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Corporate Social Responsibility – 2016/17

The Group has had a particularly successful year in managing the Health and Safety of its employees, and continuing to focus on the environment and prevention of pollution. The Group is committed to supporting its local communities and supporting fundraising events. Customers are also at the centre of the Group’s activities. CSR has and remains a priority for the Group.

Employees

The health, safety and wellbeing of our employees is central to the growth and success of South Staffordshire Plc. We ensure it remains a safe and enjoyable Group to work for, by providing a positive and inclusive working environment.

Health & Safety

Good progress has been made to steer the Group to further develop the Health and Safety culture, and each business met or improved their targets for reduction in accidents. The headline figure being, no RIDDOR accidents, compared to seven in the previous year.

Each business takes responsibility for the health and safety of all of its employees. A Group level Health and Safety Strategy Forum, led by the Group Chief Executive and supported by the Head of Health and Safety, continues to oversee activities in this important area of the business.

The success is due to each business closely monitoring their own performance, against their own Business Safety Plan, which contains business specific targets for, different measures of accidents, accident rates, hazards identified, Director and Line Manager Audits, as well as local initiatives aimed at addressing identified areas of risk.

New Business Safety Plans have been developed for 2017/18 and focus on accountability. These plans are divided into departmental plans and managers are responsible for the delivery of specific parts of the overall plan.

The accident/incident database has been further developed to include Hazard Reporting, and accident investigation training has been rolled out to approximately 300 managers and supervisors, these are just a couple of the initiatives which were undertaken during the year.

Effective leadership, commitment and employee engagement enabled us to achieve our Health and Safety milestones, which were met or improved on for the third year in succession. In order to maintain the momentum, annual milestones have been set for 2017/18, with a minimum of 10% improvement on 2016/17's performance.

The majority of our businesses have external accreditation for their health, safety and environmental management systems. Many Group companies also hold ISO 9001 quality management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety management accreditations, and are part of the Safe Contractor schemes.

Employees have access to specialist occupational health advisors, who can provide proactive health surveillance and advice in order to keep our employees fit and healthy. Employee assistance programmes are also available across the Group; our employees can get free advice and counselling on any issues, whether its work related or personal.

Effective leadership, commitment, worker engagement and a constant message have all helped return an excellent performance which saw all the 2015/16 Health and Safety milestones met or exceeded for the second year in succession. This is typified by the Group’s performance regarding the number of RIDDOR reportable accidents during the year. The result was 7 which is an improvement when compared to the previous year’s 8. The RIDDOR Incident Rate for 2015/16 finished at 2.59, an 11% improvement on the previous year’s rate (2.90) and the best year to date.

In order to maintain the momentum going forward, annual milestones have been set for 2016/17 at a minimum of 10% improvement on this year’s performance.

The majority of our businesses have external accreditation for their health, safety and environmental management systems. Many Group companies also hold ISO 9001 quality management and OHSAS 18001 Occupational Health and Safety management accreditations, and are part of the Safe Contractor schemes.

Employees have access to specialist occupational health advisors, who can provide proactive health surveillance and advice in order to keep our employees fit and healthy. Employee assistance programmes are also made available to employees across the Group, where employees can get free advice and counselling on any issues, whether work related or personal.

Training, development and engagement

South Staffs Water is committed to providing a safe, positive and rewarding working environment. The annual employee survey plays an important role in helping understand the feelings and motivations of the employees. The results provide direction for change and improvement in areas such as, training and development and the working environment. The recruitment of seven apprentices, each with a mentor, during the year, represents a commitment to investing in future talent.

Echo launched an Employee Voice Forum to drive communication and engagement, in addition to driving actions to make Echo a great place to work, the forum also focuses on local and national charity days/events. So far they have supported, Depression Awareness Week, No Smoking Day, Learning at Work Week and National Walking Month. A wellness policy has also been launched, to support employees in promoting a happier healthier wellbeing.

SSI Services have periodic reviews of individuals, to identify and ensure that appropriate qualifications and accreditations are in place to carry out their duties, in accordance with legislation and customer requirements. Approximately 120 managers and supervisors have completed the Training for Success programme, which covers all aspects of leadership and management. Existing apprentice programmes will be strengthened by the development of an Engineering Apprenticeship Programme in late 2017.

Equality and fair treatment

We are committed to providing a positive working environment, free from discrimination and/or unfair treatment. Every effort is made to provide equal opportunities for employment, training and promotion, having regard to employees’ particular aptitudes and abilities, regardless of their gender, race, age or disability. If an employee were to become disabled, we would endeavour to keep them in the workforce, by making reasonable adjustments to their role or working environment, or looking for redeployment opportunities within the Group.

Human rights are not considered to be a material risk for the business, due to existing regulatory requirements in the UK and the nature of our supply chain.

Environment

As a Group, we have several environmental projects on going. South Staffs Water continues management of the previously established wildflower meadow areas at Sedgley Beacon, and the translocated grassland area at Fleam Dyke. It launched the PEBBLE fund, awarding grants totalling £26,500 to ten projects aiming to improve biodiversity across the South Staffs and Cambridge regions. SSI Services is ISO 14001 accredited, which covers the environmental aspects and impacts that relevant to the activities it carries out. The division is working towards reducing its carbon footprint and that of its customers, by the regionalisation of the business and the minimisation of fuel usage.

Communities

The key event in our fundraising calendar was WaterAid’s Sparkles & Suits Ball. More than 200 guests attended from across the Group, the wider supply chain and other stakeholders. A total of nearly £44,000 was raised as a result of sponsorship, monetary and gift donations and fundraising on the night, significantly beating last year’s total. Support for the charity continued during their ‘GoBlue4Water’ activity on World Water Day in March 2017.

Each of our businesses have provided support to their local communities and organised or attended fundraising events:

  • Group Services provided 13 days of employee time to support a local hospice (Acorns)
  • South Staffs Water Employee Volunteer Scheme provides staff with up to three days’ paid time per year to participate in work that will make a positive difference in their communities. They also encourage communities to access their sites that are open to the public, to help increase knowledge of the work the company does. A highlight of the year was opening the Maplebrook pumping station in Burntwood as part of the national initiative, Heritage Open Days. Although no longer functioning, the Grade II listed building is one of the few remaining pumping stations in England to retain original triple expansion steam engines in situ.
  • Echo supported the Macmillan Cancer cake sale, Children in Need and Save the Children, to name a few. They also participated in events for local charities, their Belfast site continues to support local animal shelters, and in Walsall, food is regularly donated from our contact centre to a local homeless shelter. Finally, Echo launched an employee volunteering scheme, piloting the scheme in Bristol, giving employees a paid day off to support local volunteering programmes.
  • SSI Services is a nationwide division, and so it encourages employees to support their local charities, specifically in areas relating to schools and learning. SSI Services also supports the Robert Harley award, which is made once a year to employees who have shown commitment to delivering great service and who have gone the extra mile for the success of the division. The winner is awarded with £500 to donate to a charity of their choice.

Customers

The Group is concentrating on customer satisfaction, service quality and building long-term relationships with customers, all of which are imperative to the future success of the Group.

The Water Customer panel is made up of an impartial board of customers. Stakeholders and experts who act on behalf of customers to keep check on how South Staffs Water operates. They are responsible for looking at communication, ensuring the commitments outlined in the business plan are met and challenging performance to be sustainable, affordable and cost- effective.

Echo took part in the Institute of Customer Service’s (ICS) National Customer Service Week in October 2016; the ICS spent an engagement day in the Bristol Operation. This was to embed the ICS principles and values within the operation with this focus on customer service by Echo being rewarded with a number of awards.

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