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When the bottom line is still not enough

In the previous leader, I struck a gloomy chord, with tales of business woe: closures, refinancing and unhelpful Government policy changes.

I am pleased to be able to adopt a happier tone after a visit earlier this week to the north-west. Admittedly, the trip was entirely connected with AFC Bournemouth’s first-ever Premier League away match, at Liverpool’s Anfield stadium (we lost!), but it was also was an excellent opportunity to visit a couple of businesses in the region, one of which is a specialist engineering company.

It began life more than 20 years ago, and has combined strong products with good customer service in order to grow, and it has won contracts and orders with waste management companies, local authorities and waste producers, notably retailers. I was encouraged to hear that the largest growth has been in the last group because it is the commercial sector that has further to go to embrace resource efficiency.

But it was chastening to be told that improving the ‘bottom-line’ is not enough to drive this change. On the one hand, it is commendable that businesses are managing waste better for reasons of social and corporate responsibility. But, for too many, resource management still comes far down the list of priorities, even though savings can be achieved. The problem, it seems, is that the sums are not considered big enough so it can be easier to reduce spending through the supply chain and other areas that come more naturally. Food for thought.

This is potentially fertile ground for the European Commission to grow its new circular economy proposals later this year: coupling smart regulation with directives that make genuine business sense. It will also require a strong policy partnership across Whitehall departments.

Strong and agile businesses will be in evidence a-plenty at the annual RWM with CIWM exhibition at the NEC in September. During the past three months, we have been preparing our special issue that is given to everyone at the event. The range of businesses, materials, best practice and other articles show that the waste management sector is still vibrant and responding to the changing needs of society and policy-makers.

That issue will not be published for three weeks, but I’m sure the wait for your next copy of MRW will be worthwhile.

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