Giving more to the world than you take

Giving more to the world than you take

By Andrew McCaffery, Chief Strategy Officer at Ecoveritas

During the last 150 years, we have stressed the oceans, warmed the planet and overextended almost every natural resource.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. And now, more than ever, real change requires a generation of leaders and businesses that think and act differently.

We all know that change is hard. It’s unsettling, time-consuming, and all too often, we give up at the first sign of a setback.

While we appreciate the scepticism from businesses – really, we get it – the fact remains that those who handle the challenge well can prosper. Those who handle it poorly put themselves at risk.

Businesses need to prepare for a landscape proactively dealing with climate change. And at Ecoveritas, we’re focused on working with companies across a range of sectors to see how we can support their ambition to embark on a sustainability journey and set meaningful targets around packaging sustainability.

We help ensure targets are not seen as a proxy for progress.

Reframing how business can thrive

In a fast-changing world, the best businesses focus on what doesn’t change fast.

For businesses tackling today’s ecological and social pressures, a very different response is required – one that existing strategy frameworks fail adequately to address.

The number one mistake people make about circularity is that they think it’s about waste management—recycling, sorting, and waste to energy.

But the bigger picture is missing. It’s about not producing waste.

And this misconception is exactly why a deeper understanding and grasp of the details is important.

With new packaging and packaging waste regulations in the UK, packaging and end-of-life financial responsibilities are switching from the public sector to brands.

From reducing raw materials and packaging to responsible end-of-life options, responsible businesses seek more granular detail.

The most successful companies will use data to connect their various siloes to create fluid, interconnected data streams that can be picked apart at a micro or macro level to identify new efficiencies. Compliance will become a floor, not a ceiling – embracing data will help businesses identify where their supply chains are stretched or where unnecessary waste exists. It will unlock new opportunities for suppliers, converters, and manufacturers to harmonise processes and open new avenues for differentiation. At a time when sustainability is essential and the market is fraught with reputational risk, data collection and analysis tools put the power to manage that risk squarely in businesses’ hands.

Successful implementation of data solutions to tackle climate change will be determined by how well organisations can collect, analyse, manage, and promptly act upon their data. These new challenges will require the use of brand-new data sets which have never been analysed in this way or collected for this use. It is a tough ask for many, but the tools exist to accomplish it.

We often find that companies are very overwhelmed when addressing these issues. To an extent, we can sympathise with many dogged by a ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t mentality.

But for those willing to see waste as a resource without purpose and those ready to jump the hurdles of time, cost, and knowledge, Ecoveritas can help. We can work out where companies can make the biggest impact and ensure the bigger issues are avoided as part of wider agenda-setting.

Start doing something that matters

The global economy extracts over 100 billion tonnes of raw material every year, which is rapidly consumed and disposed of.

This status quo has quickly become unworkable. Manufacturers don’t have to make their products and packaging easy to recycle or include recycled content. Retailers can sell anything they want. Consumers with no legal obligation to recycle it. And without legal requirements, waste management companies rarely recycle it either.

While the concept of addressing the issue is deeply understood, what remains elusive is discovering how to meet both shareholder and stakeholder requirements in the core business while creating value for the company that cannot be disentangled from the value it makes for society and the environment.

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) represents a viable way of making the recycling loop less open and more closed. Not a silver bullet. But then, who said it was?

Instead, EPR is like a compass pointing to a more sustainable way, a much-needed foothold on our climb out of the waste crisis.

Despite their best intentions, sustainability is often an afterthought to many businesses’ core strategies. While they celebrate green initiatives and social philanthropy, it is not uncommon to see the trumpeting of symbolic wins that inadvertently highlight the unsustainability of more helpful and genuine endeavours.

You can have the best platform in the world – ours included – but it won’t help us achieve sustainability if it’s not used sustainably. That’s why marrying the collection of packaging data and evolving, functional, workable EPR scheme is key – and why we should stick it through, see the results and go again.

With little to no uptake or commitment, we are back to the drawing board with limited paper to plot our path.

The most important brands in the world make us feel something. They achieve that because they have something they want to change, and customers want to be part of that change.

These companies connect because they have a reason to exist over and above, making a profit.

People may love the product they make, but what they love most about them is the change they are making. Their raw purpose is a source of authenticity. It’s a sign they still care. It’s an antidote to the apathy many brands still face.

If you have any questions on how your business should prepare for the advent of EPR policy, please speak to one of our advisors today on +44 (0)1865 721375.

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