Waste Matters – Building an environmentally friendly business

The crumpled plastic cup, the empty sandwich package, the bundle of old wires from a laptop that vanished years ago. What do we do with our waste?

By definition, it’s the stuff we’re finished with, the stuff we want to get rid off and forget about. But on a personal, business and societal level the waste we create, and how we handle it, has a huge impact on our environment and shared future. In short – waste matters.

As a large organisation, with premises across the country, we know it’s crucial that we manage our waste responsibly, and take a proactive approach. We’ve made waste reduction a strategic focus, and set ourselves clear targets – the key one, getting waste sent to landfill down to 0% by 2020.

Leading the way on this is Lesley Holloway our Environment Manager. I spoke with Lesley recently about the work the team are involved in, our plans for the future, and the difference we can all make.

Putting Waste on the Agenda

One of the first things Lesley observed was, historically, how little we tend to think about waste, and why that’s the case.

“Where energy, water and travel are things we need and consume in our lives, waste is the complete opposite – it’s something we produce and don’t want. Outside of work, we see the cost of the energy and water we use. It comes straight out of our bank account, but waste is a hidden cost. It gets wrapped up in Council Tax bills, so we don’t actually ever see how much we pay for it. The result – we think about waste less.”

“It’s quite natural” Lesley laughed, “before I started this job I was like most people, I didn’t talk all that much about waste. I thought it was rubbish, literally! Now I see things quite differently.’

A key part of the Environment team’s role has been raising awareness about waste management, and its importance, right across our business. That’s meant educating people about the types of waste we produce, how its handled, how much it costs to dispose of and how important waste segregation is, on a large scale.

What are we doing to manage our waste?

Lesley explained, “we’ve improved waste awareness across our UK buildings with online resources so everyone can see how they can play their part, and initiatives to encourage people to be proactive. For example, we launched a UK-wide scheme where staff can claim a Keep Cup just by showing us how they’d made a difference. In addition we’ve distributed Keep Cups and bottles across several of our large offices, and completely removed disposables from these sites. By doing that we’ve already cut out 800,000 disposable cups a year!’

The infographic below tells the story of the progress we’ve made:

The progress we’ve made

The progress we've made so far

Working together to build a sustainable business

Our 2020 environmental targets are focused on reducing the amount of waste we send to landfill, and, as Lesley explained, a big part of this is about collaboration and building good relationships with other organisations.

“We’re working closely with our external partners, including ISS, Baxter Storey and others, to reduce the amount of waste we produce across the bank, and get smarter about how we track, manage and dispose of it.”

This has involved significantly enhancing the quality of waste reporting of all kinds – from every day kitchen waste to heavy duty construction waste – and working together to introduce innovative new recycling processes.”

“Understanding the waste we produce is the vital first step towards producing less, and recycling more.”

Lesley told me about another exciting part of the solution. Working with the Innovation Gateway team, we get the chance to be creative with waste.

Launched in 2014, the Innovation Gateway allows us to engage with up and coming entrepreneurs and innovators and invite them to put their ideas and solutions to the test here with us. “It’s laid the grounds for a growing community of organizations who are passionate about sharing ideas, and working together to find the best ways of reducing their environmental impact.”

No time to waste!

I asked Lesley what she enjoyed most about her work. She laughed, and said “I spend a considerable amount of time considering the impact of our energy consumption; it’s a massive cost to the Bank but the results are not particularly visible to the Bank’s employees. What I like about Waste is being able to make a difference, not just for RBS, but for the wider community, for the environment, and to actually see the progress we’re making.”

It’s great to see that this progress is being recognised, and in 2016 we were delighted to be double platinum award winners in London’s Clean City Awards Scheme, for two of our London offices. As you can see below, members of the RBS team and of our waste supplier, ISS were there on the day to collect the awards. “We’d won gold status the year before” Lesley recollected, “but to go one better and achieve the highest award was fantastic, especially as it was a real team effort.”

The Environment team with their award

The Environment team with their award

As an organisation, we’re determined to keep building on the progress we’ve made – to find smarter ways to manage our waste, and reduce the impact we have on the environment.

Want to be a part of it?

If you’re interested in joining us on this journey explore our current career opportunities.