As resources become scarcer, the attitudes of businesses that currently manage their waste simply as a “tick-box corporate responsibility exercise” will become increasingly more progressive, the latest BIFM FM Forum found.
Reducing waste and moving towards a circular economy is a challenge and requires engagement and action from a range of different people, including facilities managers, service providers, waste management firms, client organisations and building occupiers.
The latest BIFM FM Leaders Forum, supported by CIWM and sponsored by GSH, brought together leading thinkers from the world of FM and waste management to discuss how we can move closer to a circular economy and the role that both key industries play in that.
Whilst progress has been made, both industries could do more to drive waste management further up the agenda and ensure that everyone is engaged with taking it forward.
Chris Moriarty, BIFM – “It’s very easy to simply look at waste’s final destination but what this roundtable highlighted was the importance of looking ‘upstream’ as well”
The Forum took place during RWM in Partnership with CIWM and included participants such as CIWM’s Steve Lee, ESA’s Barry Dennis and Viridor’s Dan Cooke (see below for full list of participants).
Increased focus on measurement, changing behaviour, the impact of technology on the workforce and designing waste out of society were just some of the key themes that came from the discussion.
In summary it was felt that FM and waste management professionals have a great opportunity to make a real impact within organisations when it comes to resource security and the impact on the “bottom line”.
Chris Moriarty, head of insights and corporate affairs, said: “It’s very easy to simply look at waste’s final destination but what this roundtable highlighted was the importance of looking ‘upstream’ as well. How we design the products that create the waste, our procurement processes and the way we use products before they are considered to be ‘waste’. This is a much more complex challenge than simply adjusting our recycling processes and policies.
“We’ve heard about the tangible impact that a change in behaviour toward waste can make to organisations and we hope that the outcomes of this roundtable can help continue to push this important debate forward.”
The panel agreed that good practice around waste management is good business practice – potentially saving millions of pounds. This is driving businesses to engage with waste management at a more strategic level and to think more about managing resources throughout the supply chain rather than just managing waste at the end of the chain.
In response, the sector is changing rapidly to accommodate this new level of engagement and it was suggested that the industry would be better known as the “resource management industry”.
The retail and manufacturing sectors were identified as being more advanced in their approach towards waste management.
Other businesses can better manage their resources with the help of the waste management industry, which has an important advisory role to play. Some of these businesses are currently managing waste as more of a tick-box corporate responsibility (CR) exercise, or because they want to keep up with their peers. But attitudes will become increasingly more progressive as resources become scarcer.
The panel was encouraged by the fact that more people are being drawn to the waste industry than before, given the rapid pace of change and the increasing use of technology and science
Businesses in all sectors are increasingly eager for data to better measure their waste, but there are barriers to providing data and the industry is still playing catch up. The technology to account for every kilogram of waste does exist but can be expensive and complex to integrate with existing systems.
Plus, the benefit of accounting for every kilogram of waste is debatable. The ideal approach is to stop producing so much waste in the first place, to look further up the supply chain at the wasteful processes taking place at operational stages, and reduce these.
The panel was encouraged by the fact that more people are being drawn to the waste industry than before, given the rapid pace of change and the increasing use of technology and science. But there are still challenges around making the sector attractive to school leavers, graduates and others, in part due to the costs involved.
Representatives of the facilities managers industry on the panel reported that FMs also often do not fully understand the issues around waste management.
Others pointed out that there are courses available, regional and Special Interest Group events that CIWM (Chartered Institution of Wastes Management) and BIFM (British Institute of Facilities Management) members attend together, and that companies in both sectors are having mature conversations about working in partnership to deliver quality and transparency.
The session concluded with the suggestion that FMs are in a key position to communicate the waste contractors’ message to people and businesses and to influence key decision makers in the business sector, through better understanding.
Everyone agreed that the FM and waste management professions can be more proactive in working together to make this happen.
Full findings can be found in the BIFM report Exploring Zero Waste To Landfill