Clean It Up Campaign

The Times

The Times launched its Clean It Up Campaign with the revelation that water companies could escape big fines for spilling sewage into rivers and seas because then environment secretary Thérèse Coffey thought they were ‘disproportionate’. 

In addition to the main front-page headline story, a manifesto set out realistic but impactful goals for water companies, farmers, regulators and government. River pollution stories made The Times’  front-page news three times in the first week, and the paper has kept the issue at the forefront of its coverage with attention-grabbing headlines, regular leaders, news reports, clear and engaging graphics, and human-interest stories reflecting readers’ own experiences.

The impact has been powerful in terms of both public awareness and industry action. For example, water companies now face unlimited fines for pollution; trade body Water UK promised to spend £10 billion this decade on tackling sewage spills from storm overflows; and all England’s main sewage companies promised to produce real-time maps of spills by the end of 2023, two years ahead of a legal deadline.

Judges called the campaign, which hit a nerve with the public and is likely to result in water pollution playing a prominent role in general election manifestos, “original, powerful and impactful.”