Recycling Objectives: Using SMART to meet sustainability goals

There are no straight lines when it comes to assessing how your company is performing sustainably – you don’t start a review at one end and finish at the other. Sustainability performance measures and recycling objectives should all be circular these days.

We all need to take responsibility for our operations and how they impact on our immediate and wider environments. So when we talk about corporate social responsibility (CSR), the emphasis is firmly on “responsibility”. Any sustainability and recycling objectives we set should be based on a 360° operational review which can and should be extended to suppliers and other relevant stakeholders.

Start at the very beginning to meet goals

You can only scope out targets for future improvements if you understand the position you are in today. With our new customers we start by conducting a full audit to see where they’re at. We visit every site, reviewing their recycling & waste management in detail – going beyond simply bin sizes and service schedules to looking at how waste is generated in the first place.

This is the beginning of a continuous cycle of objective-setting, measurement and review that helps to achieve zero waste. A company’s policies should go beyond internal measures – they can influence other stakeholders:

  • suppliers
  • partners
  • customers
  • industry watchers

And that influence then creates a wider sphere towards sustainability. Again, “responsibility” stretches beyond simply what one individual, department, or company does.

Think beyond a target

Much of our work involves partnering with leading retailers, manufacturers, and blue chip organisations who want to make a difference in the area of sustainability.

To make that difference it’s crucial to stretch targets to the limit. It’s often the case that the higher the ambition, the more employees will buy in to the targets we set, because they’re challenged to come up with creative solutions. That’s why targets need to be ambitious.

SMART recycling objectives

To ensure that organisations achieve those targets, all recycling & waste management objectives need to be SMART:

  • Specific,
  • Measurable,
  • Achievable,
  • Realistic and
  • Time-related.

This means that companies have a framework within which to track their progress and achieve their targets.

We often overhaul existing processes in order to meet SMART sustainability objectives. It sounds daunting, but this saves costs, and can potentially generate revenue.

Retailers with the ability to reduce store-level collections, and who can use reverse logistics to backhaul waste materials for recycling and recovery, have achieved significant economic and environmental gains:

  • reduced CO2 emissions from fewer collections,
  • reduced costs due to landfill avoidance,
  • increased revenues from more efficient recycling.

These are significant recycling goals that were achieved with realistic aims.

The 360° review and your recycling goals

The 360° review is the benchmark from which to set your CSR goals. Striving to achieve tough targets is what pushes organisations across the threshold from mere compliance into best practice.

Every department should understand the targets set across the entire organisation, how they will be measured, and what success means. For example, the rules for waste reduction and better recycling can form part of every job description. Make sure teams understand everything involved – and don’t forget to reward innovation and achievement.

Once you’ve implemented your targets, your CSR policy is a powerful marketing tool that opens up new ways to enhance your brand. Publicising objectives of your recycling, providing progress updates, and general transparency should become a regular part of marketing communications. You should discuss the journey you’ve made, and talk about the type of organisation you wish to become – and that involves knowing the measurable results of your changes.

Businesses and consumers are already demanding to see more evidence of sustainable practice from the companies they buy from, and this will only increase in future years. It will become increasingly difficult for those organisations that do not have a clear CSR policy to compete against those who do.

Dashboards and trend-spotting

All companies need to be able to measure and manage the performance of their recycling and waste management practices. DS Smith has at-a-glance dashboards that provide all the required information whether you have 10 bins, 100 waste streams or 1000 sites – allowing customers to adapt for improvements as the operational demands of the business fluctuate.

Regular reporting will provide scrutiny and help identify anomalies between expectations and performance, or any irregularities in the levels of materials generated at each site by weight and/or volume.

Our dashboards provide a range of drill-down measurements that track waste levels along with recycling & landfill diversion performance (we regularly achieve 100% on materials diverted from landfill). This means that organisations can prove exactly how well their SMART objects are performing in all areas of their estate – and that data will let them celebrate their sustainability successes.

For the circular economy to work, we need to think about sustainability in the round. We need to stretch our recycling targets to the limits of our capability and the edges of our extended enterprise.

We need to understand the consequences of our actions and take some responsibility for the management and actions of our partners, suppliers and customers.

It’s time for us all to move away from linear business models that are focused on starts and ends. We need to embrace more circular models, start thinking supply cycles and not supply chains. When we work with our customers to do just that, we help them reduce costs, mitigate environmental risk, and ultimately allow them to focus on their core business activity.

  • Choose a recycling & waste management partner who shares your goals
  • conduct an audit of your estate, carrying out a 360° review of your recycling and waste management practices
  • decide where you want to be this time next year
  • set the bar high to make it happen
  • tell everyone your plans, and
  • keep moving forward!

That’s the SMARTest objective of all.

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