Ray Georgeson's

blog

8 Nov 2012

The term ‘social value’ is rising up the policy agenda at the minute, thanks certainly in part to the forthcoming Public Services (Social Value) Act which from January 2013 requires public bodies (including local councils and the NHS) to consider social value in the procurement of public services.  In Scotland similar measures may come forward through the Procurement Reform Bill currently being consulted upon by the Scottish Government.

While it is early days, it could have a real impact on the waste and resources sector, and I had the opportunity to explore this in a research report for SITA UK launched in October.  Creating Social Value explores the potential for the third sector in waste and resources to work in partnership with contractors and deliver greater social value.  This can come in many ways, but is primarily focused on the training and employment opportunities for those disadvantaged in the employment market through a range of prevention, reuse, repair and recycling projects – work that the third sector has a great track record in delivering.

Partnership will be the key, often with the private sector – and a good example has been set by SITA UK in signing a collaboration agreement with REalliance CIC (of which I am a non-executive director) to actively look for partnership opportunities in bidding for local authority resources collection contracts where social value has been recognised by the council.  Partnerships will be important, but this will work better with a forward thinking approach from local authorities to new ways of delivering services, and understanding properly how additional social value can be generated locally through driving waste up the hierarchy....

18 Jan 2012

 

Context can be important, and so writing this still smarting from my beloved Manchester United’s unceremonious dumping out of the Champions League by FC Basel what else could I write about other than Basel? Not the football team of course (I have read enough about them thank you) but the Basel Convention and more topically the recent developments at the 10th Conference of the Parties of the Convention held in Colombia.
 
It may have passed many by, obsessed as we are by weekly bin collections and the state of the Eurozone –the two most important issues facing the country at the moment (in the eyes of some newspapers). However, it is worth a fresh look, as in October all 178 countries that are Parties to the Convention supported the early entry into national laws of the Basel Ban Amendment which prohibits all exports of hazardous wastes, including electronic wastes and old obsolete ships from developed to developing countries. 
 
Although this Amendment has been in existence for 16 years it has only just been decided that it will now come into force when 68 of the original 90 countries that ratified Basel in 1995 follow up with ratification of this proposal. So far 51 have done so and it is expected that the balance needed will do this in the next couple of years.
 
Probably the biggest absentee from the table on Basel remains the United States, which has still not ratified the Convention at all. Previous laggards (including Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Japan) have now signed up, and it is expected that there will be more diplomatic pressure upon the US and other absentees to ratify, especially as they will (in theory...
24 Oct 2011

It's not every day that one is asked to don a wartime surplus tin hat and sing for your supper, but that is exactly what I was asked to do by my friends at LARAC at their Celebration Awards Dinner last week.  The theme for this year's awards was austerity, and a 1940s wartime theme was enthusiastically embraced by many guests who made an effort to fund vintage clothes and really create a good atmosphere in what are difficult times for many in local government.

Not only did LARAC and letsrecycle.com keep the conference to very affordable levels this year, they managed to have the Awards fully funded by sponsors - no mean feat in itself.  They were rewarded with an excellent attendance of nearly 400 for a good event and a first class conference.

I was delighted to accept their invitation to compere the Awards ceremony, but hadn't fully anticipated the full task when I said yes!  And so, faced with the challenge of entertaining the audience before the Awards ceremony proper, I fell back on good old Dad's Army to help me through.

So, by popular demand (well I have had a few emails asking for the words), here was the singalong finale, with a few gentle words of advice on his weekly waste collection fund for Eric Pickles - to be taken in the spirit in which it was sung!  [to the Dad's Army theme]

Who do you think you are kidding, Mr Pickles

If you think your binman's gone

One week in two we will take your waste away

One week in two we'll recycle it, hurray!

So who do you think you are kidding, Mr Pickles

If you think your binman's gone

 

Joy Blizzard has...

