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Julie Barker, Non-Executive Director of College and University Business Officers (CUBO), and founder of Julie Barker Associates talks to the EAUC around the ever-burning need to address the finite resources being consumed, the changes that the industry has already made and the business-critical issue of potential mandatory food waste reporting.
In the last decade we have seen the industry wake up to the need to address the finite resources we are consuming or destroying. This is not only being driven by the industry itself but also by the consumer’s voice which has been getting louder in the wake of the BBC airing Blue Planet which showed the devastating effect that plastic is having on our environment. In the past year we’ve seen children around the world following in the footsteps of Greta Thunberg, and strike from school, in protest of the state of our planet.
It’s fair to say there are still key areas that, as a country, frustratingly still need some work. Take recycling for example – a ‘low hanging fruit’ in terms of sustainability – which is still suffering from an inconsistent message across the UK. It’s almost a postcode lottery; a decade on and we’re still yet to see consistent products for splitting and recycling, let alone colours for bins used for recycling that is the same UK-wide. More importantly, there is no clear strategy on where it goes and what happens when it leaves us, which is highly confusing to the consumer. Is it that difficult?
Sustainability and CSR are now cornerstones in the business strategy of any college or university. And I’d like to take a moment to acknowledge how we, as an industry, have come a long way in our sustainability journey. I have been privileged enough to work with organisations such as the SRA, Footprint, EAUC and WRAP to name but a few, working on initiatives and projects to recognise the problems and look at solutions.
Whilst maintaining our attention on our businesses, changes have been happening. University accommodation is being turned on its head with sustainability a key influence in the design of new facilities, construction and operation, with furniture and student belongings at the end of the year being recycled and repurposed. A stringent requisite of campus facilities design is now focused on how facilities can be repurposed and be more sustainable in their future.
Seasonal food is the norm, cup schemes and reusable water bottles now widely adopted, tap water available, urban growing schemes seen in many Cities, and the growth in plant-based diets. Equipment efficiency and whole life costs is now a standard part of our tender evaluation on equipment – no longer is cheapest the only criteria, nor is it the most important. We are listening.
In amongst all of the great work that is being undertaken to ensure our children’s future, we have also been murmuring about the huge impact to all businesses and the environment of our key commodity – food.
Reducing food waste in all points of the supply chain is not just an environmental and ethical issue, but also a commercial one. The UK government has suggested the possibility of mandatory food waste reporting; if, as an industry, we don’t start to address it ourselves.
This subject is business critical; how do we deal with food waste and should the reduction of food waste be mandatory reporting? Some higher education establishments are already tackling this subject in a systematic way with a clear strategy splitting, measuring and reducing food waste. The reduction targets based upon information from the waste itself, whether that be reviewing pack sizes, removing garnishes to smaller portions etc. Those businesses will be ready should mandatory reporting come forward, but would you be? WRAP are supporting businesses in the UK with the UK food waste reduction roadmap.
CUBO members have a pivotal role to play in creating sustainable campuses of the future. We have come a long way but we have a long way to go; our customers of tomorrow are becoming very savvy about the impact we are all having on our environment we need to be continually challenging ourselves on can we do anymore, and constantly asking ourselves -are we doing enough?
For further details of CUBO membership, which enables campus services professionals to learn and share best practice, visit https://www.cubo.ac.uk/