How can businesses make a meaningful difference in their community?
- Credit: MATTHEW POWER PHOTOGRAPHY
Increasingly, it is important for businesses to demonstrate that they are good citizens, says Anglian Water’s head of sustainability, Andy Brown, who is looking forward to next month’s ‘Innovate East’ innovation event.
The potential for businesses to make a positive impact on society and how this might be achieved will be one of the key themes explored at a major innovation event to be held in East Anglia next month.
The three-day event, called Innovate East, has been organised by two of the country's leading water companies - Anglian Water and Essex & Suffolk Water - who are working to create a unique and exciting environment where attendees will be encouraged to unlock new ways of thinking.
The aim of the event, which is due to be held at Trinity Park Showground in Ipswich between September 10 and 12 2019, is to address some of the major challenges that water companies and other large organisations are facing, such as water scarcity, climate change, protecting the environment and delivering for customers.
No holds barred
Some of the most creative and progressive minds from industry and beyond are due to take part in a number of 'sprints' and 'hackathons' designed to brainstorm ideas and test if they are viable in the real world - all within a few days.
"It's exciting but frightening at the same time because you can't predict what will come out of this," said Anglian Water's head of sustainability, Andy Brown.
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"We'll have some of the best people from different industries collectively working together on a number of sprints and hacks. The idea is that people start off with a no holds barred approach, firing out a lot of ideas at the beginning before they are debated and the technicalities of delivering them are discussed.
"By doing this, the aim is to generate ideas that wouldn't normally come out."
Mr Brown added: "The exciting thing about having people from different industry sectors, as well as from academia, the customer side and the supply chain, is that we will have ideas from a range of people from different viewpoints and experiences.
"It may be that an idea that exists in one industry sector - maybe from a leading supermarket brand - could be transferred to another industry - such as the water or utility sector - and be used to innovate and have a positive impact in the world."
A good citizen
In the arena of social impact, participants will be tasked with exploring a number of key questions, such as how organisations and businesses can make a meaningful difference in their community that combines long-term growth but also improves areas such as health, regeneration, education and aspiration.
Other sprints will focus on changing customer behaviour around the use of wet wipes and fat and grease that can block water pipes and sewers, and the best way to support commercial customers to lower their water footprint?
These are questions that go well beyond what is typically encompassed by a company's corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy and puts organisations at the heart helping to create positive change across society.
"The world is changing and what we are seeing today is a real understanding that business activity and positive environmental and social impacts don't have to be separate," continued Mr Brown.
"A company is much more likely to be successful in the long-term, if they think beyond their financial sustainability and also consider what it takes to be environmentally sustainable and a good citizen."
Social purpose in action: Anglian Water in Wisbech
Anglian Water was named Business in the Community's Responsible Business of the Year 2017 after spearheading an innovative project to tackle environmental and social challenges in Wisbech.
Over five years, the company was at the heart of designing a vision for the Cambridgeshire town, and forming a collaborative, multi-sector approach to improving the lives of people that live there.
The vision has grown from grass roots community work to fundamental change in the area, including a proposal for a new garden town with over 10,000 new homes.
Schemes include Anglian Water staff volunteering to refurbish Wisbech's Queen Mary community centre and the company partnering with the College of West Anglia (CoWA) to introduce two new courses in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering and Construction and Utility Operations, which will provide people valuable skills and offer a pipeline of talent for business into the future.
Anglian Water is also involved in lobbying for better transport links for Wisbech - the largest town in England without a railway station. The hope is to restore a rail service to the town and enable game changing connectivity with Cambridge and Peterborough.
More announcements on Innovate East will be made over the coming weeks. You can register your interest in the event and find out more at innovateeast.org.uk