Gerry Marshall, CEO of Recycling Lives, a UK-based recycling and waste management company, talks to ATF Professional about the company’s progression over the past twelve months and where they are headed environmentally and socially.
ATF Pro: Looking back to 2022, how has Recycling Lives progressed as the world emerged from COVID, and what other major factors have affected the vehicle recycling industry?
GM: 2022 was definitely a year of flux as we came out of COVID, which represented a huge change for staff moving back to the office after remote working. For office infrastructure, we had to look at how to help staff return to the buildings after so long, properly motivating and supporting them and introducing flexible working systems.
The war in Ukraine is a terrible tragedy and has had a profound impact on the industry and undoubtedly caused disruption, and there is now the issue of soaring fuel and energy costs. However, one side effect of these crises has been a sense of unity and purpose as the team comes together to face these challenges head-on.
Other major issues affecting the industry have included the terrible natural disasters in China and Pakistan. All of these combined also offer sharp reminders that climate change hasn’t gone away. While managing each of the challenges we face, we – as a business, an industry, and a society – need now more than ever to remain focused on the biggest crisis the world has ever faced. Change needs to happen now; we can’t afford to wait any longer.
From an industry perspective, we all need to take responsibility and remember that we are part of the solution. Commoditising the waste industry and pioneering innovation in the sector offers huge potential for renewable energy, reduction in the mining of natural resources, and of course, less waste being sent to landfill.
In commercial terms, Recycling Lives enjoyed a successful year in 2022 and faced these various challenges head-on. Now it’s about building on that progress – Complacency is not an option.
ATF Pro: Looking ahead to 2023, the cost of living – and running a business – are all expected to rise. What are the likely effects on the automotive industry and end customers as a result?
GM: There is uncertainty around the issue of rising costs and prices. But I believe this will also drive innovation in the industry to maximise value and efficiency and achieve the highest possible extraction rates in vehicle recycling.
ATF Pro: Staffing is a major issue for all industries at the moment. With Recycling Lives’ unique staff approach, what can other companies learn from their model?
GM: There is always a way to help people. It’s important for businesses to develop a culture where people can fulfil their potential with training and development, but the most important factor is having robust support systems in place for staff at all levels.
For us, this has meant working closely with our sister organisation, Recycling Lives Charity, to ensure there is proper housing and personal support for those people who have come from disadvantaged backgrounds or through the justice system. We also provide welfare support and a solid infrastructure of training and management to cater for the various needs of staff and those we work with.
ATF Pro: Recycling Lives enjoyed great success at the recent Vehicle Recycling Excellence Awards (VREA). How does that balance with other significant achievements and milestones reached over the past year?
GM: We are absolutely delighted to have done so well in the awards, it really means so much to have the hard work and effort of the whole team recognised by our peers in the industry. It capped off a big year for us in terms of progress across many aspects of the business. We were thrilled to acquire John R Adam and Sons in Glasgow, expanding both our capabilities and geographical reach across the UK and opened a new training academy which is unique to our industry. There was also an expansion of our social value programmes working with prisons and those taking part in Release on Temporary License (ROTL) to make it a UK-wide programme. And we have moved into the scaling up of our groundbreaking energy-from-waste solution – pushing the boundaries to become as efficient and sustainable as possible. We are all incredibly proud of what has been achieved during 2022, and our teams deserve all the recognition they get when it comes to awards.
ATF Pro: How is the business approaching the demands of ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance), and how is EV recycling fitting into these considerations?
GM: I’m lucky to be part of an organisation where social value and environmental sustainability sit at the heart of our purpose as a business. As sector leaders in sustainability and the circular economy, our business is founded upon three core pillars: positive social impact; environmental innovation; and commercial ambition. None of these elements are exclusive, they form an intertwined value platform which is inherent to every aspect of the business, from board-level decision-making to day-to-day site operations.
Our vision is to make profits that are social and environmental, as well as commercial. This is why we have a circular economy business model, so everything we do has a positive impact at a local, national and global scale in terms of environmental sustainability.
When it comes to industry initiatives, it is no longer feasible or realistic to focus solely on the financial bottom line. Across the industry, and the whole business community, we all need to take into account the social and environmental responsibilities of our operations to ensure they are both measurable and transparent.
At the very end of last year, we achieved the coveted B Corporation (B Corp) certification, scoring 137.9 within the company’s impact assessment – exceeding the necessary qualifying score of 80 and putting us amongst the top-performing B Corps globally.
The B Corp process is an incredibly demanding and highly individual assessment, and this certification is a fantastic result of our purpose and beliefs. However, whilst we’re immensely proud to be recognised, this is just a step on our journey in making further progress toward our sustainability targets, whilst delivering meaningful opportunities across educational establishments, the justice system, and disadvantaged groups.