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MWH aims to build a better world through much more than its projects

At first glance, you might think consultant MWH’s motto "Building a better world" refers to the projects it undertakes. But it is much more than that, says the company’s director of UK operations Andrew Cowell: "For me, it’s very much about leaving the world in a better state than when you came into it, and providing a positive legacy for the communities in which we live and work. We can do that through our projects, our staff and the working environment we create for people."

MWH is best known in the UK as a water and environment specialist, and recently celebrated the 200th anniversary of one of its founders, Thomas Hawksley, who was responsible for bringing pressurised water supply to British cities, saving countless lives when cholera struck in 1848-9. "We see the provision of clean drinking water and the treatment of dirty water as building a better world," says Cowell. "But the challenge we have today is to make that more efficient and limit our impact on the environment."

The company is currently working on a wide range of innovative projects within the water industry with significant technical and sustainability challenges. A current project with Southern Water involves developing real time control in its aeration plants that will match energy demands with the level of treatment required. MWH is also working with United Utilities on a scheme to look at co-digesting municipal and agricultural waste with waste from wastewater treatment, and using the output to power the treatment works and the local community.

Internally, MWH has recently instigated a "carbon care" programme to address and offset its carbon footprint. "It would have been very easy to calculate the number of air miles we’ve travelled, and the power in the offices and say 'this is our carbon footprint, how many trees should we plant?' But we wanted something that engaged staff more actively than that," says Cowell.

The company has calculated the financial value of its carbon footprint (using DEFRA’s estimate of £25 per tonne) and put this money into a fund to support sustainability initiatives on community schemes. All the schemes that benefit from the fund are close to either an MWH office or project, and are championed by members of staff.

When it comes to building a better world for its staff, MWH provides career development that gives its people rounded experience with diverse opportunity. The company’s "Career Track" framework enables employees to discuss their career options, with a road map for achieving career goals. Employees are assigned to one of six "families", such as client service, project management or technology, with the opportunity to rise up the levels and move between families as they develop.

The MWH University and the Professional Development Programme contribute to a structured but flexible framework that allows people to play to their strengths and find the right path for them.

MWH has a long relationship with water industry charity Water Aid. Earlier this year, two of the company’s engineers were on secondment to the charity Engineers without Borders in Laos and Nepal as part of a tie-up between that charity and RedR.

Staff also get involved with MWH’s sponsorship and support for the UK Youth Parliament (UKYP). "We’ve seen first hand the tremendous passion of the UKYP in wanting to build a better world, and we can show the role engineering can play in mitigating the effects of climate change," says Cowell. These activities – from charity work and sponsorship to structured career development – all combine to create a positive working environment for MWH staff, says Cowell. "And that, in turn, is a significant factor in building a better world."

To find out more about working for MWH go to

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