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As the 10th EBAE cycle starts to unfold, some of the national competitions have already rewarded remarkable efforts in business sustainability. Bulgaria, Malta, Portugal and Slovakia hosted their national awards ceremonies in the first trimester of 2018, and their participants are already eligible EBAE applicants.
If your country’s awards cycle is still accepting applications (check all our National Coordinator pages here), make sure to contact them to find out how to enter the competition. You may be the next European Champion of green innovation!
We are also delighted to bring you a special newsletter edition. As the European Strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy places itself as “the” 2018 environmental item in the EU agenda, this issue is almost entirely dedicated to efforts to use plastics more sustainably in our (business) life. Be sure to go through all the EBAE newsletter sections for insightful views and useful tips on how to reduce plastics at all levels – and don’t forget to test your knowledge with our special quiz!
The European Commission and the European Economic and Social Committee co-hosted the third Circular Economy Stakeholder Conference in Brussels on 20-21 February 2018. The event was an opportunity to take stock of, and debate, the way the transition towards a circular economy in Europe is progressing following the adoption of the 2018 Circular Economy Package.
Reducing plastic use and waste, achieving non-toxic materials flows, introducing circularity in the bioeconomy, steering product design towards more circularity and making construction more sustainable are among the main avenues of work for the coming years.
The adjustments needed are expected to create business opportunities and generate competitive advantages for companies across all sectors.
The conference was served as the launchpad of the “European Resource Efficiency Knowledge Centre for SMEs” (EREK). The centre seeks to position itself as a European level one-stop shop for SMEs and business organisations wanting to learn about, and cooperate on, circularity, eco-innovation and green markets.
Furthermore, a virtual open space on the circular economy had its debut during the event.
This platform aims to facilitate dialogue and disseminate activities, information, and good practices on the circular economy. Stakeholders have already started sharing their expertise with European partners.
In every issue, the EBAE newsletter catches up with former participants who have distinguished themselves in their field of expertise and have expanded their business and recognition thanks to the competition.
This time, we sat down with Vegware, a Scottish company specialising in compostable foodservice packaging – where there’s no room for plastics!
Your company was a runner-up in the “Product & Services Award” Category of the 2014-15 EBAE cycle. How has your business progressed since then?
We’ve been growing fast! Foodservice has woken up to the real need for plastic-free compostable disposables, and we have grown by over 30% since last year. Our environmental consultancy has been key, working with the waste sector to help our clients set up composting. Last year we even set up our own composting collection, Close the Loop.
EU demand is increasing, too; and we have also launched a new base in California, and now export to 25+ countries. We have also won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise, and moved our expanding team into a larger HQ in the centre of (snowy) Edinburgh. We have this week been ranked in the UK’s 100 fastest growing exporters, and also in Europe’s fastest growing 5,000 companies. So it’s all go!
How did your participation in EBAE help your company get to this stage?
Our team are the priority for us, and a prestigious award like this is such a boost for us all personally. It’s a real motivator, and has given us confidence that our compostable solution is in demand in the rest of Europe, not just the UK. So it has been a part of expanding sales into mainland Europe.
Give us three words which describe your EBAE experience.
Reflection – just one word, but for three different contexts. Firstly, entering the EBAE award was an opportunity to reflect on our evolving business and find the best way to explain what we do. Secondly, once shortlisted we could reflect on where we fit in our wider sector and within the European business community. And lastly, the award reflected very well on us as a company!
One of the key elements of the EU environmental agenda, and road towards a Circular Economy, is its Plastics Strategy. In your opinion, what would be an effective way to discourage the use of plastics at business- and industry-level?
Businesses can take an active stance right now by reviewing what plastics they currently use and could easily switch to plant-based alternatives, as a part of their sustainability agenda. A positive approach for national governments is to actively encourage businesses to use sustainable disposables, using legislation and prominent guidance. Composting infrastructure may need to increase in particular countries, but the first step is to get more compostable packaging circulating in the economy, for the waste sector to process. Then of course, encouraging investment in composting infrastructure is excellent for job creation as part of a new circular economy. This is the way the EU is going – the revised Waste Framework Directive allows compostable packaging to be collected together with the bio-waste and recycled in industrial composting and anaerobic digestion, which has already successfully been implemented in several Member States.
