I am not sure how it has come to pass, but the word ‘broker’ has become tarnished to a point where for many in the waste industry it has now become a dirty word.
It makes me smile to see other brokerages doing everything possible to avoid using the b-word. You can wrap it up anyway you like: those consultants, advisers or service managers are brokers, whether they are comfortable with the label or not. I believe that this attempt to hide behind another tag is simply a sticking plaster for businesses that are not really doing anything to add value to the service they offer.
While I cannot identify a specific reason for the stigma associated with being a broker, I do realise that the actions of a few have affected the reputation of the many. Historically, many brokerages were faceless businesses focused solely on ‘screwing down’ service providers on cost and disregarding the impact on service or performance. The result is a situation that benefits no one.
If the service provider is unable to make a reasonable profit for its work, it is unlikely to be committed to excellence. The waste producer, in return, often suffers from a poor level of service, which almost certainly fails to optimise the value of its waste as resource.
At UKWSL, we are proud to call ourselves brokers because we know that, when this service is provided in the right way, it benefits everyone involved. Of course the provision of a cost-effective and high-quality service is important. But we also realise that this is not our customers’ only requirement and, quite frankly, it would be pretty limiting in terms of differentiating and growing our business if it was.
What makes us really proud is our ability to optimise and add value to the services received by our clients. Not owning bins, trucks or facilities provides us with the flexibility to source the highest quality and best-fit service provider for each client.
We are also conscious of the fact that a lot of innovation happens in the smaller regional businesses – they have to innovate to survive – and we are focused on bringing the best of this to our clients. This enables them potentially to reuse or recycle more of the material they produce and often improves on the services provided by a national contractor, whose ability to provide services vary greatly depending on local infrastructure.
But the opportunities to add value are not limited to service provision or processing technology. Data, information and education have become increasingly important requirements for our customers when looking for opportunities to improve the way they manage, develop and report on their investment in waste and recycling services.
I believe that when things are done the right way, there is a mutually supportive relationship between the waste management companies providing services and the brokerage that employs them. The reality is that many smaller service providers would never appear on the radar of those businesses seeking to procure national waste contracts if it were not for subcontracted work.
Likewise, our ability to utilise these businesses enables us to bring innovation to the client and for them in turn to receive a cost-effective and sustainable service, which is both bespoke and optimised to the material types and volumes they produce.
For those who continue to have concerns around the commercial viability of working with brokers, I see it as being no different to any number of other sectors that utilise multiple sales channels, often incorporating third parties or agents in addition to their own direct sales.
I think that the sceptical and cynical view of brokers is more of an issue for the waste management industry than waste producers. The ability of businesses like UKWSL to work with high-profile and highly regarded brands such as TUI, Network Rail or Cancer Research demonstrates that the client’s focus is more on finding the right partner to deliver an innovative, effective and cost- effective service.
But I do believe that this stigma is limiting the waste industry. By ensuring that we continue to do business in the right way, and by remaining focused on the need to add value and not just cut cost, I am confident that we will find a way to remove it. I am equally confident that this will, in turn, help to unlock further commercial success and improve the quality of service provided by the waste sector.
Chris Giscombe is director at UKWSL