As society grows ever more conscious of environmental changes and the damage humans are doing to the planet, businesses and corporations are reflecting this by launching or modernising green policies. In the shopping centre industry there has been a notable increase in the popularity of green awards, our clients are increasingly striving to implement sustainability strategies across their portfolios and introducing specialist roles, and candidates are increasingly displaying environmental and waste management initiatives on their CVs.
Changing legislation has had a significant impact on this shift towards greener practices. On January 1st last year, the EU Waste Framework Directive came into effect, establishing that the four key waste materials – paper/card, metal, glass and plastic – must be collected separately from other waste recycling. Landfill tax has also played a part in the mounting pressure to divert waste from landfill, with the current rate sitting at £80 per tonne, although new legislation is not the only factor influencing sustainability initiatives.
As the retail industry faces increasing competition from the rise of online shopping, landlords and managing agents are fighting to retain tenants and make the offering more attractive to the retailer. Lowering the service charge has therefore become a top priority for Management teams, improving the overall offering and affordability for tenants. The consumer has also played a pivotal role in the shift towards greener standards: coinciding with the increase in environmental legislation, there has been rising pressure for businesses to humanise their brand, creating a message that means something to the consumer and that their money means more than profit.
There is of course a fine balance in getting it all right, and there are actions and procedures that can be put in place to make the green transition as smooth as possible.
How relationships with tenants and staff are managed can have a detrimental effect on the success of a sustainability strategy. While tenants have their own waste targets and incentives in place, it is important to recognise that retail has a notoriously high turnover of staff, leading to inconsistent training and communication of waste management strategies. Ensuring unified targets and procedures are in place and communicated effectively goes a long way to obtaining buy-in and commitment to strategies: educate staff about the different waste streams and the reasons behind segregation; complete regular waste audits; display and communicate targets and achievements in regular waste management meetings.
It is also crucial to train teams to view waste as a source of revenue – not only is there a cost saving to be achieved by diverting waste from landfill, but it also generates revenue in the form of rebates, leading to a lower annual waste budget and lower annual service charge, putting money back in the hands of the tenants.
Whilst on-site segregation in some form has become a regular occurrence, many schemes have introduced multiple waste streams, and on-site balers and compactors to streamline the whole process. Not only is this more cost effective by reducing the space taken up in service yards and reducing the number of collections by waste contractors, but the government also award capital allowances for the purchase of energy efficient, low or zero-carbon technology, therefore reducing taxes payable.
It all comes down to this idea of a fine balance as there are a number of elements which have to be regulated to achieve the most effective strategy. Just as commercial decisions have always been based on financial profit, organisations are now recognising the economic benefits generated from environmentally and socially sustainable decisions: minimised spending on tax and fines; reduced waste; reduced consumption of resources; reduced operating costs; and a positive impact on asset performance, reputation and value.
Shaunagh Durkin, Consultant, Foundation Recruitment