Skip to main content
Home » Sustainable Business » Business comes together to turn waste into wealth
Sustainable Business 2019

Business comes together to turn waste into wealth

iStock / Getty Images Plus / ilyaliren

Gudrun Cartwright

Environment Director, Business in the Community

We have just 12 years to prevent catastrophic climate change and reverse the destruction of ecosystems if we are to hand on a planet where our children can thrive. We must make the most out of precious resources, waste as little as possible and find ways of turning the waste we do create into new wealth.

Business in the Community’s Waste to Wealth campaign brings together business, government, academia and civil society to unlock opportunities to double the nation’s resource productivity and eliminate avoidable waste by 2030.

Over 200 leaders from business, government, academia and civil society gathered at the Waste to Wealth Summit, in London to tackle this challenge head-on. HRH The Prince of Wales delivered a keynote address in which he stressed the urgent need to rethink resource use in the UK and why business needs to play a leading role in the fight.

We have since had over 100 companies sign the Waste to Wealth Commitment to:

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

Practical support for making businesses more sustainable

Our attention now turns to the vital and urgent work of bringing these commitments to life and driving measurable change. We are working with eight Waste to Wealth Champions on key resources, and have put together an action plan based on feedback from signatories to mobilise action, encourage innovation, grow the movement, and support the network with practical resources (such as our Circular Office guide). We will re-convene signatories and champions at the end of this year and report annually on progress.

Eliminating waste and adopting more circular business models makes a direct and positive impact on a company’s bottom line and competitiveness. It also stimulates innovation, and feeds into all three environmental priorities of our Responsible Business Map; supporting resource productivity, nurturing healthy ecosystems and moving to net zero carbon. 

Consumers want to “do their bit” to reduce waste

2019 feels different.  When school children from all over the world strike over the lack of progress on climate change, when the UN reports on the devastating loss of biodiversity, and when David Attenborough talks of how the damage we are causing to our home planet is humanity’s greatest threat in thousands of years, with real potential to lead our civilisation to collapse, 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.

Responsible businesses and consumers will become the new normal

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, or we don’t, now is a tipping point towards a new normal.  It is up to us to decide whether we design it or just let it happen.

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, and the UK becoming the world leader in responsible business.

Next article