Trainer Blog: Material Resource Management and the Circular Economy

21st June 2024

Trainer, Max Goodliffe, discusses the importance of material resource management and how it pays off for business as well as the environment.

Max, you lead the Material Resource Management and the Circular Economy course – tell us about your background?

My background is in environmental economics and international energy studies, and over the last decade I’ve worked for a variety of organisations including energy utilities, environmental consultancies and technology research & development companies across Europe.

Today I’m based in the Circular Economy team at Resource Futures, where I help businesses, trade associations and public bodies become more sustainable, supporting them with their circular business model development, life cycle assessments and sustainable resource management.

Are more organisations taking sustainability seriously?

Definitely. Global issues such as climate change, resource scarcity and pollution are becoming more prevalent worldwide and in response we are seeing a huge focus on sustainability ambitions and reporting from organisations across all sectors. In fact, company sustainability reporting has tripled since 2016. There are several reasons for this shift, including a greater demand for more sustainable products and services as everyone wants to do their bit. But importantly for a business, being more sustainable can help lower production costs, make them less dependent on virgin raw materials, and encourage capital inflow as more investors look for green credentials. Companies shifting towards more sustainable practices will be better positioned to respond and comply with increasing regulatory requirements & policies aimed at encouraging improved resource use and reducing waste.

"Organisations that don’t adopt more sustainable practices and ambitions risk losing out to all those that do who will have a competitive advantage from increased market share and discerning customers, lower costs and greater resilience to supply chain issues as a result of improved material resource management. "

Do sustainable practices really pay in business?

They certainly do! I’ve touched on how sustainable practices can help better position businesses respond to legislation. One example is packaging Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), which requires packaging producers to take economic responsibility for the environmental and social impacts from the full life cycle of their packaging. Sustainability-focused organisations that optimise their packaging designs, produce less waste and use more widely-recycled sustainable materials are better positioned to comply. As a result they are less likely to have to pay huge amounts to address the negative impacts of packaging use compared to other organisations who have not taken any action.

What are the industries that chemical and process engineers work in that can impact sustainability?

All industries have a key role to play in the transition to net zero and a circular economy; in addition to the decarbonisation of energy supplies, we will need to see sustainable material resource management across all sectors. The last few decades have seen advancements in sustainable technology in various industries, leading to improvements in resource management as well as more circular practices, including construction materials and design, waste management, renewable energy generation, green chemistry and clean energy storage.

How does the course that you lead help chemical and process engineers?

The Material Resource Management and the Circular Economy course will help people understand the wide concepts of waste across various disciplines and scales, understand why sustainable material resource management is important, and how to capture value in transitioning to a circular economy. This will be particularly helpful to chemical and process engineers as there will be aspects focusing on circular engineering design approaches and will provide an overview of key tools and resources that will enable them to make the biggest impact on sustainability, regardless of the industry.

What would your key take-home messages be to chemical engineers when looking at how they can impact sustainability?

No matter what sector you’re in, there will always be opportunities for more circular practices and for better material resource management that can potentially unlock numerous benefits for your team, your company and your wider industry. There’s lots of guidance and tools out there to help you identify and evaluate options and adopt more circular approaches. The course I run will help you critically re-think and evaluate opportunities in the design of your products and services and how to implement sustainable resource management on your transition to being part of the circular economy.

Material Resource Management and the Circular Economy

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