If you could choose a famous European to be a Vegware brand ambassador, who would it be and why?
We’d have two! Firstly, Ellen MacArthur* – the Ellen MacArthur Foundation is doing amazing work to promote the circular economy, and is having a real effect within the business community. Their New Plastics Economy interim report confirmed what we have long been demonstrating – that in foodservice where food contamination is a major issue preventing recycling, packaging materials should be compostable and therefore share the same waste stream as food waste.
Secondly, fashion designer Stella McCartney has a strong sustainability message, and is making consumers consider the environmental impact of the brands they support.
* Dame Ellen Patricia MacArthur, DBE is a retired English sailor
Plastics is one of the key items on the EU’s environmental agenda in 2018. In January the European strategy for Plastics in a Circular Economy (#PlasticsStrategy) was adopted. Under the new plans, all plastic packaging on the EU market will be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics will be reduced and the intentional use of microplastics will be restricted. The aim is to transform the way products are designed, produced, used, and recycled in the EU. This will lay the foundations for a new plastic economy, where design and production fully respect reuse, repair and recycling needs and more sustainable materials are developed.
An overwhelming majority of European citizens say they are worried about the impact of everyday products made of plastics on their health (74%) and on the environment (87%) (Source: Eurobarometer). EU citizens have started to take action with 72% having cut their use of single plastic bags and 65% separating most of their waste for recycling (Source: Eurobarometer). However, these actions, whilst positive, are not enough. 100 billion plastic bags are (Source: Environment for Europeans Magazine) still used each year by the 500 million EU citizens, 200 per person.
The Directorate-General for the Environment (DG-ENV) has provided materials including factsheets, infographics and videos for Member States to use to promote the new strategy including country-specific information for the seven focus countries of Bulgaria, Greece, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Romania and Spain. DG ENV is also planning to develop a set of dedicated materials and actions on single-use plastics for the general public. These will be shared in the EBAE newsletter when available.
We would like to encourage you to use the materials to support the implementation of the strategy, and also to consider nominations for the EBAE awards in the plastics field – see our “Where are they now” article for an example of a previous winner in this sector!
We caught up with Gabriela Marinova, EBAE’s Bulgarian National Coordinator, to gather some insights on how the European Business Awards for the Environment are impacting eco-innovative companies in Bulgaria.
Bulgaria holds the Presidency of the EU during this semester, and one of its key priorities is “The Future of Europe and Young People”. What role does business sustainability play in securing a better future for the next generation?
Business sustainability plays a vital role in ensuring a better future for the generations to come. In Bulgaria, as in many other countries, business sustainability leads the change needed to tackle today’s economic, social, and environmental challenges: from supporting professional education, to developing thriving communities, to a clever use of natural resources. In many cases, businesses come up with and/or embrace innovations that help build a more sustainable future and, thus, set the standards for other shareholders to follow.
How would you describe EBAE’s impact on, and support of, Bulgarian sustainable businesses since the start of your tenure?
Very recently, EBAE had a very positive impact on motivating sustainable companies to enter the 2017 Responsible Business Awards, given that finalists in the “Investor in the Environment” category of our competition are eligible to run for the pan-European EBAE cycle. The opportunity to apply for the European prize, which we specifically promoted during this year’s campaign, resulted in a 40% increase of entries in the environmental category.
As for a more long-term impact, the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF) became EBAE’s national coordinator in 2005; EBAE has set the bar for sustainable companies in Bulgaria, as they have been able to benchmark their CSR performance against those of their peers across Europe. The exchange of experiences intrinsic to EBAE is something that companies operating in Bulgaria appreciate, for they can then integrate ideas and good practices in their own programmes and projects.
Furthermore, in 2016 a Bulgarian company reached the final stage of the EBAE competition for the first time ever. Billa Bulgaria was a finalist in the “Management of Medium and Large Entities” category thanks to their biodegradable waste utilisation project, which had also competed in the 2016 Responsible Business Awards. The recognition has not only helped Billa Bulgaria, but also inspired other businesses to further pursue transformative action and innovation.
In your opinion, what is the key element that an EBAE winner should have?
There are many factors that account for success at EBAE, yet innovation in combining economic viability and environmental responsibility seems to be fundamental. Long-term efficiency for the benefit of the environment is also a major element.
