It's time for a national resources policy

31st May 2011


Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Stewardship ,
  • Life Cycle Analysis ,
  • Ecodesign ,
  • Natural resources

Author

IEMA

The Waste Policy Review must create an economic approach that values natural resources, argues Martin Baxter

The outcome of the government’s year-long review of waste policies is due to be published at the beginning of June 2011. It should be the perfect scene-setter for the development of a national resources policy and the starting point needs to be the way we value resources.

There needs to be a shift in thinking away from waste to one more clearly centred around the sustainable use of resources and the creation of a circular resource economy.

This approach should be set out in a new National Resources Policy, one which enshrines the following key principles:

  • A broad definition of resources that includes physical and material resources, energy, carbon, water and biological resources.
  • Life-cycle thinking, rather than linear thinking, that guides policy interventions for resource management across the whole resource chain.
  • Resource pricing, supported by other policy interventions, that ensures the internalisation of the external environmental costs.
  • Making the sustainable use of materials and resources a focus for businesses, ensuring that resources are used multiple times, with value extracted repeatedly before its final disposal.
  • Providing the long-term support needed to change behaviour towards the sustainable consumption of resources.

Safeguarding critical resources

Pressure on resources will continue to increase as a consequence of population growth, increased consumption and international competition.

There’s a role for government in identifying the strategic resources on which the UK depends that are either threatened by over-consumption or which availability will be constrained through environmental limits, pricing, geo-political or regulatory intervention (REACH for example).

It is essential that this information is made public, so that a sustainable approach to the management of at-risk resources can be developed. This will allow business to adapt or innovate where appropriate and give the government the opportunity to act in good time in the case of a potential market failure.

A strategic approach to resource management in companies

The development of a resource-efficient economy will require all organisations to maximise the efficiency and effectiveness of their resource use, to increase value and minimise waste.

For too many organisations, the focus is on the disposal of operationally derived waste. For companies to maximise the opportunity of good resource management then environment, low-carbon technology and resource efficiency need to be viewed through a green-tinted lens across the whole value chain.

We need to build resource efficiency into supply chain management, operational delivery, logistics and an organisation’s product or service delivery.

This strategic approach to environmental management in business needs to be supported by life-cycle approaches that provide a better understanding of embedded resource use in the value chain.

It is essential the Waste Policy Review raises the profile of resource efficiency to a strategic level in business, providing an opportunity for businesses to re-evaluate their models for creating future value.

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