EEF monthly industry comment
Published:  27 September, 2012

Earlier this year EEF surveyed executives across Industry to find out what they perceived as the biggest threats to growth. The Eurozone crisis? Access to finance?  Accessing the right skills? Surprisingly 80% of respondents said access to raw materials was a risk to growth. One in three said it was their top risk.

Material prices have since stabilised. But for how long? With rapid development in emerging economies, three billion people are expected to join the ranks of the world’s middle class within the next 20 years, putting yet more significant upward pressure on material prices in future. The government’s Resource Security Action Plan, published in March, attempts to address some of these concerns. But we think it doesn’t go far enough and needs to be bolder, wider and more visionary.

That is why this week we have joined with Friends of the Earth and other organisations in calling for greater leadership and a more ambitious, informed vision for a resource efficient economy. We believe this is not only vital from an environmental perspective, but also vital to ensure the integrity of our economy in the future. Without it we are concerned that it leaves us open to significant, future resource shocks.

Firstly we need an Office for Resource Management to coordinate activity across Whitehall departments. We also think government can do more to educate and engage the entire supply chain and those that influence it – including politicians, designers, producers, retailers and consumers – on this agenda. The scope of the Resource Security Action Plan should be widened to cover a wider range of materials and there should be a commitment from government to utilising better existing data on material and waste flows in our economy.

Secondly, the quality of the material we recycle is hugely important to manufacturers  and we would like government to realign current targets to focus on quality as well as quantity so that more recycled material can be re-used.

Sooner or later we need to move to examining the fundamental concept of a circular economy. This refers to an economic model which moves on from the current one of extracting resources, making, selling and disposing products to one where they are designed, maintained and serviced to prolong their life, at the end of which the materials are reintegrated back into new products. In short this model will design out waste all together and is the vision we need to move to in the future.



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