A PROJECT to lure otters back to East Lancashire has helped United Utilities earn a reputation as one of the world’s most socially responsible companies.

The water company is building otter-friendly quiet zones of wet woodland at Wayoh reservoir, near Edgworth, so that the shy creatures can ‘lieup’ quietly without being disturbed by walkers or dogs.

The creation of otter havens at Wayoh is just one example of good work featured in the company’s annual Corporate Responsibility Report.

Now United Utilities features in the prestigious 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability World Index — which identifies the top 10 per cent of the largest 2,500 companies world-wide on the basis of longterm economic, environmental and social criteria.

Sustainability manager Gaynor Murphy said: “The things we do today must be balanced with trying to make a positive contribution to tomorrow.”

United Utilities is investing £3.6bn across the North West to improve water quality and the environment by 2015 and recently signed the latest instalment of a £400m loan from the European Investment Bank to help make water and sewage systems better able to cope with climate change and the needs of a growing population.

Economics experts estimate that United Utilities’ five-year programme of work will support more than 9,000 local jobs and contribute some £7bn to the regional economy.