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Business in the Community launch campaign to cut waste in UK workplaces

Businesses urged to ‘go circular’ and refurbish, recycle and regenerate office waste

A campaign to make UK workplaces more sustainable and less wasteful is being launched by the charity Business in the Community today with backing from businesses such as PwC, Lloyds Banking Group, Interserve, and premises group, JLL.

The UK generates around 200 million tons of waste a year; 24 per cent of this is generated by businesses, that’s 10 per cent more than from households, and a massive 50 per cent is generated by construction*. It is estimated that a typical office wastes enough energy to make 1000 cups of tea** and the cost of office waste to UK businesses is around £15bn a year***.  Business in the Community is calling for businesses to change the way they design and use their workplaces to create more sustainable offices that minimise negative impacts on the environment, reduce businesses costs and help to create new jobs and partnerships.

There are growing numbers of companies who are already taking an innovative ‘circular’ approach to their workplace design and waste.  Professional services firm, PwC looks at every possible opportunity to 'go circular' and increase the sustainability of their premises. It achieved zero to landfill in 2012 and, to date has cut paper consumption by close to 60%, saving an estimated £3.9m; cut energy use by around half, saving more than £20m and recycles or reuses over 85 per cent of all waste., It now generates an income from circular solutions, for example refurbishing and reselling its laptops and smartphones generates over £500,000 a year.

Bridget Jackson, PwC’s Head of Corporate Sustainability, said: “Growing in momentum, the circular economy is a strategic concept that can, in large part, be delivered by down-to-earth, practical solutions. At PwC, we’ve been applying these principles since 2007 and over the last five years have set up reuse and recycling systems for all the main waste streams arising from our operations. We’re now entering the third phase of our strategy, focusing on identifying solutions through 'circular procurement' and it’s exciting to see how far we can go. We’re delighted to be working with Business in the Community to share what we've learnt so that others benefit from our experience and 'go circular' more quickly.”

Business in the Community is launching a free online resource to help businesses follow in PWC’s footsteps and ‘go circular’. It is asking businesses to commit to taking one step towards a more environmentally sustainable office, to work with their suppliers and customers and to share their tips, lessons learned and examples over the next year to inspire more businesses to act.  

Gudrun Cartwright, Business in the Community’s Environment Director said; “We are asking businesses to think beyond recycling and minimising paper use to completely reimagine waste in the workplace. We want UK businesses to move away from the traditional approach of throwing things away at the end of their useful life, towards a more ‘circular’ approach where items stay useful for as long as possible, and are then refurbished, recycled or regenerated. From the design and use of office spaces, the procurement of office supplies, to how textiles and clothing are repurposed there are a diverse range of steps that businesses can take.”

The benefits of this approach go beyond the environment and business cost savings. Going ‘circular’ can also support local communities by enabling businesses to develop skills and provide employment.  Recycling Lives, a waste management company in the North West, collects old IT equipment and trains prison inmates to strip, and recycle it. They then support them into employment once they are released.  

Andrew Bester, Lloyds Banking Group, who chairs Business in the Community’s Circular Economy Taskforce (the group of businesses leading this campaign) said: “Companies are increasingly aware of the finite nature of the natural resources we use across our office spaces. Businesses are in a unique position and have a responsibility to take a leading role in driving greater productivity and waste reduction in our offices by reviewing aspects such as building design and leasing equipment. A change in mindset and increased innovation around the circular economy can deliver real benefits to both businesses and the environment.”

The campaign is being launched at real estate advisory firm, JLL’s central London office, where 60 companies will be invited to find out more and commit to taking one step towards a more circular office. 

Sophie Walker, Head of UK Sustainability, JLL, said: “Thinking circular is a logical solution in a resource-constrained world. At JLL we’ve set ourselves a high-level target that, by 2020, we will support the UK’s transition to a circular economy through our services, our workforces and our public affairs activities.  We’re at the start of our circular office journey, but we are excited to commit to Business in the Community’s campaign and with others as we change today for a sustainable tomorrow.”

As well as the free online resources, which are available to any business, Business in the Community, PwC and other Circular Economy Taskforce members will also be working with businesses in Manchester, Cardiff, Peterborough and London to find innovative solutions to office waste, share resources, explore new models of premises design and management that drive forward the reality of a circular economy.

To find out more about the campaign visit Business in the Community’s Smart Resource hub http://environment.bitc.org.uk/smart-resources   

ENDS

* Energyoffgrid.co.uk

** Carbon Trust

***Envirowise

For more information about Business in the Community or its work on the Circular Office contact Libby Sandbrook, 07725 638030 or  libby.sandbrook@bitc.org.uk

Business in the Community’s Circular Economy Taskforce

Business in the Community’s (BITC’s) Circular Economy Taskforce brings together a group of CEO’s and other senior executives from BITC’s membership with key partners, supported by technical experts, to develop a high impact programme to bring the circular economy to life. Members include: Amey, Anglian Water, Anthesis, Interserve, Lloyds Bank, Saint-Gobain, PwC, Recycling Lives, Unilever, Viridor, Veolia, Walgreen Boots Alliance, WRAP.