In October last year, the Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) deferred the appointment of a new chief executive and announced it would sell its headquarters as it grappled with financial problems.
The organisation had been expected to search for a new chief following the departure of Colin Church, but this was put on hold “until the required skillset for the role has been clearly defined in line with the new vision for the CIWM”. Instead, the role has been divided between Chris Murphy and Sarah Poulter.
The CIWM also announced a number of job losses and staff redeployments as it pressed ahead with a newly adopted business plan and restructure. It turned out it had a deficit of £223,000 for 2017 and had run up deficits of a roughly similar size every year since it last returned a surplus in 2012.
Its associated training body Wamitab had made a £189,000 surplus, but trading company CIWM Enterprises had lost £110,000, while the institution had lost £302,000 from “the difference between the cost of providing the services to members we wish to provide and the income from membership fees”.
The organisation intends to return to financial surplus as soon as it can. Here, MRW presents Poulter outlining the changes and challenges to the industry’s professional body in her own words. She has been with the CIWM for 18 years and, before her new role, was managing director of CIWM Enterprises.
CIWM leadership and dual roles
Poulter: We restructured the team into three areas: the engagement team, the member support team and the member services team. I look after member engagement and support and Chris looks after member services. He is responsible for our technical and policy teams, the content of services such as the journal and events.
His team will be working to populate a new knowledge hub with content and my team has built and structured it. Then my sales and marketing teams will look after the ‘member journey’ – how they interact with it.
I am also responsible for membership growth and retention, along with all our revenue-generating services: training programme, publication revenue, those kinds of things. I also look after the internal HR, finance and IT teams to make sure we are functioning effectively.
This arrangement is temporary. The trustees will be recruiting a chief executive around the end of the year. But I think they felt at the time [when Church left] that, instead of bringing in somebody new at a point where so much change is going on, let’s take the two people who are in the business at the moment already leading in those areas and help keep some stability.
Membership and governance
With our membership structure, we are simplifying it to a smaller number of grades. Previously, people would go to our website and feel a bit overwhelmed with the number of categories of membership you could join.
“Instead of being elected, the trustee body will be interviewed and chosen for their skills. That will be quite a significant change and will help to take our business forward.”
These changes have been agreed by the membership, but we have not yet been able to put them into place because the Privy Council [which governs royal charter status] needs to review the changes and check they are comfortable with them.
We haven’t had feedback yet, but we have had a letter from the Privy Council to say those who work on membership organisations have been diverted to work around Brexit.
Back in September, at the annual general meeting, the membership agreed to change our governance structure, which would mean the trustee body of 28 comes down to a much smaller number. Instead of being elected, they will be interviewed and chosen for their skills. That will be quite a significant change and will help to take our business forward.
There will also be a members’ council as a way of involving the membership in decisions. One of its key roles is to chose the next president, which used to be done through the trustee body. Again, this is all tied up with the Privy Council; the moment we get the go-ahead we can put these plans in place.
Office move and staff restructuring
The most important thing for the CIWM and trustees is to get ourselves on to a stronger financial footing. That has been a key focus since October and will be throughout the year. We have made really good progress, the teams have been restructured and this has cut back significantly on costs.
It is not yet complete, but the sale of the office building is progressing with the hope of moving around April. It was not necessarily about finance but more to do with culture change. Our current building is very large and is like a rabbit warren – lots of tiny offices everywhere and the teams are spread all over the site. So we are moving to an open-plan serviced office in Northampton.
We have been in the current building for 30 years, with all the associated maintenance costs. It’s time for a change.
At the beginning of the year we had 45 employees but there will be 31 of us after the restructuring. This involves filling some vacant posts as well.
It was obviously about cost savings but also ensuring the CIWM is fit for purpose. Some new posts have been created, which we are recruiting for, and member development executives will be out working with regional centres with the membership.
That is one of the elements of our strategy: a back-to-basics approach with the membership being at the heart of everything we do. I think the team is excited about the challenge ahead.
Addressing revenue problems
There were a number of factors in terms of the financial difficulties. Membership numbers dipped over a period of time but they have bounced back; in 2018 we have seen an increase and we are hoping that will continue in 2019.
It is a positive sign that some of the things we were doing throughout last year have started to come into effect.
There has also been a lot of competition in the market for events, awards, advertising revenues and so on. It is about organisations that buy CIWM services having difficult times as well, with numerous companies going out of business throughout the year and some of those that have perhaps supported us financially over a period of time. It is a cumulative effect of all these things.
The positive for the CIWM is that we have now got a clear plan and have cut out a significant amount of cost from the business. We are budgeting to be very close to breaking even in 2019.
A survey of members and the wider sector was carried out a while ago with a company called Ashridge, which focuses on membership bodies. That was very helpful and, as a result, we are developing more low-cost regional events and networking.
Professional standards and Wamitab
Changes have been made to the CIWM’s professional competencies regime, which helps members to do their jobs and prepare for the future. The re-jigged Framework of Professional Standards takes the established competences required for chartered waste managers and expands them to show how they apply at different levels in a company.
The competences cover the knowledge, skills and behaviours we would expect waste professionals to demonstrate, no matter what specialist area an individual is working in – from recycling facilities and waste collection through to construction, facilities management and ‘waste champions’ in waste producers.
We also want the new standards to be relevant to the wider sector, and have engaged with a number of environmental bodies to map the skills that are aligned – delivering for their membership as well as ours.
We are not quite at the stage where we can announce these partners, but the kinds of organisations include water, energy and facilities management, where there is an alignment in parts of the jobs people are doing.
Although it is a separate charity, Wamitab’s governance structure still comes under the CIWM. The aim is to work more closely, and one of the ways to do that is around the framework. The CIWM is looking at skills and competencies from manager level up, and Wamitab’s focus is from operational up to manager level.
Competencies will still map across to our grades of membership, but the biggest difference for me is what I would call the ‘softer’ skills: not simply the technical elements of a role, but also how to deal with conflict and manage people.
The first part of the new framework will be ready for April, and then there are a number of deadlines following that throughout the year. The work we are doing fits in with the work of the UK Resources Council. We have been talking with them about future skills and competencies.
We have now been working with Prysm, the new owner of the exhibition, for just over a year. I think it is fair to say it has taken the company a while to get to grips with the show because it came in part-way through the cycle. But now it has done a full show cycle, I have seen some very good ideas being implemented for this year. There are some very interesting speakers we haven’t seen before.
Environment Media Group’s Letsrecycle Live has carved out quite a niche in terms of attracting the kit side of things but RWM is a much broader show.
The income for us from RWM dipped last year but is on target to increase this year. It’s a small part of the CIWM’s revenue stream in the grand scheme but certainly very welcome.