Private utility companies may own ‘environmental assets’- land, waterways or coastal areas- that are ancillary to their work. Caring for such spaces can be costly, but not caring for them can be a wasted opportunity.

We look at some of the challenges facing landowning public utility companies, and consider how partnerships with community enterprises can help companies maximise the value of their assets whilst achieving social and sustainability objectives.

The Challenge:

  • Ancillary land may have designations attached, creating costly management obligations that produce little environmental, social or economic return.
  • Without management obligations, ancillary land may be left undermanaged or not managed at all, failing to create value for its owners, the environment or the local community.
  • It may not be cost effective for companies to manage the environmental assets they own, if minimal profit can be produced through land management.
  • Land areas undergoing extraction or other environment-altering processes often need to be attentively managed to avoid costly misfortunes, such as flooding, in the future.
  • Corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes or sustainability schemes are typically run offsite, and separated from a companies’ ‘real’ business. This can be costly, logistically challenging and politically difficult: CSR work may be criticised as piecemeal, rather than integrated.


Thames Water, the UK’s largest water and wastewater services company, has unlocked potential hidden in these challenges through their partnership with the East Reservoir Community Garden.

Thames Water has negotiated a 30-year lease, management plan and funding bids with the Community Garden. Paying peppercorn rent, Community Garden members are dedicated to managing the site, enhancing biodiversity, habitat quality and amenity value for local people. They run a training, recreation and education centre onsite, inviting schools and community projects to use the space.

East Resevoir Community Garden are able to complete their work because the partnership keeps them insulated from the liabilities of ownership. For Thames Water, there are many benefits: their asset is managed effectively, its value is enhanced and the company’s community engagement, sustainability and educational objectives are met, all at no extra cost. Moving beyond traditional CSR, this partnership allows for robust, long-term job provision, community connections, positive public relations and sustainability. Thames Water has maximised its assets’ value.


With much land owned by public utility companies eager to maximize the value of their assets and the impact of their CSR, and many community enterprises keen to productively manage land, the potential for shared management partnerships such as this are huge. Neglected, ancillary assets can be given a fresh lease of life with increased productivity for the benefit of landowner, community and the land itself.

You can read our guide or tips for landowners on the all the potential benefits shared management arrangements can produce, or contact us if you would like to have a chat about how we can tailor this approach to you.

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