Internal environment

Governance

Good governance lies at the heart of all successful organisations and leads to better management decisions as well as helping to avoid exposure to potential risks. We strive to operate in a manner that reflects the highest standards of corporate governance. Our company structure and governance standards are designed to ensure that our board continues to provide sound and prudent governance in compliance with the principles of the UK Corporate Governance Code.

As you would expect of the provider of an essential service, we adopt a prudent approach to managing risks to our business. That being said, accepting some level of risk is a normal consequence for a commercial organisation. Also, given the complex legal and regulatory environment within which we operate, there is a range of risks to which we are exposed. Risks can be in the form of possible non-compliance with existing laws or regulations or failure to meet the terms of our current 2015–20 regulatory contract. We also face risks in relation to potential future changes in legislation or regulation.

An important risk to our business is ensuring that we get the constituent elements of our five-yearly business plans correct to ensure our financeability, and that they are agreed by Ofwat in its final determination, as we are bound by these plans for the following five-year period with limited opportunity to change them. See our principal risks and uncertainties for more details on what we consider to be our top risks.

Identifying and then being able to act upon potential opportunities can be a key determinant for adding value. Each quarter, senior management across each main area of the group routinely undertakes business reviews, including the identification and evaluation of potential opportunities.

The governance section of the annual report presents information on the board of United Utilities and its activities and those of the various board committees. It also sets out how the board demonstrates leadership, effectiveness and its accountability to the company's stakeholders.

Culture

We operate under the three core values of integrity, innovation and customer focus. Acting with integrity, both at board level and as a company, underpins our approach to responsible business and building trust. Our employees are integral to value creation and we actively encourage our people to express their opinions and views, through, for example, our annual 'Your Opinion Survey'.

Innovation is a critical enabler in creating value, helping to keep us ahead of our competitors. Our employees are given the opportunity to develop and present their ideas to senior management, facilitating an innovative environment. Utilising innovation from our suppliers is part of our supply chain approach, which also provides another avenue to benefit from new ideas and technologies.

Over recent years, we have instilled a more customer-centric approach right across our organisation and this evolving culture has been a key driver to the major improvements in customer service we have been able to deliver. Putting customers right at the heart of what we do has also helped deliver benefits for shareholders and wider stakeholders.