Thursday, August 02, 2007
My parents and other family members who live in Gloucestershire got running water back yesterday! Yay! It came with a stern message from the water company though which read kind of like a set of water commandments, (though it was sensible advice) and lead me to have a Monty Python Life of Brian' type moment:
Severn Trent Water said let there be water, so that it may flow freely from the taps and put an end to the misery of thousands. And eventually there was water and the water company spake thus:
Thou shalt not drink the water less it make you poorly
Thou shalt not use the water for cooking food, nor for the preparation of food including the vegetables that grow below the ground and above and the fruit from the trees
Thou shalt not make ice with the water
Thou shalt not clean thine teeth with it, as it is not pure in our eyes
The washing of bodily parts and clothing and the flushing of toilets is permitted.
The water company saw that this was good and they congratulated themselves on their endeavours.
But the people cried up to Severn Trent Water and said, how come, during our suffering you reported record profits for shareholders?
I can't help wondering if this dire warning was more to protect themselves against court action, should someone fall ill rather than through a desire to protect the people. The area had been without water for 11 days in total and they were relieved to get it back but the fact that the company released their profit news at that time sends a very clear message about who their real concern was.
Now don't get me wrong, I'm doing my Business Masters Degree and I understand that private companies rely on their shareholders for survival. I also understand that they would have been concerned about their share price dropping and so took the measure of reassuring their investors by releasing profit news. However, I am also a human being, and I can't help thinking that such a release seemed a little bit like rubbing salt into a big wound. I know many of those without water did not find the news amusing or comforting, especially seeing as the water company had been asked by the Government to mitigate against the chance of extreme flooding approximately 7 years ago. I guess they had chosen not to in case the shareholders got upset at the expenditure over a risk that seemed so slight.
Water companies are crucial to modern life, perhaps more than others. We rely heavily on clean fresh water and we are lucky to have it. However, to me this means that these company's perhaps should observe Corportate Social Responsibility more than other companies and they need to look after the people that are paying for the service as much as those who are funding the company.