Industrial Strategy: We’re Worth Listening To

Steve Lee, director general of R&W UK, looks at the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Industrial Strategy green paper and outlines how the CIWM and ESA joint body will be responding…

The BEIS Industrial Strategy green paper closes for comment on 17 April. Resources & Waste UK and its two member companies – CIWM and ESA – will all be responding to it.

We will be welcoming it, of course – because it recognises the importance of resource efficiency to the UK’s industrial / business future. But we will be linking it to other Government initiatives and saying that this is bigger and more important than cutting costs for business to keep them competitive.

The real prize is to position the UK as a world-beater in clean growth. The next global industrial phase – “Industry 4.0” – is kicking-in. It will link the twin policy wins of environmental responsibility coupled with continued growth.

At the moment the green paper is pretty light on waste and resources – just as it is on renewable energy, water and “resources in-the-round”.

We have to compete in that new world, making whole product and service cycles more resource efficient; securing UK industrial feedstocks for the future and competing in export markets for know-how, products and services.

The green paper talks in terms of cutting costs for business. Yes, we can do that but we must work with Government to tell the whole story, and the key role that we have to play in it.

At the moment the green paper is pretty light on waste and resources – just as it is on renewable energy, water and “resources in-the-round”. We feature on page 91. You can read the relevant paragraph in 30 seconds, and there’s a question on page 95 asking how can we cut business’ costs through resource efficiency.

But there’s scope. Quite rightly the green paper recognises we need action on many fronts. We need new and relevant skills; we need to support innovation and investment; we need the right infrastructure – all of them priorities which we support. And there is scope to broaden the objective of the strategy.

“Thinking Big”

At the moment it suggests success would be calculated through improved gross added value per worker, something we envy in other fast growth economies. But we already measure gross added value per tonne of resource consumed as part of our national waste prevention plan. We need to be more resource efficient, and we need to be resource secure for the future. AND we need to be a leader in know-how.

The global green goods market is already worth about $4tr per year and it is growing fast. President Trump may “dig coal”, but the markets don’t seem to agree. Clean growth will be the key to growth, at home and in export opportunity. We need to help government put some numbers to it because not everybody has bought into this idea yet, but Industry 4.0 is happening. Everyone in the supply chain is involved and we have to work together to make it work.

We need to influence this strategy to shift the burden of resource management and health / environment protection through tools such as extended producer responsibility.

Working together means new ways of working. The “procurement” section of the green paper is especially light. We need to influence this strategy to shift the burden of resource management and health / environment protection through tools such as extended producer responsibility.

And we will need other forms of intervention by governments too including use of tax to steer markets into more resource efficienct design, away from virgin raw materials, and to “pull” secondary raw materials through our industry.

To some, these will sound like radical proposals but we have already seen Sweden introduce a tax break to support repair and re-use, France has a mind-blowing 27 extended producer responsibilities and the UK has been happy to innovate in the past through Landfill Tax and the Aggregates Levy. We shouldn’t shy away from thinking big because the “prize” is even bigger.

Don’t worry too much if you think you’ll miss the green paper response deadline. It’s a green paper so there will be much more to come. Mid-year we should see the Clean Growth Plan. We are in the middle of the National Infrastructure Assessment and the Defra 25 year Environment Plan is still out there somewhere. If you’ve missed this consultation – make sure not to miss the others. I think we’re worth listening to.


 

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