Knowledge and Attitude are Primary Barriers to Better Resource Management
When I talk to businesses about their waste and what they want for the future I often find that there is a significant gap between the perceived and actual capability of the recycling and resource management sector. This knowledge gap is ultimately costing businesses money and limiting any improvements in their environmental performance.
This is perhaps not a surprise. Comparative spend means that waste is often the poor relation to other services, with far greater emphasis being put on the more traditional or harder FM services. Similarly those responsible for recycling and resource management often hold it in addition to their primary role or as part of a portfolio of responsibilities, which naturally limits the amount of time they have to learn more about what is a pretty complex sector. Finally (and we all need to hold our hands up here), we have not been great at promoting our success and developments to a wider audience outside of the sector. The information void fuels recycling myths, such as “there’s no such thing as zero to landfill” or “we need to segregate as much as possible to recycle as much as possible”.
As a result, businesses are probably not reviewing their services as often as they should and those that do make the decision to change will often just look to manage their resources in the same way but for less money. At this point the opportunity is missed to intervene, review the processes and systems that are in place and to develop a more innovative, cost effective and sustainable solution.
There is an appetite in the market for information and a desire for innovation. At last year’s Facilities Show we ran a popular workshop where we challenged participants to produce a 10-point waste strategy for a fictitious business. The plan was not to be constrained by any operational limitations. The result was some really exciting and innovative thinking which, interestingly, was nearly always led by the materials not the number of bins, types of vehicles or locations of facilities.
To engage this enthusiasm, we must continue to focus on communication, increasing awareness of the sector capability and educating stakeholders about the wider commercial benefits of taking a different approach. When businesses do decide to review their services we must encourage them to adopt a starting point based on what is possible for them to achieve, not just a like-for-like price match. Businesses that adopt this approach will ultimately benefit from a more tailored solution, which will optimise the value of their materials, control future costs and also reflect positively on their brand image.
The opportunity for sustainable waste management to build the green credentials of a business’ brand can present a number of opportunities and benefits. Whilst it is perhaps unlikely that you will win business on your greenness alone, it can certainly tip the balance in your favour or ensure that you are not excluded altogether. It can also help foster a stronger and more emotional relationship with your customers and employees. Linked to this is the fact that the majority of people want to do their bit to limit their environmental impact and whilst the scale of this challenge can be intimidating, buying goods and services from greener brands can help them satisfy this desire. Finally, being seen to manage your consumption and waste can send a clear signal to customers and investors that you are focused on controlling costs and delivering them value.
This opportunity to enhance the business’ brand and differentiate it from its competitors is however often missed. Whilst the efforts of a few high profile and successful brands such as M&S and IKEA may lead us to believe that the brand benefits of running a sustainable business are commonly recognised – the reality is somewhat different. In fact the majority of businesses still regard waste and recycling as nothing more than a cost that needs to be managed.
The resource management sector has an important role to play in increasing the volume and quality of secondary materials available to develop more sustainable supply chains and ultimately more circular business models. We must ensure that we adopt a mind-set that will let us realise and capitalise on this opportunity.