| Sustainability

Are you looking at everything you do through the lens of climate change?

Attending edie23 this year, the event opened with a reminder of the stark reality of climate change and the global trajectory we can’t seem to alter as we creep closer to 1.5◦C. To quote IPCC on global warming – “reaching 1.5◦C in the near term, would cause unavoidable increases in multiple climate hazards and present multiple risks to ecosystems and humans”.

A fundamental response to the challenge of rising temperatures for business and society is through a whole system approach, innovation, and radical collaboration.

Looking at the landscape as a whole – or let’s say a business system as a whole, it must be assessed collectively, not just in isolated cases. To effectively design a solution that can take a business to a circular business model, resources that run through a business need to be understood to establish a clear and collaborative roadmap to design out waste. What does a business look like without waste? It is one that has resources that come into a business and either stay there or if they do leave, they are processed in a way that allows them to return as a new resource.

Nigel Topping, former COP26 High-Level Climate Action Champion provided inspiring words about how optimistic he is about the achievability of goals such as net zero. His opinion is that we are capable of exponential change very quickly! We need to stop saying how bad a job we’ve done up until now. Too many businesses struggle to believe that exponential growth in climate and green solutions is possible and that many were jeopardising their future by doing so. In his words: “Don’t just be a bystander”. Sitting on the sidelines isn’t sustainable and you won’t have a business in the future if you do this. This rings true with a message we have shared many times before – the cost of doing nothing is simply too high.

Businesses and individuals all have a responsibility and a role to play. We continue to bang the drum that we must look at all things through the lens of climate change. We are using more resources than we have available – three planets worth, rather than one – yet with the shocking stats in plain sight, the response from all seems much too slow. The window to achieve 1.5◦C is still open, but it’s closing fast.

Where we are seeing market failures, governments need to do more to step in and prevent decisions from being made without considering the context of environmental commitments. Crucially, this must be supported by the power of care – this happens because someone decides the way something is being done simply isn’t good enough. Getting the combination is how we get real change.

If we get down to a practical level, businesses can’t wait for governments to drive this alone. Setting ambitious goals is the first step. But secondly, having clarity in the near term will help you move forward and make the progress that is needed. Scrutinise the detail of targets being set to understand the substance that sits behind them in terms of action. Moving waste up the waste hierarchy – and not getting hung up on the bins and what can be recycled. Although recycling is important to keep resources in a closed loop, reduction plans must be moved into sharp focus. Spending more wisely on materials procured into a business to avoid spending money on them at the front end and then again to dispose of at the back end, is fundamental to building a more circular business.

We see businesses getting caught up on bin prices and the costs of managing waste. Less waste means more effective savings compared to constant shaving of prices based on the same waste volumes year on year. Education of stakeholders and buy-in is essential for achieving effective change.

In conclusion, to achieve ambitious goals a business must be prepared for business transformation. Targeting teams and departments who generate waste and providing the necessary leadership support, governance, and training to build sustainability into BAU – importantly and as a final point, integrate and embed sustainability into business. Don’t have it as a bolt-on for the department. Seek guidance from experts in the field to help provide objectivity. Reconomy, the largest provider of outsourced waste and resource-led solutions alongside other brands in Reconomy Group provides a breadth of capabilities from consultancy to operational waste and resource management. Get in touch to find out more.