Resource Use

Renewed calls for Office of Resource Management

Organisations from the resource, manufacturing, infrastructure and environmental industries have today (12 March) launched a paper in Parliament reiterating calls for government to set up a central Office for Resource Management (ORM).

The paper, introduced at a meeting of the All Party Sustainable Resource Group (APSRG) this afternoon, has been developed by the Material Security Working Group (MSWG), whose members include the Resource Association, a trade association for reprocessors and their supply chain, the British Plastics Federation, The Packaging Federation, The Confederation of Paper Industries, environmental campaigners Friends of the Earth, and the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE). The group is chaired by manufacturers’ organisation EEF.

According to the group, the ORM should be established to help protect the UK from resource supply risks and should set the direction on policy relating to resource security, efficiency and husbandry and provide evidence and support to policy makers and industry.

Paper details

‘An Office for Resource Management’ highlights that the increasing size of the global middle class is leading to greater pressure on ‘already fragile and depleted ecosystems’. It outlines that the EU already classes 20 materials as having ‘significant supply risks due to main deposits being located in areas of political instability’ and warns that, in the future, core materials ‘from wood, plastic and rubber to the metals in everyday electronics’ are likely to come under supply pressures.

All of this, the MSWG states, makes ‘security of material supply an increasing concern for import-dependant manufacturers based in the UK’.

Responsibility for resource management is currently divided between a number of governmental departments including the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), the Treasury, the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra), and the Cabinet Office.

The group argues that ‘this inefficient, fragmented approach runs the risk of failing to build long-term resilience’ and represents a need to ‘establish mechanisms to ensure departments work together to develop coherent policies that span lifecycles from raw material inputs to reprocessed secondary products’.

It states that the UK is ‘lagging behind’ manufacturing nations such as the USA, Germany, South Korea, and Japan who are already implementing strategies ‘to shield their economies from resource risks’.

As such, the MSWG is calling for the establishment of an ORM within BIS, which would have oversight of the ‘three tiers of resource planning and management’:

  • resource security – enabling the supply of materials to feed the UK economy;
  • resource efficiency – ensuring resources are used as productively as economically feasible; and
  • resource husbandry – supporting the development of framework to provide strategic direction.

As waste disposal, waste recovery and planning are devolved matters the ORM would only be for England, but its establishment, says the paper, would lead to better coordination with the devolved administrations.

Coordinated response ‘urgently needed’

Commenting on the paper, Susanne Baker, Chair of the MSWG and Senior Policy Advisor at EEF, said: “The risk to our material supply is well-documented and it’s clear that the UK urgently needs a coherent, coordinated response.

“The current piecemeal approach is leaving us lagging behind our peers – we are under-prepared, over-exposed and vulnerable.

“Material supplies are crucial to the UK’s wealth and economic stability so there is a clear case for a new ORM to act as a central hub of expertise, data and stakeholder liaison and to coordinate a viable and sustainable UK response to these risks.”

Elaine Gilligan, Friends of the Earth’s Head of Programmes, added: “As one of the world’s most import-dependent countries, the UK must review its demand for natural resources and take action to boost resource efficiency. This will reduce the nation’s environmental and human impacts abroad and put our economy on a securer footing.

“The next government must sort out our woeful record on resources. Establishing an Office for Resource for Management would be a great start.”

Industry polls reveal frustration with current system

The launch of the MSWG paper follows on from a poll conducted last week by the Institute of Environmental Management and Assessment (IEMA), which found that 89 per cent of people ‘do not believe that government departments and agencies are joined up in their delivery of coherent and clear messages to help organisations improve the efficient use of resources’.

The poll, which included responses from more than 400 members of the environment and sustainability sectors, also revealed that 96 per cent of people think government should ‘establish a specific strategy to support the development of remanufacturing in the UK in order to tackle future resource threats’.

Speaking of the results, Josh Fothergill, IEMA’s Policy and Engagement Lead on Sustainable Resource Management, said: “There are huge opportunities for the UK to better connect government and business in this area.

“Our poll results clearly show how keen our members are to see the UK be a leading international player on sustainable resource management so that we capitalise on the available savings and sustainability benefits.”

This is just the latest of a series of calls for government to take action against the increasing risks to the UK’s supply of essential raw materials.

In its 2014 ‘State of the Nation’ report, ICE suggested an ORM could help tackle a ‘lack of government coordination’ regarding resource management, and in July last year, EEF produced a report detailing the need for strategy and improved regulation to maximise the productivity of raw materials.

These were then echoed by a group of senior Conservative MPs in September when the environmental think tank Green Alliance’s Green Conservatism advisory group released a pamphlet warning that without greater resource efficiency, Britain would lose its ‘status and competitiveness in the global economy’.

Further, just last week (2 March) the Circular Economy Task Force (CETF) called for government to set up a national resources council to combat the threat of dwindling resource supply.

Read the Material Security Working Group paper ‘An Office for Resource Management’, or find out more about IEMA’s poll.

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