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Government and business must work together to save resources

12 December 2011

According to the CBI, government and industry need to work better together to tackle barriers to using fewer resources, achieve greater efficiencies and encourage businesses to come up with solutions. Businesses are increasingly seeking to improve their resource efficiency, in both man-made and natural materials, because it offers them a competitive advantage and reduces their dependence on volatile prices and supplies of global resources.

CBI deputy director-general Dr Neil Bentley
CBI deputy director-general Dr Neil Bentley

Speaking alongside business secretary Vince Cable, at an event organised by the Green Alliance in association with the CBI, CBI deputy director-general Neil Bentley (pictured) said his organisation has worked hard over a number of years to show leadership on climate change.

"We want to do the same with the much broader issue of resource efficiency," he said. "There’s a business case for acting, and a threat to our growth prospects if we don’t. Too many different government departments at too many different levels are coming up with their own ways of dealing with this problem. We’re looking to the business secretary and the EU commissioner to give us the right policy framework."

Setting out three steps to achieving a constructive dialogue between government and business, Dr Bentley said: “The first is to recognise that resource efficiency is central to our future economic prospects. The second is to establish a shared understanding of what we really mean by resource efficiency. The third is to tackle the policy and market risks that can hold back investment in resource-efficient products and services.

“Given our economic circumstances, it is private capital that will have to fund progress. What we hear from those looking to invest is that unlocking this capital is almost within our grasp, but frustratingly we’re not there yet. Businesses need, above all else, policy certainty, consistency and clarity over the long-term.”

A new report from the CBI (Made to last – creating a resource efficient economy) contains a number of case studies showing how companies are already working to deliver imaginative solutions to resourcing issues. Among these:

John Lewis – is investing in renewable energy centres
Philips – is improving the energy efficiency of its products
Dow Corning – is recovering raw materials from its manufacturing process
Harper Adams University College – is demonstrating the link between food waste and renewable energy.

A recent report by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development said the demand for energy and material resources could rise to 170 per cent of the planet’s generative capacity by 2040. Figures published in a recent McKinsey report also show the scale of the challenge but also the size of the opportunity, if savings can be made.

“Real-terms commodity prices have increased 147 per cent since the start of the century," said Dr Bentley. "This has been a significant contributing factor to our current economic predicament. Demand for commodities is set to soar. There’ll be three billion more middle class consumers by 2030. The rise in demand for steel alone will grow 80 per cent between now and then.

"The CBI’s report follows the publication of the EU’s Roadmap to a Resource Efficient Europe and the UK Government’s Green Economy Roadmap. The EU’s new resource efficiency roadmap is a start, but we have to consider the world outside our borders too. Just as with tackling carbon emissions, we need an approach that takes account of where resources come from - and where they are being used.”

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