Dr Suresh Renukappa School of Technology

Dr Suresh Renukappa, DCE (Distinction), BEng (Distinction), MEng (Research), PhD, MInstLM is a Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Science and Engineering at the University of Wolverhampton. After his doctoral research on managing change and knowledge associated with sustainability initiatives for improved competitiveness, he has worked in research and consultancy in the areas of sustainability, sustainable procurement and economics, knowledge management, and change management across industrial sectors in the UK, USA, and India. He has also worked as a management consultant in the software industry. He has successfully executed more than 20 projects and authored 50 papers which have been published in journals, book chapters, and conference proceedings. His work has also contributed to two books.

His expertise include: sustainability strategies for competitive advantage; low carbon business strategies; corporate social responsibility; reputation enhancement through sustainability strategies; leadership skills development; leading change toward sustainability; knowledge management for sustainable competitive advantage; sustainable infrastructure investment and development; infrastructure asset management; sustainable public-private partnerships; and business process improvement initiatives.

Embedding sustainability strategies for competitive advantage – the case of UK water industry

Executive Summary

The enormity of the task of ensuring security of water supply in the twenty-first century while simultaneously addressing environmental, social and economic sustainability issues are fast pushing the water industry to its biggest transformation for decades. Due to mounting pressure from stakeholders, political and legislative pressures for worldwide action to mitigate climate change, ageing infrastructure and increasing energy prices, top executives of many water sector organisations are now implementing various sustainability strategies. However, the extent to which water sector embrace sustainability issue as an integral pillar of their business models remains unclear and poorly understood. Therefore, it is crucial to investigate the key sustainable strategies currently being implemented in the UK water industry, so as to improve their sustainable competitiveness - which is the core raison d’être of this research. 

This study is based on semi-structured interviews with 12 professionals from 7 organisations. As part of the analysis of the interviews, content analysis was employed. The unit of analysis adopted for this study is the ‘organisation’ and the embedded unit is ‘individual employee’. This research investigated the concept of sustainability, the key drivers for integrating sustainability issues, key sustainable strategies currently being implemented, and challenges associated with implementing sustainability strategies in the UK water industry. The study revealed that, four key drivers that have fuelled the need for implementing sustainability initiatives in the UK water sector include: reducing operating costs; protecting or enhancing reputation; stakeholders’ pressure; and Government regulation/legislation. Most often implemented initiatives under the umbrella of sustainability are diverse, but four key initiatives stand out. They are: carbon emissions reduction initiatives, resources efficiency initiatives, community engagement initiatives, and employee well-being initiatives. Winning top management support and the paucity of knowledge and expertise in the context of sustainability is a huge challenge for many water sector organisations. A sustainable water management mobile applications framework was developed and validated. 

The study concludes that sustainability is a complex and entangled concept. A complex mix of political, economic, social and environmental forces governs the implementation of sustainability strategies. Many organisations in the UK water sector now accept that they must address the issue of sustainability in order to survive and grow in ever-changing business environment.  The defining characteristic of the successful 21st Century organisation will be its ability to embed sustainability in every fibre of its operations. More importantly, embedded sustainability will hold the key to future profit and value creation. The study provides a richer insight into the understanding and awareness of sustainability strategies for competitive advantage in the water sector for the benefit of: top executives, consultants, policy makers and decision makers.