Becky Kendall, Senior Programme Manager, Continuous Improvement Projects Ltd

Most organisations understand the terms efficiency and value in a business setting, they’ve been around for a long time.

Although very much related, the concepts of sustainability and waste are newer and harder to define.

We have found looking at business problems through our Lean-Green lens can make all the difference.

Arguably, we are better at spotting and dealing with waste at home than we are at work.

With the many recycling and reuse schemes available to us, there is little excuse to live in the wasteful way we have been used to.

Yet, in the business world - and FE is no exception - we often struggle to identify that waste even exists, let alone have a plan to deal with it.

The concepts of waste, sustainability and reuse are novel at work in a way that they aren’t at home, and yet the volume of commercial and industrial waste is, as you’d expect, far higher.

Waste appears in different forms, it could be:

  • Poor or non-existent business processes that produce duplication or unneeded products;
  • Misguided “economies of scale” purchases that result in stockpiles of unused resources;
  • Restrictive “bricks and mortar” view of the world (more about that later!) that uses unnecessary carbon emissions to maintain.

Waste accumulates for different reasons.

There’s the “we’ve always done it this way” approach that ignores something that no longer holds any value because for years it used to work just fine.

There’s the “but all our competitors are doing it” approach, the “it sounded good in theory” approach, the “it costs less money” approach (remember, cheap does not necessarily equal value for money), and countless more you will have come across, or be in the midst of right now. Ways of working that aren’t just inefficient, but can produce huge amounts of waste.

Steps to break these entrenched mindsets don’t need to be mighty strides.

At one London university, we delivered a project that included redesigning the service portfolio and customer service processes for a high profile department. We discovered a lot of wasted time, wasted effort and certainly wasted money, and some of this waste had an environmental impact.

Expensively produced, printed literature was regularly sent out to customers internationally, using not just the resources needed to produce them, but also the transport to deliver them across the globe. The irony was, customers didn’t even want these because of the delay in receiving and responding to these communications. Going digital not only got rid of this waste, but actually improved customer experience.

Creative ways to eliminate waste

Once you start looking for this kind of waste through a Lean-Green lens, you’ll see it everywhere, and think of creative ways to eliminate it. It could be as simple as donating used toner cartridges to a recycling charity, or going paperless. Or it could be building a network across organisations to collaborate on building a shared database of information, so instead of it being developed and implemented eight times across eight organisations, it’s just done once. The possibilities really are endless.

Old ways of reducing inefficiencies included wiping the slate clean by disposing - not reusing or recycling - what didn’t work. This could include computer networks, buildings, furniture, paper files, training courses, or even staff.

These streamlining exercises sometimes produced more waste than they saved. Because environmental sustainability wasn’t a part of the equation, waste could start to accumulate again because “eliminating waste” was viewed more as a house clearance rather than addressing what caused the house to become full in the first place and finding ways to prevent that before it becomes a problem.

The Lean-Green approach advocates drilling down to the root cause of the problem to implement permanent, long-term solutions instead of workarounds.

Sometimes waste is deeply entrenched in a business culture.

Last year, with so many people working remotely who weren’t before, it was rewarding to see people realise what we already knew: if you make the most of the technology you already have, you can eliminate so much waste.

Think what waste goes into an unnecessary face-to-face business meeting. Everything from travel to the meeting, uneaten sandwiches, disposable coffee cups, building maintenance and security, maybe some printed papers.

Remote learning can and has been very effective, but we’re not suggesting remote learning is always the answer, in fact we will steer clear of that topic! But there is a lot of non-teaching work done by FE organisations, and a lot of it does not need wasteful trips into an office every day to do it.

Of course there are organisations that already place high value on efficient ways of working that include environmental sustainability.

But at present, it’s difficult for them to assess how sustainable they are because there are no targets set by the Government and there is often limited knowledge on what to measure or how. Many organisations have no baseline of how sustainable they are at the moment, therefore struggle to know how they’re progressing.

Lean provides a data-driven, evidence-based approach to making improvements, and to turn that subjective, intangible data into objective, tangible data. It helps us understand what progress is being made, and where improvement is still needed.

Our CEO, Kiran Kachela, recently graduated from the University of Cambridge Judge Business School course on Circular Economy and Sustainability. She realised we were already using Lean to develop a strong culture of continuous improvement and achieve sustainable change that lasts in the work we do. Including the philosophy of the Circular Economy and environmental sustainability into our Lean approach, gave us the Think Green, Go Lean campaign that we have just launched.

