When the firm closed its office last year, some of the teams were unable to perform their usual office-based roles. In May 2020, Sue Mullis and Angela Murphy from the Front of House team were seconded into the Health & Safety and Sustainability team to work alongside Paul Mullis on the ongoing health & safety and sustainability initiatives.
In this interview, Angela and Sue discuss the work they have been doing, how they have adapted to changing roles in lockdown and how the firm's recycling and sustainability initiatives align with the Government's Environment Bill.
What projects have you been involved with during your secondment?
Angela: At the moment the pandemic is having a huge impact on how we live our lives and conduct our business, so a key part of my role has been to review updates from the Government, the Health & Safety Executive and Public Health England and feedback to Paul to ensure our risk assessment is up to date.
We have also been working closely on our recycling project; liaising with our recycling consultants on new artwork for our recycling stations and looking at how we can raise awareness across the firm and make recycling as easy to understand as possible so that we reduce cross contamination of the recycling bins and greatly reduce food and food packaging waste going to landfill.
Sue: I have been working on our Net Zero Project and looking at how sustainable frameworks, green initiatives and upcoming legislation could impact it, as well as working with our energy consultants on our Streamlined Energy & Carbon Reporting submission
I have also been working with Angela, along with the BD and Kitchen teams on our recycling programme to make it even easier to recycle our internal, as well as, external waste. Sadly, no-one has seen our efforts yet, but once you return to the office prepare to have your socks blown off!
How have you found getting to grips with a new role in lockdown?
Angela: My redeployment to Paul's team has been a very interesting and positive move. The type of work I have been doing has been a walk in the park in comparison to home schooling a very energetic, curious six-year-old! I feel I am contributing more to the company and learning more myself. My new role has been quite a challenge with working from home and fitting in home schooling with my son, but I feel that I am achieving this successfully. This in turn has given me a sense of purpose in these hard times.
Sue: Lockdown life as a secondee is very different to my usual role as a receptionist! I have had to follow an almost vertical learning curve to improve my vague knowledge about sustainability, environmental and health and safety matters, and thankfully my recycling know-how is now much sounder than when I started.
That being said, the transition to this new role was quite an easy one – as the boys are older I have no caring responsibilities as such (e.g. home schooling etc) and I had the luxury of being able to talk to Paul at great length about what the firm's aims are regarding recycling, where improvements can and have been made and generally being able to pick his brains. At any given point I could ask questions to understand the whys and wherefore of the importance of recycling and sustainability.
How is the firm's recycling programme linked to the Environment Bill 2020 which is due to become UK Law in early 2023?
Sue: We have aligned the firm's recycling programme with the criteria laid out in the Bill that requires us to split our waste into six streams, and in fact we have exceeded this by recycling across nine different waste streams. We have also put a bigger focus on our handling of food waste. This is one of the key elements of the Bill, which encourages food waste to be recycled and converted into biogas and liquid biofertilizer. This is something we have already implemented in part by recycling our coffee grounds, but we will be looking to take this further when we return to the office.
By improving our recycling strategies, we will reach the target of nil to landfill, as required under the Bill. Once this pandemic has passed, we can continue with the programme of removing all single-use plastics and using 100% compostable Vegware products among other initiatives.
Is there anything that you will take away from your work on the recycling programme when we start to return to the office and you move back to your regular day job?
Angela: I will take with me a better understanding of my recycling responsibilities in my regular day job, as well as at home. I will also aim to support my colleagues in their recycling responsibilities, to build awareness within my team as to its importance, this is why I volunteered to be a green champion.
Sue: I think the most important thing I will take away from this time is knowledge. Of course, I was aware of the need to change, how bad things were getting for the planet and nodding in vigorous agreement with the legend that is David Attenborough, but I honestly didn't fully understand the implications of not changing. I was vaguely aware of what I should be doing but not why and, more importantly, how I could change. From the workplace aspect, our recycling strategy has been simplified and clarified, it is now incredibly easy to recycle properly just by looking at the list on the bins. It is incredibly easy to throw your leftover food in the green bin, rather than the general waste bin.
By simply choosing the right way to recycle we are working towards something that will have an effect in our lifetime, without too much effort or expense. This is something I am looking forward to conveying, as well as sharing this recycling knowledge, with the rest of the Front of House team so, as a team, we can play our part in reducing the impact on the environment, both in our work and home lives.