Strategic Comms Awards

Most meaningful use of materiality

Severn Trent
Agency: Luminous

Severn Trent is a company that has been described as ‘walking the talk’ when it comes to social purpose and sustainability, with these firmly embedded throughout its operations. Consequently, its ESG story is fully integrated across its reporting suite and corporate communications.

Following the launch of its first sustainability report in 2020, when Severn Trent used its stakeholder engagement process to identify important ESG topics, the water company adopted a digital first approach in 2021.

Created as a landscape interactive PDF, including animated content, hyperlinked page drivers and a top navigation to provide a browser-like experience, Severn Trent adopted a double materiality assessment to provide a solid foundation for the report and its contents.

The core sustainability reporting team identified the universe of potential material issues, drawing upon its regular contacts with stakeholders, internal data, media monitoring and considering themes raised by relevant sustainability frameworks, such as the GRI and Sustainability Accounting Standards Board.

Guided by the GRI’s approach to prioritising impacts based on severity and likelihood, Severn Trent scored each sub-topic on two scales: the likelihood of a positive or negative impact, and the scale of that impact. Each sub-topic (or aspect of a potential material issue) received a score from one to five, which aligned with Severn Trent’s existing Enterprise Risk Management process. Each issue received a score after totaling up the scores of each sub-topic.

The five most material issues are clearly laid out for the first time in the report.

They are:

  • Carbon and climate change
  • Water resource for the future
  • Skills and unemployment
  • Enhancing nature
  • Supporting vulnerable customers

Clear signage alongside each materiality issue directs the reader to a more in-depth explanation of what this means for Severn Water. For example, a section on ‘enhancing nature’ looks at how it can protect and nurture the ecosystem that protects and nurtures its most important resource: water. It reveals that Severn Water has commissioned non-governmental organisations to carry out biodiversity audits on more than 60 sites, as well as liaising with farmers, landowners, and partner organisations to consider biodiversity in land beyond its boundaries.

The report then digs further into each material issue, considering its performance over the year, either on a year-by-year basis or against previously set targets, before publicly announcing its targets for 2025, 2027 and 2030.

An interactive ‘understanding our impact’ section highlights Severn Trent’s positive impacts against its material issues, such as planting more than 296,000 trees.

The report is clearly laid out, interactive in parts and easy to follow, with fun illustrations and graphics complementing photographs to demonstrate case studies.