If you are not sure where to start in making your business more sustainable, why not take a look in your bins? Reducing waste throughout your operations will conserve natural resources, save energy and ease the burden on landfill, all of which contribute to your business sustainability. The other impact will be a reduction in your costs and an improvement in your profits.
We hear a lot about the importance of increasing recycling but to maximise the business and sustainability benefits the first focus should be on waste reduction and actions that avoid the waste occurring. By removing waste you are removing costs and building a more resilient supply chain. In 2016 Tony Dunnage, then Unilever Group Manufacturing Sustainability Director, explained that 90% of 200m Euros of cost savings were directly linked to waste reduction (https://www.recyclingwasteworld.co.uk/in-depth-article/zero-hero/113116/).
Adopting a circular business model where products are designed for a longer life, repair for reuse, or even sold as a service is a way of breaking out of the traditional take, make, dispose model of consumption.
How can you start on the waste reduction journey?
An easy first step is to do a waste walkthrough, ideally with a cross-functional team including your suppliers and customers. Observe the processes at all stages of your operation and identify any items that are discarded and thrown away and not incorporated into the final product that you sell. This should include transit packaging for raw materials going into production or used to transport product to a warehouse or customer, waste from production processes and product made that becomes obsolete before sale. You will then need to explore the reasons for the waste and what could be done differently.
Working in cross-functional teams and including those involved in the process helps to generate ideas and challenge established ways of working. A supplier may be able to offer a different way of delivering materials and a marketer agree that a specification can be amended to reduce rejects. This will be a familiar process to anyone that has worked with Lean Manufacturing principles or The Toyota Way.
Removing or reducing the waste at source will reduce costs, increase your capacity and profits. Finding other uses for “waste” streams can replace disposal costs with revenue streams. An excellent example of this is the British Sugar operation described in this case study. https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/case-studies/increasing-diversity-building-resilience
The other benefit of waste reduction is improved employee satisfaction and engagement.
Many businesses are developing plans to reduce their environmental footprint looking at sourcing of materials, green sources of energy and transportation and there may be concerns that these actions will result in additional costs. Waste reduction will reduce costs and amplify the impact of other actions in achieving your net zero plans and the cost savings generated can be the easiest way to get support for your sustainability programme