Systems Thinking

Our pioneering approach to operating our business, which we call Systems Thinking, is one of our competitive advantages and we set out more detail on this in the Our competitive advantages section.

Systems Thinking is one of the main drivers of the operational performance improvements we have delivered in recent years, as well as helping us achieve significant cost savings.

We have embedded this way of thinking throughout our business, to put in place the telemetry backbone across our network, to gather and analyse data, and to set up our Integrated Control Centre (the 'digital brain' of our network) to remotely monitor and control our assets from our head office. This time and investment has given us a significant advantage.

The best way to demonstrate what Systems Thinking means in practice and the benefits it delivers is to give detailed operational examples.

Since 2015, we have included business insights in each year's annual report covering our integrated control centre, our network sensors and telemetry backbone, our system-wide approach to sludge treatment, and our use of artificial intelligence to deliver advanced water network management.

This year, read more in the Introducing artificial intelligence to our network section to see how we are rolling out artificial intelligence across our entire water network through a platform that can assess vast amounts of data on a wide range of factors such as weather, demand for water, pump performance and electricity prices. This was an idea developed through our Innovation Lab, and helps make decisions on the most cost-effective and efficient way to run water pumps, detect burst pipes, and minimise the risk of discoloured water.

Governance and risk management

Good governance lies at the heart of all successful organisations and leads to better management decisions. We strive to operate in a manner that reflects the highest standards of corporate governance, accountability and transparency. Our company structure and governance standards are designed to ensure our board continues to observe sound and prudent governance in compliance with the UK Corporate Governance Code.

Read more about our approach to governance in our Governance report

Our board members have diversity in terms of experience, skills and personal attributes, and in terms of age, gender and ethnicity, helping to bring a breadth of views in considering strategic decisions and priorities.

We have an anti-bribery policy that all our employees must follow, and processes in place to monitor compliance with the policy. We operate an independently provided, confidential reporting helpline and web portal for employees to raise matters of concern in relation to fraud, dishonesty, corruption, theft, security and bribery, and all claims are fully investigated. Our audit committee has oversight of the policies and procedures in relation to anti-bribery and fraud.

Our anti-bribery policy is available to view online at: unitedutilities.com

Our employees and representatives of our suppliers must comply with our sustainable supply chain charter. This explains that we will not tolerate corruption, bribery or anti-competitive actions, and we expect our suppliers to comply with applicable laws and regulations and, in particular, never to offer or accept any undue payment or other consideration, directly or indirectly, for the purposes of inducing any person or entity to act contrary to their prescribed duties.

Given the complex legal and regulatory environment within which we operate, and the critical nature of our infrastructure and service provision, we are exposed to a broad variety of risks. Mitigating exposure to potential risks helps us improve our resilience.

Accepting some level of risk is a normal and necessary consequence for a commercial organisation in order to run the business in a cost-effective way. However, as you would expect of the provider of an essential service, we adopt a prudent approach to managing risks to our business.

See Our risk management for what we consider to be our principal risks and uncertainties, and how we manage and mitigate these

Values and culture

Our core values of customer focus, integrity and innovation start at the top and cascade through all levels of our business. They are interrelated – innovating to improve our services and acting with integrity in the way we conduct our activities helps us to continually improve customer service.

Customer focus

We have instilled a customer-centric approach right across our organisation, and this has been a key driver of the major improvement in customer service. Putting customers at the heart of what we do has helped deliver benefits for shareholders and wider stakeholders.

Integrity

Acting with integrity, both at board level and as a company, underpins our approach to responsible business and building trust. We actively encourage our employees to express their opinions and ideas through various engagement and social channels, such as our employee engagement surveys, intranet, and social media collaboration tool 'Yammer'.

Innovation

Innovation is a critical enabler in creating value. We welcome new ideas and technologies from all levels of our business with employees given the opportunity to develop and present ideas to senior management, from our supply chain, and from industries across the world, including via our Innovation Lab in Accelerating the drive for new ideas.

See how our core values underpin our strategic themes and contribute towards delivering our purpose and working towards our vision in Our purpose and strategy.

The culture of our company is a combination of our values, attitudes and behaviours, manifested in our operations and relations with all our stakeholders.

See how we are contributing to the UN's Sustainable Development Goal to 'Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies and institutions' in How we create value for stakeholders.

The United Utilities way of doing things is to behave as a responsible business and is set out in our 'Business Principles' document, which can be found on our website at: unitedutilities.com

Read more about our board's approach to values and culture in our Corporate governance report

Business insight:

Introducing artificial intelligence to our network

Business insight:

Accelerating the drive for new ideas