A campaign to make workplaces across Northern Ireland more sustainable and less wasteful has been launched by Business in the Community at an event in Belfast Harbour Offices.
The UK generates around 200 million tons of waste a year; 24% of this is generated by businesses and a massive 50% is generated by construction. The cost of the UK’s office waste is estimated to be around £15bn a year.
In Northern Ireland, a staggering 465 kilograms of household waste were collected per person during the 2015/’16 reporting year.
The new initiative, the Circular Office Network calls on organisations in Northern Ireland to change the way they design and use their workplaces to create more sustainable offices, save money, reduce waste and potentially create jobs. It is estimated that the Northern Ireland economy could be boosted by £474 million each year if organisations embraced a more ‘circular’ approach to resources and ways of working.
There are growing numbers of companies who are already taking an innovative circular approach to their workplace design and waste. Over 20 organisations came along to the launch of this new Network, to hear from Geoff Lane, Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC.
Professional services firm, PwC, look at every possible opportunity to increase the sustainability of their premises. It achieved zero to landfill in 2012 and, since 2007 has cut paper consumption by 64%, saving an estimated £3.9m, cut energy use by around half, saving more than £20m and recycles or reuses over 91% of all waste. It now generates an income from circular solutions – for example refurbishing and reselling its laptops and smartphones generates over £500,000 a year.
Looking to the next five years, PwC is embedding circularity into its procurement, employee engagement and community activities. For example, it sources environmentally friendly office chairs from local company Orangebox which are designed not only to last, but for disassembly and remanufacturing at end of life.
Geoff Lane, Partner, Sustainability and Climate Change, PwC, said: “At PwC, we like to pioneer new sustainable ways of working, so have been implementing circular principles in our business for some time. Not only is this better for the environment, but it also makes business sense, because it’s cost effective and our employees love it. We are delighted to be involved in the launch of the Circular Office Network in Northern Ireland and we would encourage local businesses to get involved in the network.”
Business in the Community is asking businesses to commit to taking one step towards a more environmentally sustainable office, to work with their suppliers and customers and to share their tips, lessons learned and examples over the next year to inspire more businesses to act.
To support Northern Ireland in taking action, Business in the Community has launched the Circular Office Network and a free online resource hub. The Network will involve four workshops during the next 12 months.
Peter Ramsey, Programme Manager, Business in the Community said: “We are asking businesses to think beyond recycling and minimising paper use and completely reimagine waste in the workplace. We want businesses of all sizes and sectors to move away from the traditional approach of throwing things away at the end of their useful life and adopt a more circular approach where items stay useful for as long as possible and are then refurbished, recycled or regenerated. From the design and use of office spaces, the procurement of office supplies, to how textiles and clothing are repurposed there are a wide range of steps that businesses can take.”
The benefits of this approach go beyond the environment and business cost savings. Going circular can also support local communities by enabling businesses to develop skills and provide employment. Recent research from WRAP (2016) suggests that going ‘circular’ could help to create an extra 13,000 jobs by 2030.