The Responsible Business Awards, EBAE’s national competition in Bulgaria, is held by the Bulgarian Business Leaders Forum (BBLF). You can check the full list of winners of their latest edition here. For further information, please contact Ms. Marinova at email@example.com.
The Waste Free Oceans Foundation’s main goal is to reduce the global impact of marine litter. By mobilising fisheries, recyclers, manufacturers and policy makers, WFO aims to reduce, recycle and ultimately reuse marine litter, mitigating the impact on both the environment and natural resources.
It is clear that the amount of plastic leaking into our oceans needs to be reduced, as well as the debris found in our oceans today. The latter challenge is being tackled by Waste Free Oceans, founded in 2011 as an initiative of the European plastics industry to address the growing concern of marine plastics. WFO has since grown into an independent organisation that operates worldwide.
WFO’s main operations include conducting marine litter clean ups, by using special fishing trawls which can each collect between 2-8 tonnes of floating litter; beach clean ups, by partnering with organisations going to local beaches to clean up the rubbish; policy advocacy, including presenting and holding forums at the European Parliament and Commission and collaborating with partners on “closing the loop” projects. These projects are designed to transform collected marine litter and to create useful "marketing" products to educate consumers, in line with a circular economy approach.
WFO joins hands with companies, big and small, wanting to send a clear message on the intelligent use of resources and protecting our ocean environments. We believe waste is a valuable resource which can be used. The possibilities are varied; recycled ocean plastic can be used to create products ranging from packaging, to furniture, to clothing and accessories. Recycled ocean plastic constitutes between 10-40% of the materials, in order to guarantee plastic quality. This is then combined with other recycled plastics (usually sourced from household waste) or virgin plastic, depending on brand owners’ preference, in order to obtain the final product.
WFO would like to encourage all companies wishing to enter EBAE with a project on recycled plastic to do so. Nowadays, the world is ready and waiting for products offering environmental solutions, rather than more challenges.
To learn more about Waste Free Oceans, please visit: www.wastefreeoceans.org
Do you want to know more about the environmental burden caused by non-biodegradable/non-recyclable plastics and game-changing initiatives tackling this issue? Take a look at the following links, and don’t hesitate to share them with your friends, family and colleagues:
(21-22 March 2018, Oslo, Norway)
This two-day event will bring companies, public bodies and European institutions together, and host panel discussions, case studies, roundtable discussions, presentations and workshops on how to increase eco-innovative and sustainable procurement procedures and decisions.
(16-18 May, Madrid, Spain)
Jointly organised by VinylPlus and the European Council of Vinyl Manufacturers (ECVM) on a yearly basis, the Vinyl Sustainability Forum seeks to foster constructive dialogue on sustainability with a wide range of industry and external stakeholders. It brings together representatives from the entire PVC industry value chain as well as policy makers, consumer groups, retailers, architects and NGOs.
(18 May, Sofia, Bulgaria)
Hosted by the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU and supported by the Ministry of Environment and Water of Bulgaria, the Circular Economy and Clean Technologies Forum will focus on investment opportunities and business partnerships leading to the development of technologies with a positive environmental effect. The event will include dialogue sessions led by the EIT Knowledge and Innovation Communities (KICs).
(21-25 May, across Europe)
Under the theme “Green Cities for a Greener Future”, the next edition of EU Green Week will explore ways in which the EU is helping cities to become better places to live and work. Showcasing policy developments on air quality, noise, nature and biodiversity, waste and water management, it will promote participatory approaches to urban development, networking schemes, and tools for sharing best practices, engaging local authorities and citizens on a common vision for a sustainable future. Besides several events across Europe, the 2018 EU Green Week will include a high-level conference in Brussels on 22-24 May 2018.
(4-8 June, Brussels)
A joint initiative of EASME and the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy, the European Sustainable Energy Week (EUSEW) is a month-long series of activities to build a secure energy future for Europe. This high-level event brings together public authorities, private companies, NGOs and consumers to promote initiatives to save energy and move towards renewables for clean, secure and efficient power. The 2018 EUSEW will run under the theme “Clean Energy Transition” and will include activities such as a Policy Conference, the EU Sustainable Energy Awards ceremony, and a knowledge and good practice-sharing Networking Village.