The Path to a Sustainable Future
By Shannon Dean
Vice President, Customer Service and Chief Citizenship Officer
This week, California Water Service Group published our 2021 Environment, Social & Governance (ESG) report. We first began our ESG journey a few years ago and were pleased to find our business was already operating in a way that protected the planet, supported our customers and employees, and led with integrity.
Our most pressing challenge was to formalize our ESG efforts, set meaningful goals and targets, and improve our reporting. As summarized by President and CEO Marty Kropelnicki in his letter to stakeholders, we’re proud to report that we continued to make meaningful progress on all fronts over the last 12 months.
Part of our purpose is to enhance the quality of life for our customers, communities, and employees. ESG progress and performance are key to fulfilling this purpose and are vital to the continued sustainability and success of our business. As a water provider, we must do our part to minimize our environmental impact and deliver the safe, clean water our customers have come to expect.
This past year, we established ESG objectives, formalized our ESG governance structure, and developed a comprehensive climate change strategy. In addition to publishing our second ESG Report that aligns with the relevant Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards and references the Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) standards and Task Force on Climate-Related Financial Disclosure (TCFD) recommendations, we also:
- Adopted four new ESG-related policies on diversity, equality, and inclusion; human rights; environmental sustainability; and political involvement
- Developed a climate change strategy that is expected to pave the way to progress on both mitigation and adaptation
- Integrated ESG into our strategic framework, corporate strategic planning process, and Enterprise Risk Management model
We developed short- and long-term objectives for key ESG topics in 2021 to drive performance and further embed sustainability into our strategic framework. We worked with subject matter experts and company leaders to detail these objectives, and achieved significant progress on a number of priorities. We:
- Completed a study on the climate-related risks for our operations, facilities, and water supply portfolio in California, which will help us prioritize actions to mitigate and adapt to the impacts of climate change
- Launched operations of the Tesoro Viejo Wastewater Treatment and Recycled Water Production Plant, which treats wastewater from the local community for reuse
- Performed irrigation system efficiency evaluations and installed water-efficient equipment at no charge to our customers through our Smart Landscape Tune-Up Program, which will provide a lifetime water savings of more than 98 million gallons for our customers who have already taken advantage of the program
- Renovated our water quality laboratory in San Jose, Calif., to expand our facility, improve functionality, and enable future growth and additional capacity for water testing
- Implemented unconscious bias training for managers to promote an inclusive environment and build on our efforts to expand employee training for diversity, equity, and inclusion
Moving forward, we have outlined three key priorities: make meaningful progress to achieve our ESG objectives, many of which are climate-change focused; enhance our data collection process; and continue to mature and enhance our ESG communications and reporting.
Accountability is important to us, and our process establishes tangible milestones, allows for performance tracking and reporting, and further incorporates ESG into our business strategy. We are committed to engaging with regulators and advocating for ESG-related projects that support our objectives. And, we are determined to uphold these priorities and stand among the many companies stepping up to meet growing climate change challenges. These actions represent a monumental shift that will change the world for the better.
On a personal note, I can’t help but reflect on my 22 years here at Cal Water. To be sure, we have important work ahead and our ESG journey is far from complete, but I take pride in the progress we’re making and I’m inspired to work for a company—and with a leadership team—collectively dedicated to reaching our ESG goals.