Reducing waste goes hand in hand with recycling what you can, and with directly reusing materials that do not need any kind of processing in order to be useful again.
Together, the three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – have become watchwords for resource-efficient businesses everywhere, but are they more than just ethical principles?
Here are some of the arguments in favour of reducing waste as more than just an eco-friendly or altruistic commitment.
1. Less sent, less spent
The direct economic implications of reducing waste are difficult to deny – especially with more businesses expected to pay per tonne for anything they send to landfill sites, or for recycling.
By directly reducing the amount of waste you generate, you cut your collection bills, but there are effects at the other end of your supply chain too.
Resource efficiency means buying less in, and this should reduce your materials costs too; meanwhile, working with suppliers who use reusable packaging can save you money too, as they (and therefore you) will not face the need to cover the cost of disposable packaging materials on each individual delivery.
We often conflate ‘sustainability’ into more general concepts of being kind to the environment, but it’s worth remembering what the term means specifically – the ability to continue a particular process indefinitely, without running out of any of the required resources.
That doesn’t just mean making sure we still have a planet in 50 years’ time, although obviously that is important; it also means keeping the lights switched on, using methods of generating electricity that don’t consume fossil fuels, and it also means your raw materials should be from renewable resources too.
From managed forestry, to bioplastics that do not deplete oil stocks, to secure energy and food supplies, and minimising waste output so landfill sites don’t get overrun, it all combines to create stable supply chains that can continue for years, decades and generations to come.
If you have long-term business aspirations, this should be a huge priority for you, as the sooner you adopt sustainable business practices, the more confident you can feel that your supply chain will still be there in the future.
3. Reducing waste boosts reputation
Finally, think about how your customers perceive you – whether you’re in a B2B or B2C supply chain.
Most supply chains will be consumer-facing at some point, so even for B2B suppliers, if you can show a commitment to sustainability and reducing waste, then those credentials can be passed along to the B2C links in your chain, helping to boost the reputation of your market as a whole.
At the consumer-facing end, it’s not all about the economics of eco-friendliness, as consumers often buy based on what they want, rather than on a dispassionate analysis of the most ‘sensible’ product.
This qualitative factor can be difficult to measure, but in a world where every major commercial entity now has a corporate social responsibility charter and environmental policy, you probably don’t want to be the one company caught out engaging in practices that harm the environment over the long term.