PN 01/20: Ofwat publishes first report on companies’ response to the board leadership, transparency and governance principles


Ofwat has today published its first report on water companies’ response to the new board leadership, transparency and governance principles. This is part of the regulator’s ongoing challenge for companies to act in the long-term interest of customers and the environment, and to demonstrate their commitment to the wider public interest they serve.

The report found companies moving in the right direction, but with more to do to embed those principles in the business:

  • The vast majority of boards have already taken steps to establish or refresh their company purpose, but there was limited evidence of actions taken so far to ensure that the companies’ cultures help to deliver their purpose.
  • Companies have improved transparency in a number of areas, but they need to do more to explain clearly how bonus payments for executives, and the dividends paid to owners, are linked to how well the company is performing for its customers and the environment.
  • Companies will need to clearly explain in future years how they operate in practice to ensure that there is independent challenge and diversity of thought on their boards. This should build on the arrangements that companies already have in place, or are committed to delivering, to ensure that their board structures are conducive to independent challenge.

Since August 2019, all water companies have had a licence condition in place to meet the objectives of the board leadership, transparency and governance principles. This plays an important role in the sector meeting its long-term challenges and delivering greater public value.

Aileen Armstrong, Senior Director of Finance and Governance at Ofwat said:

“We know that public purpose is critical to rebuilding legitimacy and tackling challenges ahead. We expect companies to step up, build on emerging areas of good practice, and drive a culture that places the needs of customers and the environment at the heart of their business.”


Notes to editors:

  1. Board leadership, transparency and governance – Report on companies’ preparations for meeting the 2019 principles
  2. Whilst companies will not report fully against the new objectives until July 2020, Ofwat has asked them to explain in their 2019 annual reporting the steps they are taking towards meeting the new objectives
  3. Ofwat has also published its report on monitoring financial resilience. This report collates already published information from companies’ annual reports on financial performance and financial structures in the sector.