Our Comment: What if there were no materials to make things?

What would we do? Where would we buy new ‘stuff’? What would businesses sell? These are some of the underlying questions that are now being asked by businesses and their customers as we are being increasingly overwhelmed by an apocalyptical future, portrayed by a growing proportion of society.

Are they right to be concerned?

Well let’s take a quick look at the effects of not having stuff – here’s an extract from a Risk Assessment I use in training:

So yes! Reduced availability of materials would mean lack of resources to make ‘stuff’. Less making of stuff leads to higher unemployment, which could mean increased crime and social unrest, which in turn affects life expectancy. Those of you in Procurement may have noticed an increasing cost trend over time for some of the materials you buy – that’s probably because there’s less of them! Exponentially, these risks could affect business continuity and the sovereign integrity of the UK as a whole.

Help- what can we do about it!

Look closely at the assessment and you’ll notice categories from SWM’s Roadmap 2030, created to track and tackle the sustainability issues we face in our region. Our vision is to have the West Midlands lead in contributing to the national target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 whilst addressing health inequality and driving inclusive growth.

Being a member of SWM means that you join with many other organisations in working together towards sustainability in our region, within this Roadmap framework. SWM coordinates and supports public and private sector networks to address sustainability issues and (importantly) opportunities. For example, the Green Business Clubs Networks bring together the regions’ Resource Efficiency Clusters to share best practice, and the Innovative Low Carbon Working Group focuses on collaborative opportunities to develop low carbon tech, future mobility and sustainable construction.

Key to addressing the lack of ‘stuff’ issue is the adoption of a ‘circular economy’. What? I hear many of you say. This sounds complicated (and it can be) but it doesn’t have to! There are a growing number of conceptual business models, but these can be broken down into ‘manageable chunks’ and simple questions any organisation can ask itself. ‘Do we actually need it?’, ‘Can we use less of it?’, ‘Can we, or someone else, reuse it?’ are just a few of the questions that can drive significant improvements in costs and environmental impacts (and comply with forthcoming legislation).

Once these concepts are understood, organisations can embed practical aspects to mitigate the risks of ‘lack of stuff’, improving their sustainability. SWM’s experience and expertise is being used to support the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA) Circular Economy Task Force on a regional approach, but is also to advise businesses on how to improve too.

In future there will be less of some of the critical materials we use today in a wide range of products (from electric vehicles, to mobile phones and aircraft engines). Mitigating the risks whilst improving the sustainability of your organisation is important for business strategy – and for our region – but we can take measures to address this so it’s a topic we’ll be returning to in future.

If you would like to know more about what we can do for you, then check out our networks and events to stay in touch, or just contact us directly !

These and other sustainability improvements being promoted by SWM can help demonstrate that you are committed to your people, your organisation and the places where we live – and you can now demonstrate that more easily by making the West Midlands Net Zero Business Pledge. If you’d like to know more, get in touch and join us at SWM!

Andy Whyle, Associate, on behalf of the team at SWM