M&S warning: manage waste or get left behind

By Gary Scattergood

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Resources action programme, Recycling

M&S has led the pack in resource management
M&S has led the pack in resource management
Major food businesses that refuse to move towards a circular economy business model – where waste products from one manufacturing process are reused in others – will be left behind in a rapidly shifting social and economic climate.

That was the warning issued by Mike Barry, head of sustainable business at Marks & Spencer (M&S), at the Waste & Resources Action Programme’s (WRAP) annual conference in London yesterday (Tuesday, November 6).

He backed statements made by WRAP chief executive Liz Goodwin, who said economic growth would be driven by using and reusing resources more efficiently and minimising dependency on virgin materials.

Opening a debate on the economic benefits of what is becoming known as the ‘circular economy’, Goodwin said: “Realising the full value of materials through resource management could drive sustainable growth, with a recent McKinsey report showing 30% of global demand for resources in 2030 could be met through improved management.”

Production processes

Barry said companies such as Coca-Cola Enterprises, Unilever and Sainsbury, as well as M&S, were taking great strides towards taking a more circular – or “closed loop” ​– approach to production processes, but added that much more needed to be done.

If firms failed to take the initiative to reuse waste materials across their supply chains, he said they would be unable to cope with raw material shortages, meet the demands of a growing global middle class or compete with new, forward-thinking competitors.

“If any big businesses think we don’t need to make this move, then they are very wrong. It is inevitable, so you might as well get on the front foot,”​ he said.

From a food perspective, Barry said M&S had started to “close the loop” ​by drastically cutting the amount of packaging on its goods, acknowledging that it used “far too much three or four years ago”.

He also said it was working with its food manufacturing partners to send zero food waste to landfill by 2015, arguing that collaboration with partners and competitor firms was the only way to speed up results and secure long-term business survival.

Common objectives

Goodwin added that there were two prime examples of how firms across supply chains and within specific sectors had come together with WRAP – which is funded by government – to meet common waste objectives.

She cited the voluntary Courtauld Commitment for the food industry, which has recorded an 8.8% decrease in supply chain waste over the past two years and the rise in plastic bottle recycling which has soared from 3% in 2000 to 50% today – while simultaneously creating jobs, harnessing innovation and boosting the UK economy.

“Resource efficiency is a key element for delivering economic growth and reducing reliance on virgin materials,” ​she added.

“For WRAP, there are opportunities for us wherever we look, but we have to focus on where we will have the biggest impact.”

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