‘Zero-waste’ is becoming a bit of a buzzword among businesses of all types and sizes, but what does it actually mean?
In a sense, a zero-waste business is one that prioritises effective waste management. It means producing less waste through reduction, reuse, resource efficiency, and recycling, all with the ultimate goal of closing the ‘loop’.
In terms of certification, the Zero Waste International Alliance, or ZWIA, endorses businesses that are diverting at least 90% of their waste away from landfills.
This may seem daunting, but the benefits it can provide your business are endless, and you can start the journey with just three simple steps:
1. Analyse Your Current Waste Situation
Before you can start to reduce your businesses waste, you first need to establish a baseline to track your future progress. Initially, this would include analysing the sources, types, and volume of waste your business generates. It’s also worth considering whether waste is being placed into the proper containers.
If possible, a professional waste audit can speed this process along, providing you with a detailed analysis of waste generation, management, and disposal during a given period.
2. Establish Your Goals
Based on the findings of your assessment, you then need to create goals that will help you reach that zero-waste target. Achieving short term goals can generate interest as well as signal your resolve.
In the long term, creating a timeline and keeping a note of your progress, particularly in a public manner, is a fantastic way to engage your employees and to keep yourselves accountable. It’s also important to schedule in collecting feedback and changing the plan if needed.
3. Develop Prevention and Reduction Strategies
Once your goals are set, appropriate strategies need to be implemented and actions taken to achieve them.
Waste diversion, waste reduction, and waste prevention are the three most important approaches, although the latter two can be challenging to achieve. This is because they can require collaboration with suppliers and possibly other supply chain stakeholders, drawing out the process considerably.
For business owners, there’s a lot of advice out there on how to go zero-waste. However, identifying why is just as important and, environmentalism aside, there are plenty of other benefits to be had.
One of these is potentially increasing your customer base and revenue streams. In a recent survey, 68% of people rated sustainability as an important factor when making a purchase and over a third said they would pay up to 25% more for sustainable products.
While you can’t become zero-waste overnight, providing comprehensive and transparent information along the way can still boost your brand image and help you reach a new ethically and environmentally conscious customer base.
Moreover, with waste disposal expenses increasing rapidly in the past two decades, improving your waste management could even save your business money.
For manufacturing-based companies, in particular, the benefits can be two-fold, with entirely new revenue streams to be found by taking a zero-waste approach.
It also offers a way to engage your workforce, a key metric in employee retention. Making a sincere effort to be more sustainable, reduce your footprint, and adopt zero-waste strategies can make a real difference towards this.
In fact, 70% of Millennials have stated that a strong environmental agenda would influence their decision on whether to remain at a company in the long term.
A zero-waste philosophy can also extend your business networking options significantly. There are even sustainable organisations, such as the Zero Waste Network, specifically designed to help companies become more efficient through collaboration.
With all of these benefits in mind, the question becomes can your business afford not to go zero-waste?
Sustainable resource use and waste management is included in Play it Green’s Net Zero Framework, free to access for all of our business members.
The Framework allows the business to review, plan and set actions in 9 key programme areas that will ultimately take them to net zero: Governance, Energy and Emissions, Food, Procurement, Transportation, Venue, Resource Use and Waste, Water, and Projects and Workforce.