Waste not, want not: could your business gain from resource efficiency?

Date: 02-10-2015

Tagged as: ArticleGameplanEnergy and Resources

 

Wastefulness is costing businesses, says Zero Waste Scotland’s Iain Gulland – it’s time to embrace a circular economy and reap the business benefits of a more resource-efficient strategy.

Iain Gulland

Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland. In 2014 he was named the most influential person in the UK resource and energy efficiency sector by trade magazine Resource, topping the annual poll for his work in supporting the delivery of zero waste policy goals.

Iain Gulland headshot

Waste Not At A Glance

Waste Not Infographic

According to a recent Government report, UK businesses could save around £23bn a year by using resources, such as water, energy and natural materials, more efficiently.1

"Despite the huge economic benefits, many businesses have not even started on the journey to resource efficiency," says Iain Gulland, CEO of Zero Waste Scotland, who was named most influential person in the UK resource and energy efficiency sector in 2014.2

So why are we missing the opportunity?

Overcoming barriers

There are many barriers that can prevent businesses embracing resource efficiency. According to a Greenwise survey3 of UK businesses, the most common reasons were:

  • insufficient time or other resources
  • inability to quantify expected returns
  • other business considerations taking a higher priority.

Zero Waste Scotland, funded by the Scottish Government, has been working hard to support businesses to overcome these perceived barriers. Their Resource Efficient Scotland programme is dedicated to providing advice and practical support to all types of organisations in Scotland. There are a number of business benefits to taking sustainability measures seriously – for Iain Gulland, the top three are:

  1. Increased profits.
    Cut the costs associated with waste disposal, as well as reducing energy and utility costs, labour costs and handling and transportation costs.
  2. Competitive advantage.
    Avoid being at the mercy of volatile pricing for scarce resources, while improving your standing with customers who are keen to ensure their suppliers operate on a sound environmental basis. Similarly, an ethical standpoint can support staff recruitment and retention, leading to productivity gains and improved customer service.
  3. Compliance.
    Be well-equipped to comply with regulation, including the Energy Savings Opportunity Scheme (ESOS)4.

New opportunities

Zero Waste Scotland’s priorities include supporting a circular economy, where resources are retained in a high value state for as long as possible, often through re-use or repair, and then recycled at the end of their life.

"A circular economy makes good business sense," asserts Iain. "It makes organisations less vulnerable to the increasing scarcity of resources. It also creates opportunities for new business models, such as leasing schemes and remanufacturing, which have huge growth potential."

This type of initiative will prove crucial, he adds, as resources become scarcer and more costly. This, however, isn’t the only benefit to the bottom line.

"Adopting a zero waste strategy reduces the amount of money businesses have to spend on landfill tax and helps to retain the value of all resources," Iain points out.

Cost savings

The introduction of the Waste (Scotland) Regulations in January 2014 required organisations to separate key materials – paper, card, metal, glass, plastics and, in many cases, food – for recycling. This includes food waste for those businesses which produce more than 50kg a week. From January 2016, any urban food business which produces more than 5kg of food waste a week will be required to present it for recycling. New UK-wide waste regulations, enforcing the separation of waste by businesses came into force on 1 January 20155.

"By complying with the regulations and taking steps to reduce waste, businesses can make bottom line savings," says Iain. It can help even small businesses, he notes, citing the example of an Aberdeen pub that saved almost £8,000 a year through the use of doggy bags and an onsite wormery for leftover waste, and the store in Blantyre that cut its monthly waste pick-up bills by reducing food and packaging waste in store, saving £3,000 a year. Small measures add up, regardless of the size of your business – the bigger the business, the bigger the potential saving.

"Reducing the impact of resources on the environment has far-reaching impacts that could improve productivity, create green jobs and help businesses gain a real competitive advantage," Iain concludes.

"The extension of the regulations in January will be a driver for businesses to better manage their waste, and I hope will prompt them to look more closely at all areas of resource efficiency, which can bring many benefits."

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