P&L Software’s Julie Emery-Priest says that the industry still has a problem when it comes to image, and that each and every company in the sector can help the overall image by addressing its own in-house issues first. CIWM Journal Online Exclusive
I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know when I say the UK waste industry is big business, and is continuously developing and innovating to react to regulation, promote sustainability and keep the country’s waste in check. So why does this multi-billion pound industry still battle against an image problem where it is perceived as low-tech, dirty and unglamorous? And what impact is that having on companies trying to recruit the best employees, or attract investment?
I will admit that waste management is hardly Hollywood, but an industry the size of ours deserves recognition for the advances it makes and the contribution it offers to society overall. We are heavily regulated and are constantly required to find ways to stay in line with legislation while remaining profitable; this often leads to innovations in the treatment of waste that have far-reaching benefits. With large manufacturers and other waste producing businesses focusing more on a circular economy, our expertise is increasingly being called on to transform the working practices of multinational corporations. Many of them are beginning to appreciate the potential of new income streams by managing their waste effectively.
But big innovations or shifts in the market are not necessarily going to change deeply engrained perceptions. Small enhancements that improve our customers’ everyday experiences can make a much bigger difference; presenting a professional – even ‘slick’ – outward image more akin to consumer brands. Why don’t all waste management firms offer streamlined, efficient processes like electronic signature collection, automated email invoicing and real-time vehicle tracking? These may seem minor when you consider to what extent we are living in a virtual world, but so many businesses in our industry still operate using the same, antiquated systems they’ve had in place for years, even decades.
Small Changes, Big Benefits
If, by making small changes, we can improve the perception of the industry as a whole, and we start to publicly celebrate our innovations and achievements, then the benefits could be felt across the board. We all want to recruit the best staff, whether they are the brightest new graduates, or leaders and innovators from other sectors. If the waste management industry can promote itself as forward thinking and pioneering and show that it will continue to make ground-breaking developments for years to come, it should appear as a much more appealing career path for the talented people we want to attract. Not to mention the potential to draw new investment.
So I would encourage all businesses working in waste management to examine their outward image. Are there weaknesses that are making your company seem inefficient or behind the times? Are there simple ways to address these that could give your business, and ultimately the industry as a whole, a boost? Explore your options, whether that means recruiting new expertise, purchasing equipment, upgrading systems, or changing your processes. Not only should you see a return on your investment, but you’ll be playing your part in changing the image of our industry for the benefit of everyone.
Julie Emery-Priest is an ambassador for RWM in Partnership with CIWM.