Building a Sustainable Brand
Most of us now look at waste as a valuable secondary resource and not as something we just throw away. We recognise this material has both a commercial and environmental value and will play an increasingly important role in building more sustainable supply chains. After all, the benefit of avoidance is always going to be significantly more attractive than the cost of disposal.
When it comes to procuring new waste services however, the reality often fails to reflect this ambition. There certainly hasn’t been the same level of innovation in the procurement of waste and recycling services that there has for other ‘higher profile’ services. Tender processes continue to be driven by pricing waste in the most unimaginative way e.g. cost per bin per lift.
The problem really starts when businesses take the position that they are just going to replace an existing service. From this point on the whole process becomes extremely limiting. It immediately focuses attention on the detail of operation and the requisite input, rather than the desired outcomes and how the business may utilise those outcomes to its benefit. The reality is that the only way to take a significant step forward, and to secure sustainable value, is to change the way we procure resource management solutions and rebalance the various elements in this process.
If you imagine the development of a new resource management system as a pyramid, most people would have implementation across the base, with a narrow band for planning above it and finally strategy as the very tip. This approach leads us to think about:
• How do we segregate the different types of material?
• What type of bins do we need?
• Who will be the cheapest people to collect it?
If we balance out this pyramid and start with developing our strategy, it frees us up to think about what can really be achieved. In this instance we can start to think about some meaningful and challenging objectives that will enable us to deliver real change. These might include:
• We will send no waste to landfill
• We will recycle 95% of our waste
• We will reduce waste at point of procurement
• We will incorporate as much of our ‘waste’ back in to our supply chain as possible
• We will ensure everyone is accountable and that everyone can make a difference
What this approach also does is enable us to develop some of the broader benefits of improved sustainability. It helps us to view this activity and commitment as another way to seek commercial and ethical advantage, and to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
One opportunity that I believe is all too frequently overlooked is the potential to build brand value through environmental endeavor. Businesses are often going to great lengths to develop systems that will both control their waste management costs and improve their environmental performance. They then fail to leverage the opportunity that this presents to differentiate themselves from others in the market and build a new and engaging dimension to their brand.
M&S are probably the best exponents of this in the UK but the reality is that you don’t need to be turning over in excess of £10 billion in order to do it. Businesses of any size can take an approach that sets out to generate as much environmental brand collateral as possible when devising and implementing a new solution. I am confident that any business that is open-minded enough to set this as their primary objective will, by default end up with the most commercially and environmentally sustainable solution possible.
Ultimately, we need to take a more holistic view of how we manage resources and encourage contracts that support the development of genuine partnerships between suppliers and producers. We also need to find mechanisms that support the introduction of innovation and are capable of delivering substantially lower costs over the lifetime of the contact. Still further, if we can avoid material ever going in to a bin then perhaps it never becomes waste and by default we’ll view and manage it in a far more positive fashion.