By the time the next issue of MRW “hits the streets” in late June, we will know the colour of the Government and almost certainly the senior ministers who will be responsible for our industry. Although some politicians will stay put, the likelihood is that there will yet again be new faces.
The ministerial merry-go-round always puts the resources industry back to square one in terms of getting its message across. As this happens at every reshuffle, maybe a change of tack is needed in terms of how the industry presents itself to Government.
There are a number of excellent organisations representing sub-sector interests – the Environmental Services Association (ESA), Chartered Institution of Wastes Management (CIWM) and the Local Authority Recycling Advisory Committee are just three (and apologies to those not listed).
We lack a forum where each sub-sector comes together and speaks truth to power with one voice
Resource & Waste UK (the relatively new partnership between the ESA and CIWM) is a step in the right direction but has yet to make much of a mark – even though it is ably led by the charismatic Steve Lee.
I’ve written elsewhere of the depressingly low number of meetings between sector representatives and Defra ministers in the last Government. Precisely one in the six months after the post-Brexit vote re-shuffle, it appears.
We lack a forum where each sub-sector comes together and speaks truth to power with one voice, with support from businesses and other partners that back resource efficiency. The Green Alliance and the Aldersgate Group have that over-arching reach but their brief is a wider environmental one.
It is a challenge faced by the RWM Ambassadors. It is an excellent panel of people from across the sector, assembled with the primary goal of ensuring that RWM remains the key industry event in our calendar and is as relevant as possible to those who attend or engage with the show in any capacity: exhibitor, visitor, speaker - or even journalist.
The challenge the group also faces is adopting shared positions on the key issues. A reprocessor, for example, may have markedly different views on an energy-recovery-versus-recycling debate than an RDF exporter. And there is a hurdle to overcome as few Ambassadors have carte blanche to speak directly on behalf of their company, organisation or authority.
Neither of these examples is quoted to devalue the collective worth of the Ambassadors. Good has, and is, being done. The report commissioned last year on data (or lack of it) was rigorous enough to attract the interest of Defra officials who are keen to build on the foundation in addressing a real problem for policy-makers.
Perhaps the group is a prototype for an industry-wide forum, boosted by big brands such as Marks & Spencer, Ikea or Coca-Cola to show that there is considerable industry buy-in. It would be a body with real clout for ministers assessing if it was something they should do business with.
The Metals Forum, where all sectors have come together “to articulate their compelling vision of the future for metals in the UK”, could well be a template.