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SUEZ - Valuing resources, in a better way, will drive industrial innovation and investment

14 February 2020
Reading Time: 3 mins

Our most recent member, SUEZ Recycling and Recovery UK, was invited to comment on their reasons for joining UKBCSD.

Dr Adam Read – External Affairs Director and Sarah Ottaway - Sustainability and Social Value Lead shared their thoughts on how membership may benefit SUEZ's future contribution towards a sustainable Britain.


Why join UKBCSD?
Businesses have a critical role to play in progressing the UK towards a more sustainable future, one where green growth is central and where consumers and employees alike are fully engaged in making the right decisions. With over £1 billion of investment in cutting edge technology, SUEZ is one of the leading companies of the resources and waste management sector, having taken a thought leadership position many years ago, acting as a ‘trusted advisor to government, and challenging expectations around issues as diverse as extended producer responsibility, the circular economy and critical resources management. By working with the UKBCSD we aim to build upon our extensive activity programme and look to build closer alliances with businesses beyond our sector to strengthen our message and encourage greater collaboration in designing and delivering solutions for UK communities. We also want to learn from others to ensure this acceleration happens in a managed and controlled way and ensures that the resources and waste management sector is critical to this green development agenda.

What can SUEZ do to lead the agenda for a more sustainable Britain?
The UK Government has been at the forefront of the circular economy movement, with particular leadership coming from the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales in terms of their circular economy strategies and investment programmes, to support innovation and new models of consumption. However, the English Government is now quickly catching up, and the fundamental reforms that will be finalised in 2020 will revolutionise our sector for the next generation. This means that business insight, investment and perspective will be key in shaping the detail of this evolving government policy and associated regulatory reform in the coming years, a role we feel that the UKBCSD can help SUEZ fulfil.

What steps have SUEZ made to see this happen?
SUEZ has invested over £1billion in new energy and recycling infrastructure in the UK in the last decade, to drive down our reliance on landfill and improve both resource efficiency and environmental protection across the UK. However, in our workplaces we also ‘walk the walk’ with high diversion recycling schemes, cycle to work schemes and an increasing focus on UN Sustainable Development Goals in our sourcing and procurement activities. We are striving to reduce our carbon footprint by working with our suppliers on their sourcing, design and operations.
However, there is more to be done on the wider sustainability agenda and we welcome further engagement with all governments, and any number of departments, who will be shaping new policies and programmes in the coming two years. These will have to address net zero carbon and natural capital, which are complex, multi-sectoral and hard to explain to those that are less engaged. This is the key challenge for us all in the coming two years, to help open the debates, provide the insights and influence the new policy and language so everyone can make appropriate decisions going forward.

What is missing from the current vision for a sustainable Britain?
Britain needs to value resources better, reflect the externalities of our actions, from products to mode of transport, in the price of services and products. It must develop a coherent language around climate crisis, carbon and sustainability that enables all sectors to talk openly about opportunities and threats, which might be the fledgling theme of natural capital. However, until we reflect externalities accurately and we can compare the impacts (social, environmental and economic) of one choice or another, we will never be able to take the bold land-use and wider strategy decisions that will drive industrial innovation and investment forward here in Britain.

Planning the way forward
However, the outcomes of the soon to be ratified Environment Bill will drive forward environmental targets (and transformations) in any number of sectors and the waste and resources sector will be a crucial delivery partner in order for the objectives of these to be achieved. SUEZ has been and will be part of this progress through our vertical integration, strategic partnerships and ongoing lobbying of government. We welcome working with UKBCSD to get the right messages to all key stakeholders this year.

SUEZ is also globally aligning with SDGs, and we are working with our customers directly to reduce their impact on the environment and involved in any number of innovations to help deliver this eg: electric RCVs.

SUEZ wants to live in a society where the economic, social and environmental benefits of sustainable resource management are openly valued by society. Collaborating with other UKBCSD members will bring new ideas and initiatives to light that deliver on this ambition.