Reuse Recycle Re-invent – some things are too good to throw away and so are some business ideas!
From London Re-use to Recycled Assets – Social enterprises which have developed new markets in commercial construction and created a legacy of sustainable innovation which continues to deliver in the Square Mile
Amongst the City Fringe businesses servicing the London’s commercial centre, was an innovative social enterprise bringing sustainable services to the City’s massive construction sector, its name? London Re-use.
Having developed business with clients such as Wates (across London and the South East), Willmott Dixon, Balfour Beatty, Multiplex and Sir Robert McAlpine (including on Bloomberg’s iconic new Square Mile HQ), to name but a few names to conjure with, London Re-use Ltd carved out a unique place for itself, removing redundant site assets and commercial furnishings for re-use or ethical recycling and running an online store to market re-usable office furniture.
Following the money, like all good entrepreneurs, the team at London Re-use focused their efforts on the commercial sector, offering their own collection services across London and the South East to create a uniform quality platform and target the areas of the waste stream where intervention would result in the largest carbon footprint reductions.
Sadly when offices are refurbished or buildings demolished – a daily occurrence in the hothouse of the Square Mile, much of the re-usable or recyclable furniture and fittings end up in a skip, heading for landfill.
London Re-use set about changing perceptions and offering a sustainable commercial solution with a removal service and re-sale routes into areas such as site construction offices. Led in recent years by a new management team of experts in corporate sales, logistics and new business development and backed by an experienced team of sustainability experts, the business created a commercial offer which had just started to build market share across corporate offices and construction sites alike.
However, in early 2017 a new Mayoral administration was facing the challenges of dealing with London’s declining air quality and sought options for re-focusing its sustainability expenditure. The new administration took the view that London Re-use had run its course as an innovator, supporting new projects and catalysing a growing network, as well as creating new markets and spawning imitators and competitors in its commercial markets – underlining proof of concept.
As a result LWARB determined that funding should be funnelled to new projects and support for London Re-use as a social enterprise and debt-financed limited company was removed; resulting at a formal level of liquidation. London Re-use is no more.
This left 2 burning questions for members of its outgoing senior management team, as business was concluded, WHY be so reliant on funding when the commercial opportunity seemed vast and WHO do we refer our much-valued corporate clients to?
Long-standing social entrepreneur and head of new business, Development Director Chris Bailey, was alert to the vast opportunity and began a round of discussions with other social entrepreneurs operating in the sustainable services space, focusing on those with an understanding of the corporate marketplace and the ability to offer logistics solutions to the challenges posed by the large scale of many of his customers’ operations.
“Initially I was chatting to a lot of digital innovators,” says Chris, “But while I’ve always felt that a good digital presence and robust customer-facing online platforms are key to any SME servicing large corporate clients, I pretty soon realised what I’d known in my heart all along, that fundamentally this was a business that was about people and logistics.”
“All businesses are only as good as their people, the trust they inspire in their employees , clients and the care they dedicate to exceeding those clients’ expectations”, he says “added to that I needed people who understood the value in the assets to be recycled and the safety requirements on modern construction sites.”
“On the other hand I was also looking for a partner whose team wouldn’t be out of place moving furniture and IT equipment in or out of a high tech office in Shoreditch without upsetting workplace operations and furthermore had the fleet capability to do that on a large scale. By that I mean hundreds of desks, chairs and associated equipment coming out of places where you can’t always pull up an articulated truck outside, at any rate not without booking a major parking exemption first.”
“This might seem like basic stuff but they are all things you need to know, understand and organise; then you’ve got to remember that each chair you are carrying out of that building probably cost between anything from £300 to a £1000 when it arrived a few years ago, so it needs care.”
Chris had met Jason Bentley founder and Managing Director of The Recycled Asset Company previously at sustainability conferences and when they sat down to chat there was an instant recognition that they had something to offer each other. More importantly Jason’s business offered a sustainable and ethical commercial solution for Chris’ clients.
Recycled Assets was already well-established and doing around 70% of its business in Central London with a logistics hub based in lower-cost Hampshire and had an impressive client list ranging from IBM, Brenmar, Landsec, Southern Water, Fasset, MatchTech, Veolia, Johnson Controls, The Guinness Partnership, SSE and many more…
Within a few months Chris and Jason were talking to senior Procurement and Sustainability managers at companies including Multiplex, Wates and Willmott Dixon and finding that they were more than willing to take advantage of Recycled Assets services.
“Furthermore,” Jason adds “The Recycled Asset Company, or TRACOUK as we’re often known because of our web address www.tracouk.com, brought a number of new innovations, so we were offering an improvement on the old LRL offer.”
“First there’s our Asset Rebate – meaning that anything we clear from a site or office which can be re-sold will result in a cashback benefit to the client on a percentage basis. That is a key innovation which can partially or wholly offset the removal costs of what would otherwise be treated as waste.
“Then there is our more comprehensive range of services – our business isn’t just about clearances, it includes light strip out, materials recycling, warehouse storage, and fully certified WEEE (electrical equipment) Recycling, including our IT recycling service with secure data removal.
“And having our own fleet of vehicles means that we can also offer our clients re-location, storage and logistics services; as well as allowing us to minimise the carbon impact of delivery through efficient fleet operations. So we are literally your one-stop green logistics and recycling partner.
And finally all this means that we can guarantee that our customers’ sites will only be attended by our own fully trained personnel.”
Jason adds, “I don’t really like to go on about the social enterprise side or the donations to charity because I like to win work on our business capabilities and value proposition, but we are a social enterprise and we do train people into meaningful jobs and we do live and breathe sustainability.”
So far The Recycled Assets Company seems to be going from strength to strength, with Chris adding an enhanced focus on the Square Mile from an operational base in city edge borough Islington. So if you need any new office furniture, require support in re-locating, or just need to clear out your old furniture in a sustainable and ethical manner, then just give Recycled Assets a call.
14th Set 2017 CB/JB