` Case study from Severn Trent: HR’s role in social purpose | Reward and Employee Benefits Association (REBA)
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09 Aug 2021
by Neil Morrison

Case study from Severn Trent: HR’s role in social purpose

Social purpose is a major focus for the organisation and being able to articulate how we create social value above and beyond the service that we provide is really important. That means:

  • Making sure that the people who work for us are looked after during their time with us, that they’re treated well and that when the time is right, their pensions are sufficient to fund their retirement.
  • Ensuring that if employees are ill or have an accident we look after them and that they don’t become the state’s responsibility.
  • Examining how we can give back to communities whether that’s in terms of our supply chain, working with partners, or supporting charitable organisations.


From a sustainability perspective, we’ve committed to a triple carbon pledge by 2030 (including net zero) – ahead of the UK government’s target. The industry has had a mixed track record when it comes to the environment, so we need to examine our role in that, for example improving river and seawater quality and making sure that when we’re discharging back into rivers, the water is as clean as possible.

We’re also looking at how to reduce our electricity usage and carbon in construction programmes. It’s interwoven in pretty much everything that we do.

What is HR’s role in achieving company purpose?

One of the big tools is looking at job creation and hiring practices. For instance, exploring how to create jobs in local communities and creating local training and employability programmes.

Being ethical in our recruitment is another crucial element, and we try to strip out as much bias from the process as possible.

As an engineering firm, we also focus on trying to inspire young people from different backgrounds into different careers. We want to encourage young women in particular into this area.

In addition, we aim to redeploy people rather than make them redundant, so we are not adding to unemployment and to the burden on society.

Pensions are also important. We try to ensure our pension scheme allows people to have sufficient funds to be able to retire and not have to draw on the state or other sources.

The author is Neil Morrison, group HR director, Severn Trent.

This article appears in REBA’s latest research, conducted together with Mercer Marsh Benefits, which explores the relationship between environmental factors, responsible business and organisational purpose, at board, HR, line manager and supply chain level.

For more insights, download your copy of the Transforming Engagement Series: Report Two. Aligning corporate culture and human values.

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