (TCFD). Since 2007, Scope 1 and 2 operational emissions were reduced by over 80% while renewable energy generation grew from 100 GWh to over 500 GWh.

A further carbon reduction plan was approved in 2021 by the global Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), consistent with reductions to keep global warming to 1.5°C, and meeting the most ambitious objectives of the Paris Agreement. This commits Severn Trent to reduce absolute scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions by more than 45% by FY2030 from a FY2020 base year. To reach these targets, a Triple Carbon Pledge was announced to Support Water UK’s Net Zero 2030 Routemap: (1) net zero operational carbon, (2) 100% renewable energy and (3) 100% electric vehicles by 2030.

Severn Trent fleet of cars, vans and tankers accounts for some 11% of direct emissions. In addition to reducing unnecessary journeys and encouraging efficient driving, all new cars purchased are now electric, extending to all new vans by 2023, in parallel with installing over 350 charge points across over 65 sites.

The greatest challenge, however, is in addressing the 75% of direct emissions that come from waste and sludge treatment. The science to measure these emissions is still improving, to account for and minimise emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, which represent 1.5% of all anthropogenic emissions and 4-5% of all non-CO2 emissions.

But to make significant headway, deeper technological innovation is needed. The Rewaise Project helps evaluating impact, cost, likelihood, and timing of possible solutions, to determine if and when options are ready to be deployed. The project focuses on new technologies and partnerships, ensuring that process emissions are a key consideration in infrastructure design and long-term asset strategy.

One key environmental target is to reduce per capita water consumption by 3.5% to 125 litres per person per day by 2025, and getting closer to 110 litres by 2045. This is partly achieved by a 15% reduction in leakage between 2020 and 2025, and a 50% reduction in leakage by 2045. Furthermore, across 44 catchments, management will be improved, covering more than 432,000 hectares, by engaging with 9,000 farmers as part of Farming for Water scheme by 2025, and planting 1.3 million trees by 2030.