Supporting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals

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The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been developed to make the world more sustainable by 2030 by addressing challenges such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice. The SDGs can only be achieved if governments, businesses, civil society and citizens work together. The United Nations has produced 17 SDGs and 169 targets that describe the road map of ambitions to build a more sustainable future by 2030.

Although we fully support the aspiration of all 17 SDGs, we have decided to focus on four specific goals where we think we can make a real contribution through what we do every day - delivering water and sanitation to 15 million customers across London and the Thames Valley. We’ve reported on our contribution to the SDGs over the past two years in our CR&S Report (2018/19 Ensuring Responsible Operations) and Annual Report (2018/19 page 79).

The four goals that we are positively contributing towards are:

Clean Water and Sanitation

We provide safe water and sanitation to 15 million customers 24/7/365, the equivalent of almost 25% of the UK population. Every day we supply 2.7 billion litres of safe clean drinking water and treat around 4.4 billion litres of sewage. Outside the UK, we’re working with WaterAid to help deliver its vision of a world where everyone, everywhere, has access to safe water and sanitation. In 2018/19, our employees raised £269,000 for WaterAid, a charity we’ve supported for 37 years, with a further £24,000 of income pledged. This money will be used as part of our four year ‘Thames loves Malawi’ campaign which aims to build partnerships, share knowledge and empower people in Malawi, particularly local council officers and water board employees, to make a sustainable change in two towns. Through fundraising and capacity development support, we have helped make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for more people living in Kasungu and Mponela.

Affordable and Clean Energy

We’re working to increase the amount of renewable energy we generate, helping to increasing the share of renewable energy in the UK and global mix. In 2018/19, we generated 22 per cent of our own electricity needs from renewable sources including sludge (281GWh), wind (5GWh) and solar power (12GWh). We have two wind turbines at sites in east London and Solar Panels at 43 sites, including Europe’s largest floating solar panel array at our Queen Elizabeth II Reservoir. Self-generating our own renewable energy reduces our greenhouse gas emissions and avoids the equivalent of around £32 million a year in energy costs.

Responsible Consumption and Production

We’re working to become more efficient, reduce waste and increase how much we recycle and re-use. Last year, 100 per cent of sewage sludge was put to beneficial use, with treated sludge being applied to agricultural land as fertiliser or used in land restoration/reclamation and incinerator ash being used to create aggregate. We also generated 22% of our own electricity needs from renewable sources. We’re also committed to reducing our reliance on single-use plastic in the business, reducing its impact on the environment as well as helping the UK achieve its target of eliminating all avoidable plastic waste no later than 2042. We’ve been promoting the benefits of consuming our high-quality tap water instead of using water bottled in single-use plastics and will be installing 100 drinking water fountains across the capital in partnership with the Mayor of London.

Climate Action

We’re working to increase our capacity to respond to the impacts of climate change and mitigate our contribution to its causes. We’ve assessed the potential impact on our ability to provide our customers with water and wastewater services and published a report of our findings and our plans to respond. We’ve reduced our greenhouse gas emissions by 0.8% from 277.9 ktCO2e to 275.7 ktCO2e and use 100% renewable electricity. We’ve also set ourselves a very challenging goal to become zero net carbon by 2030 for our operational activities, underlining our commitment to mitigate climate change twenty years ahead of the recently announced Government target. Whilst we haven’t yet identified how we will get to net zero, we will be developing our plan over the next few years to achieve this goal. We believe it is important to set our sights high to help keep global warming below 1.5℃.

Supporting the SDGs is not an additional task for our business - it is part of what we do every day.

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