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Business leaders commit to ‘doubling resource productivity’

Prince Charles is to launch Business in the Community’s (BITC) ‘Waste to Wealth’ voluntary initiative, which will see signatories commit to “doubling the nation’s resource productivity and reduce avoidable waste by 2030”.

The Waste to Wealth Summit is being held at Veolia’s Southwark integrated waste management facility in south London, at which around 200 representatives from business, government and other organisations will attend.

Environment secretary Michael Gove will also speak at the event.

BITC said signatories will commit to five ‘actions’ in recognition of a conclusion by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that “we only have 12 years to change our relationship with the resources we use to avoid catastrophic climate change and restore the health of our environment”.

There are as yet no specific details what is meant by ’resource productivity’ or ‘zero waste’. Businesses will be expected to set targets, but what these will be or how they will be enforced is not clear.

Founding signatories include Veolia, Bupa, The Co-Operative Bank, Deloitte, Greggs, Heineken, Iceland, Lloyds Banking Group, Marks & Spencer, PwC, Sky, Thames Water, Toyota and Unilever.

Seven Waste to Wealth Champions, have also signed up. These will represent “key areas” as recommended by Defra. The companies are JLL and Interface (construction), Burger King, Nestle, Sainsbury’s and Sodexo (food) and European Metal Recycling (metals).

Gavin Graveson, executive vice-president of Veolia UK & Ireland, said: “As the impact on our natural world is spiraling out of control, it has never been more pressing to assemble leaders of industry to agree a way forward.

“We still have the chance to balance the scales - but this depends on a colossal effort of business. The next generation could look back at the magnitude of mistreatment our environment has received or how we were its saviours.

“The value from and importance of waste needs to be realised if the UK is to become a beacon of green light and resource powerhouse.”

Gove said: “We need to cut avoidable waste and start looking at the waste we do produce as a valuable resource.

“By working together we can all play a part in eliminating unnecessary waste to leave the environment in a better state for future generations.”

Amanda Mackenzie, chief executive of Business in the Community, said: “HRH The Prince of Wales and Business in the Community’s Royal Founding Patron has been shining a light on plastic pollution and our throwaway culture since the 1970s. And now we, as The Prince’s Responsible Business Network, are looking at how we make the most of critical resources and reduce all waste, ideally not producing it in the first place. The old adage ‘waste not want not’ has never been more relevant.”

The resources and waste strategy, which Defra says will be launched before the end of the year, is expected to include plans for the UK to become a zero avoidable waste economy by 2050 and to phase out avoidable plastic waste by 2042.

The Waste to Wealth Commitment signatories are committing to the following actions:

1. Set targets to improve the productivity of resources that are key for our business.

2. Work collectively towards doubling the nation’s resource productivity and reduce avoidable waste by 2030, contributing in the way that is most relevant to our business.

3. Redesign how resources are used in our products, services and operations.

4. Collaborate across our organisations, value chains and sectors.

5. Reconvene and report on progress annually to share learning and demonstrate results.

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