Tackling climate change and generating wealth can go hand in hand says BITC Scotland Director Alan Thornburrow

BITC Scotland Director Alan Thornburrow reflects on a sold-out event in Glasgow recently that brought business leaders together to discuss the significant economic opportunity that exists from recycling everyday waste to tackle climate change.

Did you know that there’s a £3 billion opportunity to the Scottish economy from the circular economy and that it could create thousands of jobs? Are you aware that there’s a surge in momentum from Scottish firms when it comes to embracing the circular economy, and that businesses themselves are leading on this? Is it news to you that scientists in some parts of the world think we have only 60 harvests left if current soil degradation continues?

If you were at our recent Waste to Wealth event you’ll have picked up these startling facts from Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland. Equally powerful were the words from our keynote speaker, Jeremy Darroch, BITC Chair and CEO of Sky plc, who urged the importance of leadership at this crucial moment in history and noted that there is still public trust in businesses working collectively to make positive change in the world. “Looking back on your career, you don’t remember the numbers”, Jeremy said, “but you do remember what you did”.

Gudrun Cartwright, BITC's Environment Director, told the packed audience about Business in the Community’s Waste to Wealth Action Plan.  Our bold ambition is to double resource productivity in the UK by 2030. We are asking all sectors of the economy to together and sign our Waste to Wealth Commitment. From a standing start in late November over 100 businesses have done just that and we want another 300 to follow their lead by year end. Our goal is to reach 5,000 signatories by 2025.  Please do help us make this happen and sign the Waste to Wealth Commitment today.

Our panellists at the summit were Tim Doubleday, CFO, Burger King and Chairman, BITC Environment Leadership Team; Iain Gulland, Chief Executive of Zero Waste Scotland; Cath Denholm, Deputy Chair, Scottish Natural Heritage; and David Wood, Senior Policy Director, ICAS and Deputy Chair, Scottish Forum on Natural Capital.  

They reflected on the actions being taken by schoolchildren across the world, inspired by Greta Thunberg; asking the obvious question - why are our leaders not moving faster to protect our collective future? The panel strongly agreed that change must start now. It is oft cited we have 11 years to avoid catastrophic climate change but action is needed today.  We don’t have the luxury of kicking this into the long grass, nor should we. Our young people are demanding more, as are governments and investors. The time to act is overdue.

The panel asked that audience what they were going to do today that could help tackle climate change. They suggested we need to use tools that already exist to make a difference at individual, environmental and systemic levels – all of these will be necessary to affect change. The consensus was that we must view acting on waste as a tangible opportunity – not a risk and a cost.

Throughout the day, delegates were able to visit our inspirational Innovation Zone, which showcased businesses who are already doing things very differently to transform our use of resources. We saw how langoustine shells are being transformed into cling film, how you can now lease modular furniture and of much more besides.

And, of course, we urged attendees to sign the Waste to Wealth Commitment and continue to do so.

What are the next steps? We've identified dates to get back together to cement commitments and support each other on making progress, and we'd be pleased if you could join us. These dates are:

  • 15 April 
  • 15 May

Please email Tracey Little to let us know which date suits you best and we'll be in touch soon with further information. If you’re just finding out about Waste to Wealth now, please get in touch too and we can chat about what your business can do.

Working together, we know that Scotland's businesses can reap the benefits brought by greater resource productivity and we believe we can provide global leadership. We look forward to making this journey with you, and creating memories not of numbers, but of the action we took collectively to help safeguard the lives of future generations.  

Keen to start making a difference immediately? Help you can get right now from our Waste to Wealth event partners:

We'll delighted to be developing partnerships with Zero Waste ScotlandScottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital to transform waste and resource management in Scotland.  Here's some information about how our partners can help you right now.

If you’re interested in learning more about natural capital and your business impacts and dependencies on nature, get in touch with Punit Desai from the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital. The Forum is considering organising a bespoke event for BITC members so please get in touch if this is of interest. They also have a range of free resources which you can access on their website, including an "Ask an Expert" service, and run workshops and events throughout the year.

If you’d like to encourage young people to get involved, SNH and the Forum are running the #whyinvestinnature short film competition for young people aged 16-30 about why businesses should invest in nature, as a part of our work around sustainable business-making and natural capital. More information can be found here. 

If you’re looking for ways to measure the benefits of investing in nature, the SNH "Investing in Nature" project aims to develop a business-friendly toolkit to identify through sound econometrical methods the quantifiable and marketable benefits or costs of investing in nature incurred by businesses. If interested, please get in touch with Marco Franzoi.