This week a new report has been published by UK environmental think tank Green Alliance which unites top UK businesses on a mission to design out waste in industry. The report is called A Pathway To Greener Products and calls on the new coalition government to help all businesses improve the environmental impact of the products they produce and sell. To deliver the report Green Alliance put together a group of businesses called The Designing Out Waste Consortium, which includes some of the UK's biggest companies...The Designing Out Waste Consortium Mission
Asda, Boots UK, Royal Mail, Unilever, GlaxoSmithKline and Sainsbury's are some of the big names that make up The Designing Out Waste Consortium, and together they are recommending that a progressive government framework be put in place to incentivise the production of less wasteful products.
Key Recommendations for Government Framework
1. Evaluating product impacts
The government should take a lead in facilitating the development of a practical, low cost and widely adopted way of evaluating product impacts and identifying where action should be taken. This should be done in discussion with businesses, and working with the relevant EU and global institutions.
2. Tackling the product shadow
Government should introduce new measures to tackle the generation of commercial and industrial waste. These could include ambitious sectoral targets and requirements for companies to measure and routinely report material input and output.
3. Towards improved product standards
The government should facilitate the development of a broad set of lifecycle based sustainability performance standards for products. Companies and trade associations should be encouraged to set their own baselines for products and to use these to produce improvement strategies to meet these standards.
An expanded Ecodesign Directive could be one way to ensure that these standards apply across all member states. The UK government should take a proactive stance in EU discussions about how best to do this.
4. 'Upstream' incentives to design out waste
Government should explore the potential for upstream incentives to encourage businesses, both in the UK and abroad, to design out waste and design in recovery.
What Big UK Businesses say
Green Alliance have provided some encouraging quotes from the CSR directors of the consortium businesses. Here is what Julian Walker-Palin, Head of Corporate Policy for Sustainability & Ethics at Asda, had to say:
"Whilst we believe that business acting alone can make significant moves towards designing out waste in products it will also be essential to have in place the right public policy drivers to create a framework in which these activities can flourish. We hope that this report will help government recognise the challenges but also the opportunities in this area."
What we'd like to see more of
We think it's good news that such big companies are really thinking about how design can impact the sustainability of products at the beginning of their lifecycle and that their efforts are not exclusively focused on waste management (end of life) or carbon emissions. We'd like to see more mentions of the need for a broader design perspective i.e. systems design, closed loop rather than linear production, the development of a UK upcyling industry, and the inclusion of social enterprise in the discussion - these are vital elements to designing sustainable products and services.
Download A Pathway To Greener Products
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