Regulation can be a force for good

Written by: Harvey Laud | Published:

Harvey Laud at Helistrat Management Services explains how regulation should not be allowed to limit innovation.

The challenges we face and the long term future positioning of the sector was recently highlighted to me at two major industry events. The contrast in the subject matter, the audience and the discussions at these two events begged the question as to whether the policy framework we have in place will ultimately support or restrain a transition.

The first event was focusing on the here and now. It examined in detail the introduction of the new waste regulations, which came into effect in England on January 1. A number of service providers and waste producers shared how they had interpreted the regulation and the systems and processes now in place to ensure compliance. Understandably, the bulk of the conversation focused on the detail of what was and wasn't compliant.

The consensus was that the regulation will (with adequate enforcement) help improve performance for a small section of the market.

However, it quickly became very clear that the commercial, social and environmental drivers for recycling have resulted in the vast majority of businesses already being compliant with the spirit of the regulation.

A week later the Resource event - held at London's ExCel centre - focused on the development of the circular economy, and attracted a wide range of representatives from across the design, manufacturing and resource management sectors. The discussion was less about the control of waste and more about the improved use of secondary resources.

While there were some great examples of work being done to improve the circularity of businesses from people like M&S, IKEA and Unilever, the theme was very much about what more was possible if we embrace innovation and develop a more collaborative way of working.

The latter event certainly seems to be where the majority of the more forward thinking resource managers - including Helistrat - want to position themselves. We recognise that failing to align our position, and offering, with the business models of the future could result in us being unable to support more sustainable supply chains. Yet, the commercial and reputational risk of failing to ensure compliance with the new regulation could potentially limit us in this aspiration.

The time will come where existing policy becomes redundant and we will require a complete review to support a more resource efficient economy. But there is no doubt that in the short to mid term, regulation will continue to play an important role in the development of the recycling and resource market. We must not, however, allow it to dominate and limit our thinking and innovation. If we do, we will struggle to optimise our role in supporting the circular economy and our customer' changing business models. We will also never successfully shift the positioning and public perception of our sector from waste to resource managers. I feel we should instead embrace the spirit of regulation and use it as a force for good to change behaviour and address poor practices.

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