This is according to a leading sustainability manager who spoke at an environmental networking event hosted by LRS Consultancy in London yesterday (June 19).

David Cornish, post-use product recovery manager at global paints firm Akzo Nobel said the majority of his company’s customers “don’t care about sustainability” and only care about how well the product works.

This is in sharp contrast with firms like Marks& Spencer, which reported a net overall benefit of £70m from its Plan A programme in 2010-11.

However, Cornish argued that businesses that don’t invest in recycling or reuse may not be able to get hold of the materials to produce their products in the future as resources become scarce and raw material prices rocket.

He added: “Managing sustainability is as important as managing the financials”.

Akzo Nobel is investigating the possibility of introducing a customer takeback scheme for its products – it has already run a pilot and plans to trial a further one. However Cornish said the company lacks logistics expertise and that greater collaboration with other stakeholders was required.

“I would like to get back the product into what it was before, but the problem is this depends on infrastructure that isn’t there. It would need to be a take-back scheme.

“We have the commercial expertise to reuse these products, but we don’t have the logistics. We can use our brands to try and influence consumer behaviour but we can’t work outside of our expertise.”

Cornish added that a driver for taking action – besides potential future rocketing material prices – was that a competitor might beat them to it. However he voiced concerns that such a scheme be introduced, subsequent legislative changes might make it inoperable.

“Our experience is, it’s better to be proactive rather than wait for the Government – but we need the latitude with that.”

Edie staff

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