Scotland 'well-prepared' to embrace disruptive circular economy business models
EXCLUSIVE: The willingness of Scotland's universities, councils and health services to embrace new initiatives based on circular economy principles has allowed disruptive innovators to gain a foothold in the UK market and expand their business.
That's according to furniture redistributing company Warp-it's founder Daniel O’Connor, who claims that partnering with the NHS in Scotland has allowed his own company to expand close-loop practices to schools and councils across the UK.
Speaking to edie ahead of his appearance at edie Live next month, (scroll down for details), O’Connor said: “I see Scotland as unbelievably well-prepared for our business model. Around 80% of the universities and 60% of the councils and every NHS hospital and centre in country are on board. The country seems to understand the potential for getting the most out of assets and is way ahead of the field.”
With the aid of local councils and NHS facilities in the Scotland, O’Connor has seen his company grow significantly in recent years. In 2011, he was juggling the online launch of Warp-it with another job, separating his duties into a two or three-day working schedule. But as the market picked up – originally in Sunderland – Warp-it has developed into a full-time, thriving online platform to trade discarded furniture and assets.
Warp-it offers an online matching platform for those looking to acquire second hand furniture and assets – usually public sector NGOs – with those looking to discard unneeded equipment in a sustainable manner. When it comes to office renovation and movement, items such as desk chairs and tables are often left to the last minute to be dealt with. As a result, they are often mismanaged during the collection and relocation process.
“When a new desk arrives or a company is moving office, facility workers will often be told to dispose of an older model with hardly any warning,” O’Connor explained. “This means that the collection process is mismanaged because there’s usually little to no storage, so the item gets discarded by any means necessary and is usually sent to landfill. A perfectly good asset is wasted and so is its potential.”
This re-use system is already proving popular in England – with around 20% of NHS centres and numerous councils already signed up to the Warp-it platform. And it has just hit an entire new level of popularity in Scotland. With 60% of NHS carbon emissions coming from the supply chain, centres are looking at ways to reduce purchasing in the first instance. Through Warp-it, centres in Glasgow and Clyde are already boasting saving costs of around £20,000 per month.
O’Connor believes it is the country’s open-mindedness and willingness to embrace the circular economy that has helped with his company’s growth. The country has already pledged to invest £70m in a new centre of excellence and an innovative new manufacturing strategy for a circular economy model.
And, with Zero Waste Scotland also calling on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) explore and pioneer ways to develop a circular economy through a £18m fund, O’Connor is now looking to SMEs as a bridge to get large corporations on board with his disruptive model.
“To me, the concept is a no-brainer,” he said. “Large organisations don’t like change, and no one takes responsibility for assets until they get to the end of the chain. We’re trying to change that by encouraging others to think ahead.
“If a company throws away perfectly usable assets, it just shows that it hasn’t got a handle on asset management. This is about making companies run better to create better value. The benefits go beyond finance, you can pass the assets into charities and schools to get that nice warm CSR feeling and you can talk to stakeholders and investors and show them that you’re a well-run company with a good use of assets.
“There’s also a carbon aspect - if you’ve got a re-use system it means you’re not getting items manufactured which is an intensive procedure.”
As well as concentrating on growing within the UK, O’Connor is now targeting America and Australia and believes that Warp-it will have a foothold in these countries by the end of the year. As a means to achieve this ambitious business goal, Warp-it is also beginning to incorporate elements of servitisation – which is already being explored by international companies such as Samsung and IKEA.
“Servitisation is hitting the world in a big way at the minute,” he added. “In the future, Warp-it will be able to help the suppliers of furniture and equipment track the assets within the organisation and take the resources back again, either for maintenance upgrades or dismantling. We’re putting quite a bit of effort into this.”
Daniel O'Connor at edie Live
Daniel O'Connor will be speaking on the edie Leaders Theatre at edie Live in May, discussing what disruptive business models, alongside associates from WRAP and Nimber.
If you manage your company’s energy, sustainability, environmental or corporate responsibility, then two days at edie Live will give you a free pass to all the learning, peer-to-peer networking, innovative suppliers and inspiration you need to drive sustainability through your organisation.