BLOG: From waste to social value
Funding and grants are vital to the survival of many charities and voluntary groups. It’s a challenging time for Government funding for schools, NHS and not for-profit-organisations in general.
Every year, over 10,000,000 items of office furniture are discarded in the UK, with less than 15% reused. Over 15 million square metres of carpet tiles and 150,000 tonnes of ceiling tiles are purchased in the UK per year. Consider that carpet tiles have a life expectancy of 20 years, but on average are replaced after 5-8 years: there’s a lot of life left in them.
UKGBC members want to do the right thing, but doing the right thing needs to be straightforward and cost-effective to allow projects to stay on time and on budget.
As a new member of UKGBC, I have been very encouraged by recent events on the circular economy and social value. This engagement has seen members actively seeking to add value to what they are doing for the benefit of the environment and the community, with the understanding that this is also good for business.
A lot of companies are still getting to grips with what social value means to their organisations and how they achieve it. There have been some very frank and open discussions, but I am excited that these discussions have had a genuine commitment to do the right thing, rather than the lip service or greenwash that has sometimes been associated with such initiatives.
For me, maximising the reuse of waste is an easy win for adding social value. All projects have an element of reusable kit on site, whether it be the old furniture from a refurb, fixtures and fittings from an office block or excess materials, pallets and shuttering on a project that’s still in the ground. Donating this kit to good causes that need it is a win, win, win: pushing waste up the hierarchy to reuse is great for the environment; it’s great for connecting with the community and it’s great for business. This page isn’t long enough to cover the business benefits, but suffice to say being seen as the good guys helps attract and retain staff, differentiates your proposal and helps get your project’s neighbours on side!
As a company that donates reusable kit to good causes, we are seeing unprecedented demand from charities, schools, the NHS and other not-for-profit organisations as they seek to protect their funding. We’ve worked hard to build the reputation of the kit that we donate as being of very high quality. Much of the furniture we donate, even though it may have a number of years under its belt, is higher quality than what the good causes’ budgets would have allowed them to buy new. Consider that we are donating a lot of kit into traditionally risk-averse NHS trusts, you can appreciate that the quality argument for pre-loved kit has been largely won.
I want our charities, schools, NHS trusts and other good causes to spend their funding on their core services, not new furniture, equipment and materials. I want to help them to do this by diverting more reusable kit from going into skips on UKGBC members’ sites and I want to do this in a simple way that keeps members’ projects on time and on budget.
Still too often, outside of UKGBC circles, I hear phrases like “we endeavour to do this” when it comes to the environment and social value. Waste is a fact of life, but embracing the reuse of furniture, equipment and materials is a quick win for adding social value to your projects and turning endeavours into concrete examples of how your company supports the environment and community.
Collecteco is getting involved through UKGBC’s Innovation Portal, but we want to hear from fellow members about their wins and frustrations so we can maximise reuse across the UK and get kit to good causes that desperately need it.
Steve Sliney MCIWM is Managing Director of Collecteco.