Blog: The Inaugural Congress of Business 2023
4 min read
The Inaugural Congress of Business
WEEE Scotland Blog Post
Justine Scullion, Business Strategy Manager
“We will decarbonize, but will it be by design or disaster?” These were the words of the first speaker at the inaugural Congress of Business event, Dr Gary Kendall, Head of Climate Strategy Implementation at Natwest. His thoughts on this being a cultural challenge emphasised the significance of our responsibility as individuals- big industries can make all the technological and systemic change in the world, but if we don’t adjust our everyday actions, very little will change.
Later in the day, Keith Anderson, CEO of Scottish Power, attributed much of our slowness in bringing forward necessary change to the fact that we aren’t actually treating climate change as an emergency. Covid 19 clearly demonstrated the ability of human beings to act and innovate in a crisis. Decisions can be made quickly, the right people and resources can be mobilised, successful collaboration becomes possible. But, while we see so much progress on a daily basis in our own industry, it was clear from the contributions of speakers, questions and polls throughout the day, that we simply aren’t moving fast enough.
Many worrying statistics were shared during the conference, which certainly focused attention. David Mowatt’s (Partner, Circularity Capital Investments) quote on e-waste was an excellent reminder of why what we are doing at WEEE Scotland is so vitally important, “every day the world disposes of enough electronic waste to fill a cruise ship.” As the fastest growing waste stream in the world, e-waste is increasingly a problem for the environment. Consumer demand for the latest tech and manufacturing automation has resulted in too much technology being disposed of before the end of its useful life.
The event was packed with inspiring and knowledgeable speakers including, from left to right: COB Moderator, Professor Greg Clark CBE, alongside Thomasina Miers OBE, Cook, Writer and Campaigner; Keith Anderson, CEO Scottish Power; and Wayne Hubbard, CEO Relondon.
A point raised towards the end of the day by an audience member to a panel consisting of Wayne Hubbard (CEO, Relondon), Wesley Spindler (MD, Sustainability Accenture) and Niels Otterstrom Jensen (Programme Director, Novo Nordisk), posed the question of whether it is acceptable for businesses to become ‘semi-circular’. The panel eventually concluded that this was a good first step and I would tend to agree. While achieving a circular economy has to be our ultimate goal, given the Earth’s finite resources, and we need to get there as quickly as possible, a conversation I had with WEEE Scotland Managing Director, Gerry Docherty, helped me gain the insight that achieving that goal is much longer term than the net zero deadlines we have in front of us. Gerry made the important point that designing for remanufacture and overhauling established manufacturing systems and processes requires very specific skills, some of which are still lacking in the UK and globally, and will require huge capital investment to change. In contrast, switching to reuse, repair, refurbishing and remanufacturing offers a quicker and easier route to lowering our environmental impact and one that requires less up-front investment but can yield tangible savings as resources can be repurposed vs the cost of disposal and buying new. So the idea of ‘semi circularity’- focusing on the actions we can take here and now to speed up the process, was one of my abiding reflections of the first Congress of Business.
It will take a lot of time and money to develop a fully circular economy and, while cultural change was identified by many of the speakers as the biggest challenge in getting to net
zero, for SMEs in particular, finding the resources to enable a circular economy remains the biggest barrier to their own decarbonization. At WEEE Scotland it is our vision to be recognised as a leading force in progressing the transition to a circular economy, but perhaps, as we work towards the ever looming net zero targets, turning the focus to being ‘semi-circular’ should be on every business’s short term agenda. To find out more about how we are helping businesses to extend the life of their electronic equipment and machinery, and supporting their net zero journey, get in