Communications in a post-pandemic world

Sam Reeve, CEO, Resource Futures, says that to achieve the full potential of current policies the resources sector must ensure its communications are consistent.

We are six months into living through the Covid-19 global pandemic and all the messages currently being sent out from Central Government are to strap-in and prepare for a long lockdown Winter.

The work we do at Resource Futures has, like every business been affected in many ways. Our consultancy work supports our customers to make impactful changes on how they manage their resources and waste or helping them support their customers take the right actions.

A key element in achieving the behaviour change required to “reduce the amount of waste we produce”, “improve the capture of recyclable material” or “reduce the amount of litter in our cities and countryside” is well targeted clear communications.

We have all read about the increased volumes of waste, recycling and organics that are being collected at the kerbside as a result of more people working from home. For a significant proportion of the population the past seven months has seen us move more and more of our lives online.

How we work, how we communicate, how we socialise, how we obtain and consume information and significantly how we shop is moving online.

Huge opportunity

This change in lifestyle presents the sector with a huge opportunity to innovate in how it engages with the consumer of services and products to achieve a better environmental outcome.

Every day we are told that these are unprecedented times and there is no disputing that. In the coming months we are due to hear the latest from Defra on what they are thinking regarding the sector defining policies on DRS and EPR.

Lots has been written and many webinars hosted on these policies with views on what would and wouldn’t work and why.

One aspect which hasn’t been getting as much airtime though is opportunity that these changes present in terms of communicating with the person in control of what happens to items at the point of disposal.

DRS and EPR target specific materials and the Governments timeline is to roll out both policies in parallel. The communications challenge the sector is embarking on is not simply one around how to use a new system.

The consultations on both policies make reference to the finance the changes would make available for communications to support the policy.

DRS and EPR target specific materials and the Governments timeline is to roll out both policies in parallel. The communications challenge the sector is embarking on is not simply one around how to use a new system.

The sector is looking to reprogram behaviour which is the result of 20 years of messaging where the predominant theme has been based on people doing the right thing for no tangible reward. How do we communicate to mitigate the risk of the unintended consequence of consumers ‘no longer being bothered’ to recycle the stuff they won’t be “rewarded” for.

Layered on top of the likely infrastructure and service changes resulting from a DRS are all the initiatives being trialled and launched by brands to improve their environmental performance in anticipation of pending EPR regulation. They include take back, post back, rental, material changes, repair and in-store promotions to name a few.

Inter-connected world

We live in a complex inter-connected world in how we manufacture, purchase, consume and dispose of items. The solutions to reducing the environmental impact are thus inter-connected and complex.

Our job as the resources and waste sector is to distil that complexity down into simple clear communications that explain the actions individuals need to take.

Are we thinking through the implications of the communications that would be needed to support a DRS, kerbside recycling, brand specific post back, in-store take back, rental subscriptions? I see a future life hack TV series on how to manage you waste – hosted by the Martin Lewis of waste.

We are all changing how we live our lives and none of us know what the new normal will be like.  What we do know is that there is no going back to pre-covid ways, the new normal is upon us.

The changes that are coming to the sector through the new policies of DRS and EPR, without a doubt, have the potential to make the UK a global leader in resource management and circular business practices.

However, if we are to achieve the full potential of the impact of the policies and realise the intent of Government, businesses and consumers the sector must ensure the communications of where, what and why are consistent and aren’t made in isolation without thinking about the whole.

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