Case studies

Read some of the examples of how we have integrated the Responsible Sourcing Principles into practice at United Utilities.

  • United Utilities is committed to raising awareness of modern slavery, improving our processes and mitigating risk. We continue to ensure our people are sufficiently trained in understanding modern slavery –we’ve retained the Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply (CIPS) Corporate Ethics Mark in 2020 for the third consecutive year, and as partners to the Supply Chain Sustainability School, we’re building a culture of best practice. United Supply Chain will provide suppliers with resources and forums to share best practice to develop their own capability.


    We’ve taken a proactive approach to tackling modern slavery and have robust processes in place to identify and mitigate risk. However, we recognise that it’s important to benchmark our performance and, in 2019/20, we engaged the University of Liverpool to carry out an independent review of our approach to tackling modern slavery. As a result of this exercise, we’ve enhanced our procurement and contract management processes to embed mitigation of modern slavery risk in all supplier relationships. 

    Following training in the commercial team on how to recognise and mitigate modern slavery risk in the supply chain, we’re also taking part in the BSI Committee on Modern Slavery, which is investigating ways in which approaches can be standardised across businesses and supply chains. This is intended to reduce ‘red tape’ and make it clearer for suppliers to recognise and respond to modern slavery risk wherever it may occur. This has also encouraged collaboration with other water companies and infrastructure providers to maximise efforts to tackle modern slavery across the sector. 

    As part of our enhancement programme and to increase awareness of this important issue across our whole organisation, our latest awareness week was focused on the topic of modern slavery and coincided with UK Anti-Slavery Day (18 October 2019). Our employees were really engaged on this issue and it prompted many discussions as to how our colleagues can help to tackle the issue, both in and outside of work.


    The benchmarking exercise confirmed that our existing reporting and processes in place are appropriate – something we’re really proud of – and our enhancements have succeeded in raising the profile of the topic across the whole organisation. 

    Over the course of the week we carried out a number of different activities to raise awareness. This included: 

    • Publishing a daily blog to inform colleagues how modern slavery is relevant to them as individuals and our business
    • Providing information to help colleagues spot the signs of modern slavery
    • Informing staff on what to do if they suspect there are signs of modern slavery, and how to respond and report the issue 

    The week culminated with a hard-hitting presentation to procurement professionals and other senior leaders across the business from representatives of the Sophie Hayes Foundation – a charity set up to help women who have been through the ordeal of human trafficking, including survivors of modern slavery. 

    Hearing directly from survivors of trafficking really brought the issue home, and following this a number of our employees have now volunteered to help the charity.


    This last year our commercial department has taken the lead on modern slavery and identified new ways of working to help raise awareness. We’re keen to push forward with collaborating on improvements throughout our supply chain and in local communities within the North West. 

    Over the next AMP we’re endeavouring to take our current approach one step further by engaging with our supply chain and leading on this hard-hitting topic. Our key aims are to:

    • Continually raise awareness by making our Anti-Slavery Day an annual event
    • Develop training for our employees (both customer-facing and office roles) to help tackle any issues that may arise
    • Engage with the BSI Committee to establish a standardised approach across all business in relation to modern slavery
    • Establish a collaborative approach with our supply chain to mitigate any potential risk areas

    Through our Responsible Sourcing Principles and the USC approach, we ask that our supply chain engages with us to mitigate risks and we actively encourage suppliers to share best practice and raise awareness throughout the supply chain. Suppliers are encouraged to use the resources available through USC to increase their own knowledge and awareness of this issue.

    Find out more about the Sophie Hayes Foundation 

    Read our annual Slavery and Human Trafficking Statement

    Read the full case study here (749KB opens in new tab)

  • Climate change has been growing exponentially and there is an emerging consensus that we are on the brink of a climate emergency. As such, United Utilities has adopted the principles of Systems Thinking and developed a maturity matrix to assess our capabilities, priorities and define the company’s ambition for the future.


    We have articulated our ambition through a set of statements in four themes:

    • Vision and visibility
    • Ambition and commitment
    • Demonstrating action
    • Beyond here and now

    Within each pillar we have specified what must be done to achieve our maturity ambition profile. The policy pillars demonstrate the breadth of our approach to carbon management and form the basis of our new climate change mitigation strategy.

