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How businesses can become part of the solution to the global plastic waste problem

By Jane Donnelly, Managing Director, Hays East of England

Plastic-free initiatives should be for life, not just for one month. We consider why it’s important for businesses to focus on sustainable initiatives and take meaningful action to reduce their plastic footprint beyond Plastic Free July.

Increasingly, job-seekers are purpose-driven and want to work for companies that support meaningful causes and align with their values. In fact, nearly two-thirds of respondents in a recent LinkedIn poll indicated that a company’s commitment to sustainability goals is an important factor when choosing whether or not to work for them.

Employees are also becoming increasingly aware of corporate ‘greenwashing’, a reference to companies that make unconvincing or empty claims about their own environmental and sustainability initiatives.

Businesses that place corporate sustainability at the forefront of their agenda will stand out to potential employees. Whether it’s swapping out single-use plastics for reusable alternatives in office spaces or taking part in annual initiatives like Plastic Free July, companies that are actively tackling the global plastic waste problem will also benefit from becoming an employer of choice for talent and an improved brand reputation.

What’s the reality of plastic?

The recent Global Plastics Outlook from the OECD indicates that the world’s generation of plastic waste has more than doubled in the past 20 years. Only 9% of plastic waste is recycled worldwide, while 22% is mismanaged and ends up in uncontrolled landfill sites – this has a devastating impact on terrestrial and aquatic environments. It’s in all our best interests to reduce plastic waste by cutting down on our use of single-use plastics.

There are multiple examples of plastics being used to create necessary medical supplies for one-time use, such as syringes, catheters, and surgical gloves. In these circumstances, the use of single-use plastics helps to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by avoiding the need to disinfect and reuse devices. However, people are becoming more aware of the environmental problems that the avoidable use of single-use plastics can cause. For example, disposable plastics don’t biodegrade; instead, they break down into microplastics that contaminate our marine and land ecosystems, harming wildlife and polluting our water and food sources. It’s critical that everyone reduces their plastic usage – and businesses should lead the way.

How can businesses reduce plastic use?

  • Swap plastics for reusable alternatives in the office. The most effective way to reduce your company’s plastic waste is to avoid using plastics in the first place, wherever possible. Plastic cups, water bottles, coffee cups, and straws can be easily replaced with reusable or recyclable alternatives.
  • Use sustainable suppliers that share your company’s green values and ambitions. By working closely with suppliers and requesting more sustainable options, companies can significantly reduce their environmental and social impact.
  • Set up an employee network or committee for people who are passionate about sustainability. Empower the committee to organise company-wide initiatives, events, and educational sessions focused on the importance of tackling plastic pollution and the ways to achieve this.

Zero Heroes at Hays: our internal committee promoting plastic-free initiatives

The role of our Zero Heroes committee at Hays is to monitor the volume of plastic consumption in our offices, as well as to educate colleagues about the importance of reducing our plastic footprint and provide suggestions for more sustainable alternatives.

We are committed to putting sustainability in the spotlight and reducing the impact our business has on global plastic pollution, through initiatives such as the ban on single-use plastics across our offices and the improvement of recycling facilities in our workplaces.

We understand that action on plastic reduction is fundamental to protecting our environment, and we encourage other businesses to do so also. Become part of the solution to the plastic waste problem and learn more about how your business can get involved beyond Plastic Free July.

What is Plastic Free July?

Plastic Free July is a global movement, focusing on the Plastic Free Foundation’s vision of seeing a world free from plastic waste. The initiative was started in 2011 by Rebecca Prince-Ruiz and a local government group in Western Australia. Every year the campaign has grown in size and influence, with millions of people around the world now taking part by avoiding single-use plastic packaging, straws, cups, and bottles.

The foundation provides useful resources and ideas to inspire participants to reduce single-use plastic waste at home, as well as in the local community, such as in schools and workplaces. Over recent years, the businesses, governments, community organisations, and individuals taking part in the Plastic Free July challenge have all contributed to the reduction of global plastic consumption by 300 million kilograms.

About this author

Jane joined Hays in 1994 as an Associate. Initially recruiting within Accounting and Finance in Scotland, she progressed to Regional Director in 1999 running all Hays Finance, Office Support, and Customer Contact recruitment across the North East of England.

She moved to Hays Australia in 2001, working as a Regional Director for offices across Sydney and Canberra expanding her specialism management to include Procurement, Technology, Construction & Property, Sales & Marketing, and Insurance & Banking. Jane also launched Hays Life Sciences in Australia and was instrumental in the development of the national Healthcare and Education business. In 2006 Jane was appointed as Senior Regional Director, coordinating successful projects in New Zealand and South Australia, while running the professional service operations in Sydney's head office and account management of NSW government.

In July 2013, Jane returned to the UK completing several operational project roles in Cambridge and Chelmsford before taking responsibility, in 2015, as Regional Director for 6 offices across Essex and Suffolk. Towards the end of 2017, Jane was appointed as the Managing Director for the East of England region, covering 15 offices across East Anglia, Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, and Buckinghamshire. She is currently Vice-Chair of the East of England CBI Committee and will take over as Chair from January 2022.

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