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Industry shows it cares about society

Corin Williams

Running a waste management business is no easy thing in such a tightly regulated and risky sector. When firms find the time to look up and consider their social responsibility, that is to be applauded.

MRW often hears about good examples, but two recent initiatives have particularly caught the imagination.

Veolia’s ‘Road to Work’ programme helps homeless people in London get back into employment. The scheme involves Westminster City Council and homelessness charity The Connection. The idea is that participants have “access to the full range of training and career development offered by Veolia”.

So far around 100 homeless and vulnerable people have been helped back into work and Veolia says the scheme will become part of its employment targets within Westminster, with the possibility something similar will be written into other contracts.

Homelessness was also the trigger for Reconomy chief executive Paul Cox to press ahead with the company’s new ‘RSVP’ initiative – Reconony Social Value Programme. He told MRW recently that seeing the extent of homelessness on a night out in Birmingham shocked him.

As a result, around 150 representatives from national and regional supply chain waste businesses were brought together for this Reconomy supplier’s forum to hear about its partnership with the National House Project to train ex-offenders. Astonishingly, this scheme can cut reoffending rates from 30% to just 4%.

This was just one of a number of social projects on show at the event. The waste sector is all-too-often portrayed as dangerous and crime-ridden. The influence of companies that pursue such positive schemes could help turn public opinion.

There are plenty of individual charity events set up by businesses in the sector, but going the extra mile means helping disadvantaged people directly and on a long-term basis.

The Ministry of Justice recently contacted MRW about publicising its ex-offenders employment strategy within the waste sector, both to address ”a chronic skills shortage” in the UK and to help cut reoffending rates.

It was particularly keen to talk about Recycling Lives, a scrap and WEEE firm that specialises in social value programmes.

Working in this kind way doesn’t feel like charity or being virtuous for its own sake. It is more to do with common sense and helping society function better.

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