Now it's time to make Waste to Wealth a reality - the next steps

Stephen Farrant, Director of Sustainability & Innovation, Business in the Community, discusses what happens next after the Waste to Wealth Summit 

The 200 VIP delegates have gone, our pop-up Innovation Zone has returned to its normal life as a car park, and what was by any standard an extraordinary and inspirational venue for our Waste to Wealth Summit on 22 November 2018 has resumed operations as one of London’s busiest materials processing facilities. On the day #WastetoWealth trended on Twitter, and there have been over 140 media articles published about it since. Delegate feedback has been very encouraging, with 97 per cent stating that they felt inspired to take action.

Our attention now turns to the vital and urgent work of bringing the commitments to life and driving measurable change. We will be convening the Waste to Wealth Champions in the early part of 2019, and we are currently speaking with each member company who has signed the Waste to Wealth Commitment to understand how best we can mobilise action, encourage innovation, grow the movement, and support the network with practical resources (such as our excellent new guide to the Circular Office). We will be re-convening all the signatories and champions later in 2019 and reporting annually on progress. Sign the Commitment or understand what is already available to you as a next step. 

Tackling our growing waste problem and adopting more circular business models makes a direct and positive impact on your bottom line and competitiveness. It also stimulates innovation, and feeds into all three environmental elements of our Responsible Business Map; supporting resource productivity, nurturing healthy ecosystems and moving low carbon. 

Which is why I am so excited to see more and more BITC members signing our Waste to Wealth Commitment to:

  • Set targets to improve the productivity of resources that are key for our business 
  • Work collectively towards doubling the nation’s resource productivity and eliminate avoidable waste by 2030, contributing in the way that is most relevant to our business
  • Redesign how resources are used in our products, services and operations 
  • Collaborate across our organisations, value chains and sectors
  • Reconvene and report on progress annually to share learning and demonstrate results

As one summit ends, so another begins. As I write, world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for the latest in a long series of climate talks known as “Conference of the Parties” (COP). These annual summits assess progress under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), an international environmental treaty adopted back in 1992.

This year’s COP (COP24) comes at a particularly critical time as the global community wrestles with the task of agreeing the rules by which the Paris Agreement (the result of COP21 back in 2015) will take effect, from 2020 onwards. 

Complex technical stuff will be discussed, the sort that undoubtedly leaves many people cold and disengaged. But 2018 does feel different; when school children from Australia to Sweden go on strike over the lack of progress on climate change, when the Blue Planet effect takes hold in the hearts and minds of the general public, and when David Attenborough (also speaking in Katowice) talks of the collapse of civilisations and humanity's greatest threat in thousands of years, we all know it is time to act. 

And as the Secretary of State, the Rt Hon Michael Gove MP, reminded us at the Waste to Wealth Summit, change happens in two ways; very slowly, and then incredibly quickly. Most immediately perhaps, our own survey of over 2,000 UK adults in partnership with Ipsos MORI shows that consumers want to do their bit too and reduce waste.  Money-back incentives; dedicated spaces in shops to return used packaging and clothing; loyalty points, and hiring not buying were the most popular actions from business when it comes to helping consumers reduce their own waste footprint.

Our Royal Founding Patron, asserting that we are the first generation to be fully aware of our impacts on the planet’s life support systems but the last generation to be able do anything much about it, urged us all not to miss that opportunity.

The clock is ticking and the world is watching. We are the change that we have all been waiting for.

Now is the time for each and every one of us, both in our professional and our personal lives, to be mindful of the choices we make, and lend our shoulders to the collective wheel. If we do, now might just be the beginning of a tipping point towards a new normal.
The current state of our planet represents an existential threat to all that the Prince’s Responsible Network holds dear. The Waste to Wealth agenda sets out a roadmap for the make-or-break decade ahead; we can and will tackle this together, and in so doing take a giant step towards our vision of healthy communities with successful businesses at their heart.

Watch HRH The Prince of Wales speaking at the Waste to Wealth Summit