18 Aug 2011

It feels like an understatement to say that the world feels like a fragile place at the moment.  What with urban unrest at home, economic uncertainty, the crisis of deficit, famine in East Africa, and radiation in Japan to name but a few, there is plenty to be worried about.  And I haven’t even mentioned the constant and underlying crisis of climate change, yet again off the news agenda until the next disaster exacerbated by climate change hits the headlines.

 In all of this, the desire to hold onto that which is dear, close and familiar to us becomes ever stronger.   Whether this is our loved ones, our family, our football team or our community doesn’t much matter – the point is that we are drawn back to the familiar, the comfortable, the respected and the loved.

When we lose something or someone in ways that might be beyond our control, the sense of shock and displacement is even stronger.  The passing of a family member, friend or colleague unexpectedly, the loss of a familiar building in the community, the destruction of a home in a natural disaster – no doubt you will have your own thoughts on how this feels and the impact it has.

It makes it all the more...

31 Jul 2011

 

Thanks to the power of the new social media, we were treated recently to the news that Defra’s offices in London had to be closed at a weekend for fumigation in order to be rid of a serious infestation of Tineola bisselliella - the common moth. 
 
An innocent and gently amusing post on Twitter by a Defra civil servant mentioned the closure and mused as to whether the fumigation had been approved of by ‘biodiversity colleagues’. The story was subsequently quickly picked up by the national media. Of course, the irony that Defra is also responsible for pest control was not lost upon them, neither was the opportunity to have a bit of fun about mothballed and woolly policies.. 
 
It’s a bit rotten that poor old Defra was picked on for this bit of mild ridicule, as it seems that the common moth has been rampant recently, as a consequence of the unseasonal warm weather in the Spring and so sales of mothballs have rocketed.   They thrive in warm and humid environments, and it would appear that the clothing of hot and sweaty cyclists have been identified as a favoured breeding ground. This is where Defra comes into the picture for special attention. 
 
Many of our friends in Defra do indeed practice what they preach, and there are a lot of cyclists in their workforce, all of whom are storing these warm and sweaty clothes all over the building. Indeed, a friend who works in a London based NGO is always complaining that there is never any room in the Defra cycle rack! So it seems that the environmental commitment of a decent number of civil servants may well have exacerbated the size of the...
23 May 2011

Do have a look at the recent report from REalliance, available on their website:

http://www.realliance.org.uk/sites/default/files/REalliance_Report.pdf 

It charts the success of the three year Defra/WRAP funded Third Sector Development Programme managed by REalliance CIC.  In a climate in which it is increasingly difficult for 'intermediary support bodies' like REalliance to find Government funding for their work, it is worth a moment to look at just what might be missed in the future.  This programme, which was delivering Big Society objectives before the phrase was coined, has provided business support to social enterprises and voluntary organisations in waste reduction, reuse and recycling.  It has improved the business and organisational skills of groups across England, enabling them to increase turnover, training places, products reused and recycled - and reduce carbon emissions into the bargain.

Remembering always that sustainable development is all about the mix of social, economic and environmental objectives, so many of the projects supported by REalliance meet all three and contribute to Big Society in so many ways, not just about the environmental.

Good luck to REalliance and all the community and social enterprises who continue to contribue so much to society - big or otherwise!

 

1 Apr 2011

I wonder if, like me, you were intrigued by the recent news coverage of the Mars 500 project.  Fascinating images were published of the simulated journey to Mars being conducted in a Moscow scientific institute where six aspiring cosmonauts have been incarcerated in a series of windowless corridors designed to mimic a spacecraft.  They have already been in there for eight months and after a short ‘landing’ they are spending the next eight months simulating a return journey.

You may well have despaired at the lengths it seems humankind is prepared to go to in our quest to plunder the mineral wealth of our neighbouring planets, presumably once we have exhausted that of Planet Earth.  For once, I put that thought aside and concentrated how those men were managing to maintain harmony and co-operative working in the closely confined situation.  It would seem that there is nothing quite like enforced close proximity and isolation for focusing the mind on how make the best of a difficult situation.