    These activities include:

    • Enhancing our climate related disclosure and incorporating carbon in our investment appraisal and decision-making
    • Land management practices to increase natural capital
    • Innovating in respect to processes, culture and technology, both within our operations and with our partners and suppliers


    We recently published six carbon pledges which we’ll deliver through our new climate change mitigation strategy. These pledges include four specific commitments which will reduce scope 1 and 2 emissions within our control. However, we aim to go further than the reporting boundary and want to influence our scope 3 emissions –the emissions in our supply chain.

    We do report three categories of scope 3 emissions but have not changed which categories since defining them over 10 years ago so it is unlikely that these meet the GHG protocol principles of relevance, completeness, consistency, transparency, and accuracy.

    We have therefore made a commitment to review our scope 3 emissions and set a science based target for a revised boundary.


    To meet our emission targets, particularly our scope 3 emissions, we will require collaboration with our suppliers to measure, manage and reduce the greenhouse gases emitted in their provision of goods or services. By signing up to become a signatory of the United Utilities Responsible Sourcing, we can work together to reduce these emissions, share best practice amongst the supply chain and working in partnership with our suppliers, we can accomplish more together to deliver positive outcomes.

    Read the full case study here (612KB Opens in new tab)

  • Through United Supply Chain and our relationships with our suppliers, we want to showcase good examples of when our suppliers have taken the initiative and demonstrated to us effective improvements to their processes.

    We work with Sapphire Utility Solutions on a number of contracts across our business, predominantly wastewater network services.  This case study will show Sapphire’s approach to a new way of working and the benefits this has brought for United Utilities.


    CityFlex vehicles are used as part of our resolution fleet, with significant capability to provide a one-stop solution to wastewater network issues such as sewer blockages.

    However, only 30% of the equipment on board was being utilised on jobs attended. There is also a significant investment on purchase and operating costs of CityFlex vehicles.

    An alternative solution was developed by Sapphire to deliver the following:

    • Reduced investment in fleet
    • Reduced operating costs
    • Reduced environmental impact
    • Increased mobility
    • Unlimited driver resource pool

    New Resolution Vans were designed to create a more sustainable and cost-efficient approach to maintaining United Utilities’ wastewater network. These will allow for small jobs to be carried out without the need for a larger CityFlex vehicle to attend.



    By complementing the CityFlex fleet with a hybrid resolution vehicle, the following benefits were achieved:

    • Environment - Significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and impact on air quality.
    • Customer Communication - The Resolution Vans are fitted with state of the art media screens which enable real time updates to be provided to customers.
    • Increased Productivity - With the Resolution Van weighing over 10 tonnes less than a CityFlex they are able to cover many more miles and maintain a much larger area of the UU network.
    • Cost Effective - Lower operational costs to run the Resolution Vans including lower capital costs.



    Comparison of Resolution Van vs. the CityFlex

    • 51% Carbon reduction
    • £5,000 annual saving on fuel costs
    • Particulate emissions are 44% lower
    • Reduction in NOx emissions is equivalent to removing a petrol car off the road
    • Purchase cost only 27% of a CityFlex unit
    • 1.24 tCO2e saved every month

    Across the fleet of 15 Resolution Vans the benefits are substantial

    • Over £2m saving on capital investment
    • £90,000 saving on fuel costs per annum
    • Reduction of 223 tCO2e per year


    This piece of work really shows how by collaborating with our supply chain we can really make an impact on our environment if we start to think about what we are using and how.

    As a signatory to United Supply Chain, Sapphire has really demonstrated to us its commitment to our Responsible Sourcing Principles and is the first supplier to have been awarded our USC Leader accreditation badge.  Sapphire has really gone the extra mile and has shown a commitment to improving the services to our customers and ultimately to us as a business. We look forward to continuing this collaborative working relationship with Sapphire Utility Solutions.


    To read this story in full and to see the new vehicles please read the full case study here (Opens 576KB PDF in new tab).