We published our draft strategy in May 2019 and asked water companies, the wider sector and customers for their views. We reached out to over 2,000 people and listened to feedback from hundreds of organisations.
Here we share how your feedback has helped to shape our strategy.
We wanted water companies to provide greater public value, delivering more for customers, society and the environment
Your feedback: Companies showed strong support and said their customers also agreed that they should focus on these areas. However, both companies and customer groups said the core functions – providing safe and reliable water and wastewater services – must be a priority.
Our strategy: We want companies to do more to deliver public value and rebuild legitimacy in the eyes of the public, without taking away from their core functions or making water unaffordable. We will give companies space to consider how to do this, continue to promote public purpose and look at the implications for our regulation. We will develop a framework to understand and evaluate social and environmental value.
Customers and communities
We described how some companies were already looking at how they can build trust with their customers and the importance of companies owning these relationships.
Your feedback: Customer groups said we talked about customers indirectly and should be clearer about the outcomes and benefits we want to secure for customers. Some water companies and trade associations noted that we did not specifically acknowledge intergenerational fairness as a challenge.
We heard that our regulation will need to evolve to account for local needs and local strategy. Water companies need to know both their customers and local communities, and we need to recognise how that differs across areas. In Wales, we heard that water must be thought about with the specific context of the country, and all its uses must be managed sustainability.
Our strategy: We want to see companies build on the research they have done for their business plans to deepen their understanding of, and relationships with, their local communities. We are clearer about how we will engage with customers and reflect on their priorities in our work. We will use customer research, social media and work with the Consumer Council for Water (CCWater) to improve our knowledge of people’s attitudes and experience.
We recognised that companies are increasing their focus on innovation and collaborating more. We said we would look the way we regulate and see if there were changes we could make to help companies adopt new tools and techniques.
Your feedback: People across the sector highlighted how important collaboration is to transformational change, and to delivering greater innovation, resilient services, and wider environmental and societal value.
Our strategy: Collaboration will be one of our primary tools in driving progress in the water sector, now and in the future. It will play an important role in making sure that the sector provides the very best service for customers, while protecting and improving our environment. We have committed to working in partnership and strengthening our relationships across the sector. For example, we are setting up an office in Wales to make the best use of the expertise of stakeholders and regulators there.
We addressed some of the challenges the environment faces, and pointed to some of the areas that we might focus on, such as reducing water use, minimising pollution and restoring natural environments.
Your feedback: We heard that the environment must be fundamental to and fully integrated in our strategy. We heard that climate change is an urgent, critical challenge and that we should place more emphasis on the environment in our own work. It is crucial that we work towards a future that is sustainable and resilient.
Our strategy: Companies need to improve the environment as a core part of their business, inseparable from the services they provide. We promise that we too will make the environment integral to all we do, weaving it throughout our strategy and making it a core component of our work. We have made commitments around natural capital, water use, nature based solutions and climate change.
In setting out how we could bring a longer-term perspective to our work, we explored how we can work with others to set long-term expectations for the industry.
Your feedback: We heard from companies that customers and other stakeholders should have a major role in developing long-term targets. Companies told us that it wasn’t clear where the targets sat and how they would be created: would they part of the price control? Would companies have a role to play in setting them?
Our strategy: We will be working with other regulators and Governments to set long-term targets and aspirations. We have been clearer about the aim of the targets: to provide increased clarity to the industry on long-term strategic priorities and provide context for future price reviews, allowing room for companies to decide how to meet them. When these are finalised, we expect to report regularly on progress, and to review and refine our approach to reflect evolving technology and innovation.