Reducing our waste and material consumption

With the world's resources being depleted at unsustainable rates and landfill space in the UK rapidly filling up, we're paying more attention to the lifecycle of raw materials used in our business, with a strategy to decouple material consumption from business growth and move towards a circular economy.

We’ve maintained our achievement of zero waste to landfill for all the ‘hub’ and food waste generated in our offices since 2012. Any materials not recovered are sent to generate energy through incineration. We also aim to reduce our consumption of key consumables - by 2017 we had reduced paper consumption by 64% and water by 40% compared to 2007 levels. By 2022 we aim to go further, with stretch targets to reduce consumption of paper by 80% and water by 50%. We’ve also set aspirational goals to reduce our waste volumes by 75% compared to 2007, and to recycle 80% of our operational waste , eliminating incineration, wherever possible.

In 2018 we generated 49% less waste than in our baseline year of 2007, in spite of the increase in our headcount since then. In parallel, a clear-out of old archived files increased the volume of paper we recycled, boosting our recycling to 90% in 2019, compared to 55% in 2007. Much of the remaining 10% not currently reused or recycled stems from non-recyclable items such as composite packaging. We’re engaging stakeholders to identify potential solutions for this, but expect it to take time.

Our approach

We developed a long-term, waste and material consumption strategy that progressively adopts the principles of the ‘circular economy’ – reducing, reusing, recycling and transitioning to circular solutions. We implement this ‘Going Circular’ strategy via a combination of waste management, employee awareness and supplier engagement, collaborating to find and pioneer better solutions. The programme is underpinned by the top-down waste reduction and recycling targets referenced above, and is set out, phase by phase, together with the lessons we've learned so far, in a published document which you can download here.

We also run campaigns to educate and engage our people about related issues and opportunities, and action they can take.

Programmes

Reducing

Our waste strategy begins with reducing the materials we consume. Originally, we focused on our paper and water consumption, but we have increasingly been looking for ways to reduce our other material usage, working with suppliers to reduce the impact of everything we buy.

View more

Reusing

When products come to the end of their first life, we first look to see if they can be reused rather than disposing of them. For example, we’ve set up initiatives that enable us to maximise reuse of our old IT, unwanted office furniture and the uniforms worn by suppliers working on our sites.

View more

Recycling

In 2008, we invested in recycling hubs in our coffee areas and removed all desk-side rubbish bins. All of our UK offices have had segregated recycling hubs in place since. We've set out more details on these hubs and our ‘Let’s Talk Rubbish’ employee engagement campaign - designed to maximise segregation and minimise contamination - in our Going Circular Lessons Learned.

View more

Circular solutions

We’re also looking at the broader challenge of moving to a circular economy and pioneering solutions with lower environmental impact, wherever possible.

We’d already established a system with suppliers in our More London and Embankment Place offices, so that our archive paper is securely shredded and recycled into paper towels that we can use in our washrooms. In 2017, we diverted our waste office paper to a state-of-the-art recycling facility that uses no virgin wood, and significantly less water and energy than other recycled paper. It can reuse the paper fibres up to 20 times – three times more than the market standard.

In 2011, we set up a multi-way partnership to refine the used cooking oil from our caterers into a carbon neutral biofuel which power the tri-generators in our More London Embankment Place head offices. These trigenerators have a combined power output of 1.8 megawatts, and provided 9% of the energy in our buildings in 2019.

We send our food waste to either anaerobic digestion or composting, depending on local processing facilities, so that it is turned into useful by-products. And, to address the fact that traditional, composite food packaging can’t often be recycled, we’ve also replaced our plastic-lined cups and the food packaging issued in the catering facilities in our offices across the UK with a plant-based alternative, so that they can be commercially composted.

We’re now exploring better end-of-life solutions for additional hard-to-treat waste streams, such as stationery and foil-backed food packaging, as well as embedding ‘Going Circular’ thinking and innovation into more key supplier contracts to allow us to move towards fully ‘circular procurement’.

View more

Valuing our impact

We not only assess our operational performance relating to materials, but also the impact on society, using our TIMM framework. We valued the adverse impact on society from our waste at £6.6m in 2017, much of which occurs outside of our direct operations. We’re continuing to work with our suppliers to reduce this impact, where we can.

Contact us

Jon Barnes

Tel: +44 (0)20 7804 3015

Follow us