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The behaviour of British Water Companies has finally come under the spotlight.
Over the past week, the deplorable behaviour of the privatised water companies of the UK has finally come to public attention. The facts make unpleasant reading: in the past nine years UK waterways and our surrounding coastal areas have been polluted roughly 1,000 times, with one third of these incidents involving sewage. Furthermore, the fact is that these infringements have only resulted in fines totalling £3.5m. These figures are placed into context when the reader understands that the companies in question are making up to £1.7bn in pre-tax profits, whilst paying shareholders dividends of £2.2bn per year, according to Ofwat figures.
These statistics raise some important questions around Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) in the UK. But what we must examine further is why information surrounding 1000 individual incidents of pollution of our waterways was not documented to a greater extent in mass media. Here at Delphis Eco, we have been aware of these breaches of health and safety and corporate policy from when they materialised. For example, in 2011 Thames Water received a fine in excess of £200k for a total of 15 offences as a result of sewage entering the St James’ Stream. This case is made more severe when you realise that Thames Water actively fought a legal battle to decline responsibility for this incident, before actually pleading guilty 8 years later on the back of confirmation of their malpractice from the European Court. More shocking still is that the articles documenting this information are found on small websites run by predominately local authorities
This lack of publicity has allowed for numerous sporting and charitable events to take place in our waterways over previous years with little or no awareness of the potential health implications being addressed. In light of this new information surely events like the Human Race (in which 338 of the 1000 competitors were taken ill after a 2.2 mile swim in the Thames) must be placed under increasing pressure to guarantee the health and safety of competitors. Not to mention the heroic swim of a 140 mile stretch of the Thames by David Walliams, in which he was nearly forced to withdraw with a stomach bug. In light of these revelations being placed in the public domain, the causes of these illnesses must surely be called into question, with further attention directed towards the impacts of pollution on the flora and fauna inhabiting our British waterways.
At Delphis Eco, we welcome the increasing exposure of companies who are acting irresponsibly towards the environment. This mounting coverage of environmental issues is driven by a tangible shift towards environmental protection and sustainability within the public sphere, in which communities have become active participants. As a result, it is no longer acceptable for companies to make CSR promises without actively following them with policy and structural changes. These changes fit with our beliefs and we welcome a world in which individuals and corporations realise that they can contribute to being green and protecting the fragile environment around us through even small changes to their everyday lives.
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