Ofwat chief executive Rachel Fletcher wrote to water company CEOs in the wake of what she described as a “dark week for the water industry,” triggered by the Southern Water sewage failure case, to caution them against complacency.
Fletcher pictured) told leaders and boards, if they have not already done so, to consider and engage with customers on three questions.
Are Ofwat’s findings against Southern Water widely understood across your business?
She said: “This is not a matter just for your regulation or compliance teams but is a stark reminder of the responsibilities that everyone in your company – from board director down – has to customers and the environment.”
How confident are you that the events in Southern Water could not happen in your company?
She explained governance, assurance and culture are relevant considerations – as well as “how do you encourage your people to speak up if something is wrong?”
What are you doing to allow your stakeholders and communities to help you understand the impact you are having? “For example, could you provide more open access to raw performance data? Are you and your board plugged in to what influencers and customers are saying on social media? Are you making it easy enough for local groups to have a two way dialogue with you about their concerns?”
Fletcher said “I do not want to believe that the culture that existed in Southern Water – and which Ian and his team are committed to stamping out – is representative of the sector as a whole.” But nonetheless that “o
ur action this week sends a message to the whole sector that we will not tolerate companies that show scant regard for their responsibilities to customers and the environment. Companies should expect us to step up the sanctions we impose for breaches of this nature.”