Reduce Reuse Recycle - Business Style

In our private lives, we all know the three R's of "reduce reuse recycle". You may even remember them as part of a mildly annoying kids' song. Read about how to introduce this mantra to your everyday business activities the strategic way.

The version of the three R's used by the ISO 26000 is: avoid > reduce > reuse > recycle, reprocess > treat > dispose. It's somewhat harder to remember, but the emphasis is key: put most of your effort into avoiding waste altogether! Change your core business processes to produce less waste.

Where to start

No doubt, your business is already taking some action to throw away less stuff. But there certainly are aspects of your everyday business that you haven't really thought about when it comes to minimizing waste.

You want to do it right and get the best results possible? Then go the strategic way: sit down with your team and look at every business process. Do it from the inside out, starting with the very core of your business.

  • Which materials go into the process?
  • What kind and amount of waste is produced? --> You could do a waste audit
  • How could the process be changed to create less waste? Could you save materials during the process, i.e. produce less clippings? How?
  • Can you use materials that are more sustainable, i.e. recycled?

Questions for the procurement guy

Where are the materials sourced? Could you source them from a closer supplier? Could recycled or partly recycled materials do the same job? When you look at prices, also keep in mind how much changing to "greener" supplies will influence your business image and therefore your long-term revenue.

Your purchasing decisions are a major factor for your triple bottom line - and relatively easy to change towards a more sustainable approach. Give your procurement guy a pair of "green glasses": every time your business buys something, look for the more sustainable alternatives. And if that sustainable option is too expensive (which will be the case less often than you think), reconsider if you really have to buy now. Any chance you can hold off on that new oven / car / high-performance printer another year and save up for the greener option?

Sure, sometimes you will still have to decide purely based on the price tag. If you do, add a note with the more sustainable options you found but couldn't buy this time. And plan for the expense when you need to buy next time around.

So what is YOUR core business?

This example will make it easier for you to define what is your core business. It shows you which questions to ask yourself to make the most out of your "reduce reuse recycle" efforts. You can read more about saving water elsewhere on

For the waste that was unavoidable...

Is there any way your business, your employees or another business could use the waste you produced? For example, food waste could become pig feed (check your regional food hygiene regulations) or fertilizer. Some paper waste may be useful for arts and crafts in kindergartens or schools. Upcycling projects always look for materials to use - google your local initiatives.

Recycle to divert

Recycle the waste that you cannot find another use for to divert it from landfill (ideally all of it). Get in touch with your local or regional waste management provider to make sure you are recycling all you can. There's money in it for them, too, so you can be sure to get good service if you ask them directly.

What's in it for your business?

First and foremost: you save money by using fewer materials, and by putting less waste into landfills. You make your business less vulnerable to fluctuating prices of (raw) materials and waste management. And, especially by tackling "reduce reuse recycle" the strategic way, you can significantly lower your business's impact on the environment. Don't forget to tell your stakeholders about it!

More content to reduce, reuse and recycle:

How to save paper at work, the strategic way. How to reuse anything at work. How to deal with e-waste in your business.

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