These days, businesses and public sector bodies all need to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability, but few imagine that something as simple as equipment reuse could also save tens of thousands of pounds in staff time and procurement bills.
When I set up the Warp it online scheme in 2011, the aim was to reduce waste, but it quickly became clear that an effective reuse platform could also have a significant impact on procurement, storage spaces and fees, staff time and waste management bills. It can cross departmental boundaries and even include external partners such as local charities or schools. When Northumberland County Council (NCC) signed up, for example, it reduced procurement spending by 64 per cent in one year. A year and a half later, actual spending has fallen from £97,614 to just £4,202, while Dundee City Council has saved £100,000 in costs and donated over £20,000 in equipment to third sector organisations in just six months.
The basic concept of a reuse scheme is that unwanted items generated from one area of a business can be put to use by another. Furniture is a frequently cited example, but used inkjet cartridges, stationery and storage equipment are commonly traded items. With a large enough network, demand will be high and equipment which is not of use can be donated – or loaned – to other departments and organisations, or made available to staff for domestic use
Flexible working arrangements, office moves, downsizing and company expansion all affect the quantity and style of equipment required. Linking to an online platform, however, can alert staff to available items before they are needed, and negates the time consuming and expensive practice of raising purchase orders. Since this practice can add up to as much as £50 per order, NCC procurement endorsed the reuse scheme by implementing a block on all purchase order requests for furniture until staff checked the online system.
A robust set of legal obligations are crucial to guarantee reused items will not end up in the wrong hands or result in the source organisation facing legal action. Binding agreements for users must therefore be robust and thoroughly checked by legal advisors. These should include clauses around intended use, future possession by non-member third parties, and responsibilities for collection.
With legal agreements, networks and systems in place, businesses are all set to liberate valuable storage space, reduce carbon emissions and start saving.
☛ Daniel O’Connor is chief executive at Warp it