A new report released today (23 January) highlights that a transition to a materials-efficient economy is a viable option for the UK to reduce its carbon impact, boost its resource productivity and increase competitiveness.

The paper draws upon the findings of 26 business pilot projects in the UK and Netherlands that have delivered an estimated £4.9m in savings and reduced materials consumption and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 62,619 tonnes and 1,953 tonnes respectively.

Aldersgate Group, which includes the likes of Sky, Marks and Spencer (M&S) and IKEA, is calling on the UK Government to implement an ambitious policy to reap the rewards of resource efficiency.

“As it prepares to leave the European Union (EU), the Government should urgently develop a resource efficiency policy that will help replicate the benefits of these pilot projects across the UK economy,” Aldersgate Group’s executive director Nick Molho said.

“This policy should be supported by all key Government departments and should include fiscal incentives, product standards on resource efficiency that are as good as or better than what is in place in the EU and working with businesses to remove the financial and technical barriers that stand in the way of innovation.”

‘Business sense’

The UK is currently at a disadvantage with other countries due to the lack of a coherent resource efficiency policy, Aldersgate Group insists. The organisation highlights that UK businesses cannot make rapid progress in isolation, and sets out key policy recommendations for the UK Government to address the issue.

Specifically, it calls for a new strategy which drives innovation on resource efficiency by helping businesses, especially SMEs, to gain improved access to financial and technical advice. The UK must promote fiscal incentives to encourage the re-use of materials, the paper states, through variable VAT rates that favour resource efficient goods and services.

Eco-design standards are cited as a crucial tool to ensure that products minimise waste. The standards should be at least as good as the proposals put forward in the EU circular economy package to ensure that UK businesses remain competitive, Aldersgate Group says.

The recommendations are based upon the findings of pilot projects conducted across a range of sectors in the UK and Holland. The results of the project suggest that resource-efficient business models could deliver an increase of up to £76bn in gross value added (GVA) gains by 2030.

“The pilots demonstrate that resource efficiency makes business sense and there’s a double-win given the environmental benefits that coincide with the financial gains,” Aldersgate Group director Steve Wallace said. “The report that we are launching today sets out the critical actions required to accelerate the transition to a more resource efficient and therefore more prosperous economy.”

Resource revolution

The report arrives at a time of increased focus on the domestic and international resource efficiency agenda. The past week alone saw a surge in waste and resource-related announcements, as signatories of the flagship Courtauld Commitment unveiled a new ambition to double the amount of surplus food that is redistributed across the UK, and almost 40 organisations backed calls for a 50% food waste reduction across Europe by 2030.

On the same day that the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) unveiled a business-backed action plan to crack down on plastic waste, global consumer goods giant Unilever made a bold new pledge to ensure that 100% of its plastic packaging is fully re-usable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

IKEA announced that it sent zero waste to landfill across all of its UK and Ireland facilities in 2016, while Procter & Gamble (P&G) revealed that it will be mass-producing the world’s first recyclable shampoo bottle made from up to 25% post-consumer recycled (PCR) beach plastic.

George Ogleby

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