In a responsible manner
Behaving responsibly is fundamental to the manner in which we undertake our business, and the group has for many years included corporate responsibility factors in its strategic decision making. Our environmental, social and governance performance across a broad front has received external recognition. Earlier in the 2017/18 financial year, United Utilities retained a World Class rating in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index for the tenth consecutive year, again achieving industry leading performance status in the multi-utility/water sector. Retaining 'World Class' status for this length of time is a significant achievement, particularly as the assessment standards continue to increase and evolve.
Leakage – we have continued our strong operational focus on leakage, alongside our network resilience improvements and a range of initiatives such as active pressure management, satellite technology and the UK's first leakage sniffer dog specially trained to pinpoint the exact location of leaks. This has delivered good performance against our leakage targets in 2017/18. Encouraging our customers to save water through water efficiency programmes not only enables them to help preserve this precious resource but can also save money on their water bill.
Environmental performance – this is a high priority for United Utilities and we were delighted to have retained our Industry Leading Company status in the Environment Agency's latest performance metrics, as described in the KPIs section below. This is a result of our approach to managing our assets in an integrated way and has resulted in reduced environmental incidents. We still don't always get it right and this year we delivered the obligations under our first enforcement undertakings, investing in catchment schemes rather than accepting formal prosecutions.
Carbon footprint – by 2020, we aim to reduce our carbon footprint by 50 per cent compared with a 2005/06 baseline and we are on track to do so. This year our carbon footprint has reduced to 391,640 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, a reduction of one-third since 2005/06, helped by a 4 per cent reduction in electricity use. In addition, we generated more renewable energy than ever before, at 167 gigawatt hours, up 12 per cent on the previous year. This illustrates good progress in the company's energy strategy to use less and generate more renewable energy.
Employees – we continue to work hard to engage all of our employees in the transformation of the group's performance. Employee engagement was at 79 per cent this year, higher than the UK norm. We remain focused on maintaining high levels of employee engagement.
We have been successful in attracting and retaining people and have continued to expand our apprentice and graduate programmes for 2017/18. We now have a total of 55 graduates and 118 apprentices across the business. Our investment in recruiting graduates and apprentices is already benefiting the company with 153 employees securing permanent roles across our business, having previously been on either the graduate or apprentice scheme.
Over the last year, we have continued our sustained focus on health, safety and wellbeing. In this period we retained our Gold award status with the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents and our status under the UK workplace wellbeing charter. Our employee accident frequency rate for 2017/18 reduced to 0.101 accidents per 100,000 hours, compared with a rate of 0.196 in 2016/17. For the same period, our contractor accident frequency rate increased slightly to 0.092 per 100,000 hours, compared with a rate of 0.087 in 2016/17. We recognise that there is always more to do, and health, safety and wellbeing will continue to be a significant area of focus as we strive for continuous improvement.
Communities – we continue to support partnerships, both financially and in terms of employee time through volunteering, with other organisations across the North West. Our approach to integrated catchments helps to tackle water quality issues in lakes, rivers and coastal waters across the North West, and our LoveMyBeach contribution includes employees volunteering to help to keep our region's beaches tidy. We continue to support local communities through contributions and schemes such as providing debt advisory services and, our work with Youth Focus North West engages the region's young people, and our future customers, with our business planning process.
Key performance indicators:
Leakage – Although leakage is included within our outcome delivery incentives, we intend to continue publishing our leakage position separately, with it being an important measure from a corporate responsibility perspective. In 2017/18 we have again met our regulatory leakage target of 463 megalitres per day.
Environmental performance – On the Environment Agency's latest annual assessment, published in July 2017, we were awarded Industry Leading Company status across the range of operational metrics for the second year running and were one of only two companies to achieve this status. This aligns with our medium-term goal of being a first quartile company on a consistent basis.
Corporate responsibility – United Utilities has a strong focus on operating in a responsible manner and is the only UK water company to have a World Class rating as measured by the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2017/18, United Utilities retained its World Class rating for the tenth consecutive year.
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