B4SI News

In Conversation with Sarah D’Arcy, Anglian Water Services

Please describe your role and responsibilities. How many years have you been in the company? 

I’ve been with Anglian Water for over ten years now, starting on a graduate management scheme and progressing through to managing our core sustainability and social impact work.  My role at the moment is a central strategic role which works with teams across the business to drive and embed sustainability change projects. It is a real privilege to be involved with work across the full spectrum of sustainability, and to work collaboratively outside the business to drive forward the agenda. I lead social capital / community investment strategy, and my team is responsible for delivering our volunteering programme, charitable giving, B4SI social impact reporting, and our employee community ambassador programme. 

What was your background previously and where did your interest in social impact begin? 

My first few roles were in communications and education, but my interest in social inequity and impact goes back as far as I can remember. Although I wouldn’t have known how to define it early on, I’ve always known I wanted to have a career which would support positive change. 

Please give an example of how the B4SI Framework (or its tools and additional services) has helped you in your role, and your company.  

We use the B4SI framework to understand our annual community investment activity across the company. The robust methodology and our experience with B4SI has meant we’ve been able to include elements of it into our regulatory performance commitments. It has given us focus and a better understanding of how to capture the impact of our work. 

On a personal level I also really value the peer network, and love the annual conference for inspiration and ideas. I take a huge amount from the sessions and appreciate the chance to talk openly with others working in the same space. 

Please tell us about how you have supported the community during Covid-19.   

In addition to keeping our customers and our employees safe, and continuing to deliver a seamless service, we wanted to do everything we could to support our communities through the Covid-19 pandemic. We realised that in many cases, charities and small community organisations were running short of funds and practical help at the very time they were most needed. Our response was to fast track a £1million pot of funding to support community organisations across our region, which are vital lifelines for the most vulnerable. This became known as our Positive Difference Fund.  

The Positive Difference Fund had been part of our plans pre-Covid but was brought forward with the support of our Board and funding from our shareholders. We recognised early on that it could be more effective, more quickly by working in partnership with the network of Community Foundations in our region, which already had expertise in distributing funding and relationships with potential recipients.  

The fund sat alongside a package of measures to support our community, customers, employees and supply chain during this difficult time. We provided a wide range of additional support for our customers, and developed and launched an Employee Assistance Fund. Through our regional leadership of Business in the Community we were also instrumental in setting up the National Business Response Network aimed at connecting member companies with community organisations in need, and through our education team, we provided home learning resources for teachers and schools.  

Since its launch, we have provided funding for over 160 different groups across our region. The fund has supported a wide range of inspiring organisations, each providing a vital service for those most in need in their community, ultimately helping in excess of 100,000 people.  

It has been humbling to support such a diverse array of causes; from those providing hot meals for people sleeping rough, and groups combatting coronavirus fraud, to those adapting services for autistic children, and vulnerable adults, including telephone befriending for people with dementia and providing devices for adults with learning difficulties to reduce isolation. 

What is your biggest accomplishment or learning so far?  

My biggest learning has been that social and environmental prosperity are indivisible. They are not, and should not be separate. They go hand in hand, and one cannot be delivered (long-term) without the other. We all need a resilient future where both people and planet thrive. 

What is your motto in life? 

I don’t think I have a single motto – but there’s something profound and powerful about these quotes: ‘The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit’, and ‘The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now’.