Of course, this is nothing new.  It’s a technique that has been used to try and resolve great problems in the past.  Remember in the mid-Seventies when the then Rhodesian Prime Minister Ian Smith was locked away with the leaders of what was then the Zimbabwean liberation movement as they tried to find a peaceful resolution to the demand of the black majority for democracy whilst preserving a role for the white minority in the new Zimbabwe. On that occasion it didn’t work and it was some five years later before independence was won and sadly peace did not settle easily upon that country.  However, the technique of locking all the main protagonists into a railway carriage which was...

8 Mar 2011

Since the Coalition Government took office and the Prime Minister’s notion of the ‘Big Society’ started to become a policy reality, there have been countless column inches and conferences devoted to the examination of this idea.  Taken at face value, it is a powerful idea – the notion that people in communities can and should exercise more control over what happens in their community and that it shouldn’t always be the case that the state is seen as the provider of all services and activity that shape a community and the lives of individuals and families.

Many would say that the countless voluntary and community organisations that do sterling work have delivered the Big Society for years – whether they be the volunteers that run the local football team, community composting group or meals on wheels, they have just got on with it – sometimes with modest sums of money from local or central government and agencies.  However, the Government seems to be advocating Big Society as a much deeper and permanent change in the way that communities are organised, which is part of why the debate continues.

Critics suggest that it is a smokescreen for the downward step-change in local state service provision that the Government is pursuing through reductions in centrally allocated local government spending and that the emergence of newly energised community organisers and groups will somehow step in to fill the gaps in provision.   It’s fair to say there are plenty of sceptics.

Despite this, there has been a long queue of analysts, think-tankers, quango and government agency chiefs, leaders of charities and community sector groups all stating their willingness...

10 Jan 2011

I spent some of my formative childhood years growing up in a large mining town on Zambia’s Copperbelt.  In the late 1960s my father took my family out to Africa on what proved to be a great adventure.  He took a three year contract with the UK’s Overseas Development Administration (now DFID) to teach English as part of a UK aid programme supporting the emergence of Zambia as a new nation independent of the declining British Empire.  With four young children under the age of seven, none of whom had been any further from Manchester than Yorkshire it was certainly an adventure for my mother!

Even now that experience evokes strong and varied memories, from saying goodbye to grandparents (two of whom we never saw again as they died whilst we were away) to leaving Manchester on one of the last trains to depart from the old Manchester Central station for St Pancras (before it was turned into a car park and eventually a conference centre) through to arriving at Ndola Airport in the hottest and brightest sunshine I had ever experienced, they are memories that stay vivid.

The arrival of our household effects in Zambia I recall was erratic, but I have a strong recollection that to my great delight, one of the first boxes that arrived contained my brand new Hornby train set, bought for my 7th birthday by my grandmother before we departed.  In an almost empty house, still waiting the rest of our stuff to arrive, I remember having the living room floor to myself as the train set took pride of place in the centre of the room, keeping me nicely occupied.

We were hardly a rich family, far from it – just a normal working family from Moss Side.  I recall a lot of hand-me-downs, visits to...

14 Oct 2010

 

The conjunction of events encourages me to return to a regular theme for this column, that of the recurring dilemma between consumption and ethics, and the challenges and contradictions it can often present.
This time, I find myself reflecting on my recent wedding and the sourcing of rings alongside the amazing tale of the Chilean miners and research I have been working on for a recent series of symposia I was involved in organising for a client, looking at the future of resource management and how this might influence their thinking about waste infrastructure.
The symposia research led me to some interesting recent analysis on the likely impact of mineral scarcity[i] from The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies (The Netherlands, not our follicly challenged Foreign Secretary). Although this is controversial (what isn’t when it comes to economics) they discuss the impact of what may be eventually seen as a third ‘super-cycle’ where the world economy enters an unusually resource-intensive phase of expansion – the first taking place at the turn of the 20th century on the back of US industrialisation and the second after World War Two based on Japanese industrialisation with the current cycle inevitably being focused on the growth of Chinese industrialisation.   They describe clearly the current battle for access to various precious metals, rare earth elements (REEs) and platinum group metals (PGMs) - largely being conducted by the Chinese, Americans and...