Corporate reporting

Anglian Water conveys its purpose story through its annual report

Anglian Water structured its annual report around its seven key stakeholder groups

Anglian Water achieved the feat of winning two awards at the inaugural Strategic Comms Awards, showing how its annual report was the best, while presenting purpose as a business driver

To win one award a is an achievement, to win two is deeply impressive. But this is the accomplishment of Anglian Water, picking up two gongs: the best annual report and best use of purpose as a business driver.

There was some effective overlapping of narratives in the two awards, as the company’s messaging around its purpose, values and strategy were central to the success of the annual report. ‘We had formalised our purpose and values in 2019, including taking the ground-breaking step of changing our company Articles of Association to enshrine environmental and social purpose alongside the need to deliver for our shareholders,’ says Rebecca McKie, corporate communications lead at Anglian Water.

For Anglian, the 2020/21 financial year also marked the beginning a new five-year business plan. So it was decided the time was right for a comprehensive overhaul of its annual integrated report. ‘We worked closely with our agency, Emperor, to create a really clear narrative structure that would serve for the next five years, so that we could tell our story consistently and demonstrate our progress against our goals,’ Mckie says.

This narrative was multi-layered. McKie explains: ‘We wanted to place our purpose To bring environmental and social prosperity to the region we serve through our commitment to Love Every Drop front and centre, to help readers understand what drives our approach to doing business. Next, we set out our medium term and long-term goals, so we could report our progress against them. And finally, we identified and organised our content around the stakeholders with whom, and for whom, we are delivering.”

Central to the narrative therefore was Anglian Water’s stakeholders. ‘As a purpose-driven organisation working in the public interest, we really need to understand who our stakeholders are and make sure we’re delivering for them,’ says McKie.

Expanding on this, McKie adds: ‘We provide crucial water and water recycling services to almost seven million people in the east of England and Hartlepool, and we do so under a monopoly. As such, we feel a huge weight of responsibility to deliver the basics brilliantly, but importantly, to go above and beyond that to have that positive impact on the environment and our communities that we speak about in our purpose.’

As a purpose-driven organisation working in the public interest, we really need to understand who our stakeholders are and make sure we’re delivering for them

To this end, the company created and clearly categorised seven stakeholder groups: the environment and the planet; Anglian’s customers and communities; its people and partners; its shareholders; regulators; investors, banks and ratings agencies; and local and national government.

‘Structuring the report around these groups, setting out clearly how we engage with and deliver for them, and how their input shapes decisions made, supported our goal of streamlining complex information and making it easy and engaging for readers to navigate,’ says McKie.

This naturally created its own challenges, but the central messaging helped to guide the way. ‘The biggest challenge for us is always the multitude of initiatives we’d like to feature,’ notes McKie. ‘Anglian Water is active in so many areas, and involved in so many environmental and social projects, that it can be hard to distil into a succinct narrative. Framing the report with a clear structure based around purpose, strategy and stakeholders really helped us work out what belonged where.’

In turn, all this created a strong foundation when it came to promoting the corporate purpose as a business driver. ‘For us, our purpose genuinely does sit at the heart of everything we do, and every decision our directors make. It’s fundamental to how we operate internally, and to how we communicate about Anglian Water externally, so it felt very natural to articulate how it overarches our entire approach to doing business,’ concludes McKie.