Dan Botterill, CEO of Cloud Sustainability, helps companies to be more sustainable, but could that be applied to our home lives as well as our business lives? And what impact does his job have on his wedding small talk? CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
I spend a large majority of my working life trying to find ways to help companies stop wasting things. This can be a difficult task at times, but one thing always helps. When a company realises its wasting something, more often than not, it directly correlates this with wasting money. Once we have this basic principle in place we have a firm driver to make improvements to the system or processes.
Our overall aim as a company is to help organisations be more sustainable, but I still find confusion with what this actually means. There is still a perception that being “sustainable” is an environmental initiative and, therefore, I can be tarnished with the “green” or “hippy” label, which couldn’t be further from the truth. I’ve learned the key is to remove all jargon, and focus on simple fundamentals – I can help you stop wasting things, which in turn will save you money and increase your profitability. On a simple level that’s what sustainability is – how we manage resources in the most cost and resource efficient way for the benefits of global society (for future generations).
This got me thinking about myself as a consumer and the challenges we all face in our day to day lives to be more sustainable. I was at a wedding last weekend and, of course, the question of “what do you do for a living?” becomes a staple ice breaker for the first few hours of the gathering at least. When I say I work in sustainability this gets a nod of approval. When I say further that my core aim is to help companies stop wasting things I get further endorsement.
The next comment from the person I’m talking to is generally the same. “Well, waste is a big issue isn’t it – we recycle at home”. They are almost seeking my approval. “Yes, that’s very good, but how much do you try to not create waste in the first place?” I reply.
The next reaction is usually puzzlement and more often than not stops the conversation in its tracks. In terms of the wedding last weekend, the person realised at this point they would be much better off at the bar or sliding across the dance floor on their knees in a throwback to their childhood, than talking to me about this rather ethereal concept.
The Consumer Viewpoint
Thinking about how we view “waste” in our lives as a consumer is incredibly important in all this. We have just finished an e-learning development project with the Energy Institute that looks at how we use energy at home and in the office as two separate environments. The logic being that if we can appeal to the consumer and give them tools to help with energy management at home (and save money) – we can inspire improved behavior in the work place on energy use and consumption, delivering a far greater benefit to the company on energy bill reduction than infrastructure would.
I think there is a considerable conflict for people like me whose professional lives focus on helping organisations with sustainability and how we actually live sustainable lives ourselves as individuals.
Waste production is a huge challenge for us as all but, unlike in the organisation context, we get off with it relatively lightly as there aren’t really any cost drivers to stop us from preventing waste. Yes, we have council tax; and yes, the cost of the items we buy in some cases account for wastage, but it’s not a direct cost or tariff.
I got married myself a couple of months ago, and although John Lewis brought me a range of goodies I could only dream of prior to the delivery, I did find myself perplexed and actually a little depressed at the packaging mountain I had created as part of my greed/indulgence. If we, as consumers, want to reduce waste at home, we need to take a close look at our buying habits and decision-making. A huge challenge we have to look at in our lives is surely how we use the internet to buy things.
Maybe in olden times, when we went to shops and had more limited choice, we considered what we were buying more as we had to get it back home with us. Now though, I can go to Amazon or Tesco and they do all the work for me. I click until my heart’s content and don’t have to worry about the logistics associated with getting the product, or its size, and I certainly don’t question the packaging.
I also find myself getting complacent when they can’t deliver within 24 hours. What has become of me? We need everything and we need it now!
What’s the point of these ramblings? Well for sustainability strategies to be effective at work or in the home we need to look at these behaviours and work with them, not against them. I think the plastic bag tax is a great idea for example – if it’s communicated properly. The plastic bag itself is the tip of the iceberg. If we can get consumers to consider what they are buying and how they are buying things, we can make a big difference in terms of what we waste, moving beyond recycling and really targeting waste prevention.
Should make my conversations at weddings more interesting too…
Dan has been working in sustainability since 1998, primarily as a consultant, advising and developing solutions on a range of sustainability and waste related initiatives. His current project, Cloud Sustainability, involves taking this expertise, and that of a range of industry experts, to produce software and e-learning tools that help drive a self-sufficient approach to sustainability. He is currently working with CIWM on a range of industry first initiatives via the company’s Waste Expert software platform.