The recent resource management conference organized by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) was held in Leeds.
Chaired by Josh Fothergill, IEMA’s Policy and Engagement Lead on Resource Management, the conference included numerous speakers from the Resource Association, Weightmans LLP, Willmott Dixon, Ricoh and EMG.
Fothergill: ‘Essentially, the day was about opening people’s eyes to look beyond waste management and start looking at the wider issues of resources and the major trends that are developing – and that are inevitable – within the global system; these will affect every business. Businesses can’t just look at waste and think that signing a ‘zero waste to landfill’ contract is the end of it; they need actually to take responsibility.
I think what came out of today was identifying that it’s not just about actions but about cultural change. We had a number of discussion rounds concerning the availability of data, how far you can trust other people’s data, and how to verify and use it in your own business to drive change. There’s also the challenge of ensuring that the leadership is committed. Unless you integrate the correct philosophy into the culture of an organization you are not really going to succeed and change the way people see things. Even little things like how one refers to recycling bins can make all the difference and subtly begin to change people’s attitudes and understanding.’
During the Resource Management Conference competitive advantage and innovation were also discussed, and how people can be inspired by looking wider afield, including the Cradle to Cradle approach to address resource security in the long-term. The day concluded with an emphatic presentation concerned with collaboration and how to identify opportunities between businesses. Furthermore it was considered whether waste as such really exists or whether it is simply material which is in the wrong place at the wrong time – and how one can go about generating industrial symbiosis within an already existing economy.
Collaborative action, it is evident, has to be the solution to the sustainability challenge, and this must be taken across all sectors and industries; skills and knowledge need to be built up to this end.
The delegates were able to leave with a sense of inspiration rather than one of misgiving, and with the feeling that if they look seriously at what they, their supply chain and their clients are doing, things can be coordinated and integrated to form a serious transition towards a more sustainable approach.
IEMA has been carrying out a considerable amount of research regarding the move from waste management to resource management. It has identified resource efficiency, security and cycling as ways to make the circular economy practical.
Fothergill: ‘It is really the work of organizations like EMG that has identified the resource-effectiveness aspect – the eco-effectiveness side of the coin which is also so vital. Rather than simply aiming to do less harm, we can focus on how to deliver good. This can be achieved with a growth agenda, and with the ability to be sustainable in an economic sense, in a societal sense and in an environmental sense. I think that’s the kind of inspiration we’ve received from our interaction with EMG.’
The conference organized by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA) was held in Leeds on 16thOctober 2014