My family has been in the waste and resources sector for more than 85 years and, while we have seen huge developments in the way we deal with waste during that time, the industry continues to be blighted by a reputation that is synonymous with organised crime, extortion and fly-tipping.
Waste crime is seriously undermining our industry, and the recent report from the Environment Services Association (ESA) has warned that it is ”more entrenched than ever”. While the debate rages over how enforcers should tackle the problem, it is important that businesses such as ours recognise the role we can play to put a stop to illegal activity that is costing legitimate businesses and the taxpayer dear.
We believe that businesses such as ours are in a unique position to help protect and grow the industry, and we take this responsibility seriously. When we started Clarity in 2002, one of our priorities was that it would be run ethically. This decision was a moral one and not one driven by profits.
It has not always been easy. Maintaining high ethical standards in a bottom line-driven business can be challenging, and has sometimes involved rejecting routes that could lead to the biggest short-term profit. But 15 years on and ethical behaviour remains an integral part of how we operate. Along the way, we have come across dubious methods of operation and have had to report suspected illegal practices. But these experiences have led us to further strengthen our stringent measures and protocols.
We must protect the future of our industry and work together to fight against a culture that allows crime to flourish
Our waste-to-fuel operations work with a vast range of waste and recycling companies across the country, and we have developed strict procedures to ensure we exercise due diligence when setting up these new contracts, partnerships or agreements. Together with our extensive audits and specialist consultant advice, we can ensure that those we choose to do business with are working within the same legal and ethical boundaries that we practice ourselves.
Keeping these standards is vital to ensure we manage our business risks and to protect our reputation, but we also firmly believe this is the best option for our customers, suppliers and the wider industry, helping to tackle the problem of waste crime or unethical practices.
Putting our heads in the sand and failing to pay careful consideration to those we reward with business would not only put us at risk of being implicated in the crime ourselves, but it also contributes to the £604m the ESA estimates is reportedly being lost from the industry each year. This is much-needed money that could provide investment for infrastructure, new technologies and new products, which would in turn stimulate employment and help us to strive for a better environment for all.
With the waste sector adding around £6.6bn of value to the UK economy, it is clear that we must protect the future of our industry and work together to fight against a culture that allows crime to flourish. If we take our own responsibilities seriously, ensure those we work with have good, ethical practices, we can reward those that choose to do the right thing and ensure it does not pay to operate outside of the law.
David Adams, managing director, Clarity Environmental