(Pictured L to R: Anthony Sant AO Recycling, Peter Stephens Nissan, Margaret Bates University of Northampton, John Roberts AO Chief Executive, Richard Peagam Anthesis Group, Graeme Vickery DEFRA, Paul White AO.com)

The wake-up call for businesses to be more environmentally responsible has been ringing loud and clear for some time now.  From customers, the call to act more responsibly – and show it – is almost deafening.

At AO, delivering for customers with pace and passion is at the heart of everything we do.  How we help them to dispose of electrical goods at the end of their useful life is just as important as what happens when they decide to buy from us.

That’s why we own and run the biggest fridge recycling plant in Europe.  It processes all the old fridges and other white goods that we collect from customers.

And we stay true to our values by delivering and collecting using our own logistics company so just one journey is made – which, of course, is better for the environment.

A big green star for us and we’re proud of what we have done, but let’s be very clear it’s a modest change when we look at the environmental challenges we face.

Hand on heart, we could do much more as could every supplier and manufacturer we work with.  In fact, as could every business and individual in the UK.

Ministers know this too.  Late last year the Government published its Resources and Waste Strategy, a consultation paper setting out a multitude of ideas for changing how we do business and live our lives.

The intent is clear.  It’s a bold move to protect our planet and big change is on its way for business in the UK.

So we have a choice.  Embrace change and find ways to make a difference or face measures imposed on us which could impact badly on our businesses.

We’ve always tried to do the right thing at AO.  In short this means taking responsibility. Individual responsibility is great but working responsibly together always has a bigger impact.

AO’s Waste Electricals Summit

Today, we brought together the world’s biggest white goods manufacturers, government and leading experts in waste electricals to set out what is potentially going to happen over the next couple of years.

They challenged everyone in the room to make a difference in three ways:

  • How we collect more electrical waste
  • How we design products to last longer and be recycled easier
  • How we explain to customers how green the products they buy are.

The government wants manufacturers and retailers to take more responsibility for the end of life of their products, how they are packaged and how they are delivered.

It’s the start of an education programme that begins TODAY!

We only scratched the surface, but it made me realise we have to rethink everything we do if we are to have a real impact. And this can only be achieved by working together so we must:

  • Take a long hard honest look at how we manufacture goods so they can be more easily repaired. When they do eventually reach end of life, they are easy to take apart for recycling
  • Help customers to embrace recycling as part of the buying process. We want to be able to collect more waste electricals from customers’ homes and they need to help us do that .  Whether they use AO or someone else, we’ll be at the forefront of making sure that waste electricals are disposed of responsibly

In the past some businesses have viewed their environmental duties as a tax.  That’s the wrong mindset.

Solving the waste electricals problem together

The time for a passive approach to tackling waste electricals is gone.  The government wants action and won’t be satisfied with companies just signing a cheque and feeling they have done their environmental duty.

That won’t solve the problem we ALL face that Britain is simply not collecting enough waste electricals.

The government is on a mission to hit and surpass European targets. . These changes will affect everyone involved in the creation, sale and distribution of white goods in the UK.

At AO we’ve learnt a lot over the last two years about how you can make a difference to the environment.  Our recycling work has been an exciting journey.  It has taken hard work and responsibility.

We now recycle 700,000 fridges a year and we’ve got a second plant in the offing.

I’m now looking forward to finding solutions to these challenges.  It won’t be easy and there are certainly no quick fixes.  The next couple of years will change the industry forever and we want to be at the forefront of those changes.

We’ll approach this by adapting the simple philosophy we work by at AO, “what did you do today to make your mum proud?”.  When it comes to the environment, we we’ll ask “what are we doing today to make the next generation proud?”