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Buying into resource efficiency

Date: 25/09/2013 | Author: Dee Moloney

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Being resource efficient is already bringing benefits to businesses and organisations, writes LRS consultancy managing director Dee Moloney


This year has seen a run of reports on the circular economy and the scale of the potential for growth in low carbon, resource efficient businesses.  It seems that organisations across the UK have, unilaterally, reached the conclusion that a linear economy is not capable of providing the growth to sustain rising living standards for an increasing global population and that it is time to embrace the circular economy, based on reusing and recycling the resources available.

Resource efficient business practices and models are being encouraged by WRAP’s Courtauld Commitment[1] and REBus programme[2], which seek to engage businesses in more sustainable ways of operating.  Last year, LRS worked as part of the European Pathway to Zero Waste (EPOW) programme to support a number of public sector organisations, including the Natural History Museum, to develop a sustainable procurement policy or integrate sustainability considerations into their existing strategies to ensure they are embedded in future procurement decisions that can significantly impact on the sustainability of its organisation and their supply chains.

The scale and scope of the public sector’s spend provides a significant opportunity to drive and influence change in its private sector supply chain, which will support the delivery of the public sector’s sustainability objectives.  Improving procurement decisions is the key to realising this opportunity.

The development and adoption of BS 8903:2010, which sets out a comprehensive framework to help manage sustainable and economic objectives and procurement practices appropriately, has helped raise awareness of the significance of sustainable procurement.  The guidelines help with the implementation of sustainable procurement processes across all supply chains.  Since being on the drafting committee for establishing the BS 8903 principles and framework, LRS was asked by the BSI to undertake research to identify how Marks & Spencer and The Football Association (FA) were implementing the principles and embedding them within their businesses and supply chains and what benefits it brought them.

M&S has been at the forefront of sustainability since the development of Plan A, which was launched in 2007 to address three huge global challenges: the increasing pressure on finite resources, rising social inequality, and the need for a healthier more sustainable lifestyle in the develop world.  M&S’s non-merchandise procurement team adopted the BS 8903 framework to integrate sustainability into its corporate procurement process.

Suppliers are crucial to reaching sustainable procurement goals and objectives.  In this regard, M&S is what BS 8903 calls a ‘Pioneer’ – that is to say, a high influential buyer with sufficient buying power to engage with suppliers and bring about sustainability improvements across its supply chain.  In turn, M&S recognises its opportunities in the supply chain and works with its suppliers so that they share responsibility for sustainability. Suppliers are expected to answer questions that specifically relate to sustainability issues - M&S will only do business with suppliers that meet its sustainability criteria and who are prepared to work with them to improve their sustainability performance.  All suppliers are invited to join the Plan A Supplier Exchange, a website to share best practice and knowledge across a wide variety of topics.  In addition, key suppliers are invited to attend the company’s annual Plan A conference, which is attended by over 1,200 suppliers.

LRS has recently worked with a leading cake manufacturer and their suppliers to identify and implement initiatives that reduce waste across the supply chain; quantifying the financial and environmental savings, while helping them to identify the opportunities with sustainable procurement.

As global demand for resources result in increased supply chain pressures and commodity costs, and as the cost of transporting and disposing of unwanted materials increases, so sustainable procurement, sustainable supply chain management and cradle-to-cradle and circular economy concepts become an increasingly attractive proposition for businesses of all types and sizes.  Responsible procurement includes making sure that the right service provider is collecting waste materials for recycling into new resource efficient products.  This is increasing the interest from investors seeking to develop new recycling and reprocessing technologies for resource efficient products.  The recent Waste and Resource Management M&A report, produced by Catalyst Corporate Finance and LRS, estimates the value of investment in waste treatment facilities alone will be in the region of £7 billion.

Meeting the aspirations of the EU Resource Efficiency Roadmap will provide UK businesses with opportunities.  The Roadmap outlines objectives for citizens and public authorities to have the right incentives to choose the most resource efficient products and services, through appropriate price signals and clear environmental information, by 2020.  Purchasing choices will stimulate companies to innovate and supply more resource efficient goods and services.  Minimum environmental performance standards are set to remove the least resource efficient and most polluting products from the market, which will increase demand for more sustainable products and services.


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