Like a lot of people, we genuinely care about reducing waste, and rather than just talk about it, we want to share ideas that work so that we can continue to learn and improve. We’d love to hear your thoughts, so why not join the conversation.

Becky Kendall, Senior Programme Manager, Continuous Improvement Projects Ltd

You may also be interested in these articles:

Sponsored Video

Register, Login or Login with your Social Media account:


Upcoming FE Events

Advertiser Skyscrapers

Newsroom Activity

FE News: The Future of Education News Channel had a status update on Twitter 10 hours 7 minutes ago

RT @FENews: Committed to mental health – University Centre Leeds becomes early adopter of new charter: University Centre Leeds (@UniCentreL…
View Original Tweet

Alicia has published a new article: Teachers: Our Unsung Heroes of 2021 12 hours 18 minutes ago
william bradley commented on The Importance of Social-Emotional Learning with At-Risk Students 14 hours 55 minutes ago

SEL is helpful to both children and adults, increasing self-awareness,...

Latest Education News

Further Education News

The FE News Channel gives you the latest education news and updates on emerging education strategies and the #FutureofEducation and the #FutureofWork.

Providing trustworthy and positive Further Education news and views since 2003, we are a digital news channel with a mixture of written word articles, podcasts and videos. Our specialisation is providing you with a mixture of the latest education news, our stance is always positive, sector building and sharing different perspectives and views from thought leaders, to provide you with a think tank of new ideas and solutions to bring the education sector together and come up with new innovative solutions and ideas.

FE News publish exclusive peer to peer thought leadership articles from our feature writers, as well as user generated content across our network of over 3000 Newsrooms, offering multiple sources of the latest education news across the Education and Employability sectors.

FE News also broadcast live events, podcasts with leading experts and thought leaders, webinars, video interviews and Further Education news bulletins so you receive the latest developments in Skills News and across the Apprenticeship, Further Education and Employability sectors.

Every week FE News has over 200 articles and new pieces of content per week. We are a news channel providing the latest Further Education News, giving insight from multiple sources on the latest education policy developments, latest strategies, through to our thought leaders who provide blue sky thinking strategy, best practice and innovation to help look into the future developments for education and the future of work.

In Jan 2021, FE News had over 173,000 unique visitors according to Google Analytics and over 200 new pieces of news content every week, from thought leadership articles, to the latest education news via written word, podcasts, video to press releases from across the sector, putting us in the top 2,000 websites in the UK.

We thought it would be helpful to explain how we tier our latest education news content and how you can get involved and understand how you can read the latest daily Further Education news and how we structure our FE Week of content:

Main Features

Our main features are exclusive and are thought leadership articles and blue sky thinking with experts writing peer to peer news articles about the future of education and the future of work. The focus is solution led thought leadership, sharing best practice, innovation and emerging strategy. These are often articles about the future of education and the future of work, they often then create future education news articles. We limit our main features to a maximum of 20 per week, as they are often about new concepts and new thought processes. Our main features are also exclusive articles responding to the latest education news, maybe an insight from an expert into a policy announcement or response to an education think tank report or a white paper.

FE Voices

FE Voices was originally set up as a section on FE News to give a voice back to the sector. As we now have over 3,000 newsrooms and contributors, FE Voices are usually thought leadership articles, they don’t necessarily have to be exclusive, but usually are, they are slightly shorter than Main Features. FE Voices can include more mixed media with the Further Education News articles, such as embedded podcasts and videos. Our sector response articles asking for different comments and opinions to education policy announcements or responding to a report of white paper are usually held in the FE Voices section. If we have a live podcast in an evening or a radio show such as SkillsWorldLive radio show, the next morning we place the FE podcast recording in the FE Voices section.

Sector News

In sector news we have a blend of content from Press Releases, education resources, reports, education research, white papers from a range of contributors. We have a lot of positive education news articles from colleges, awarding organisations and Apprenticeship Training Providers, press releases from DfE to Think Tanks giving the overview of a report, through to helpful resources to help you with delivering education strategies to your learners and students.


We have a range of education podcasts on FE News, from hour long full production FE podcasts such as SkillsWorldLive in conjunction with the Federation of Awarding Bodies, to weekly podcasts from experts and thought leaders, providing advice and guidance to leaders. FE News also record podcasts at conferences and events, giving you one on one podcasts with education and skills experts on the latest strategies and developments.

We have over 150 education podcasts on FE News, ranging from EdTech podcasts with experts discussing Education 4.0 and how technology is complimenting and transforming education, to podcasts with experts discussing education research, the future of work, how to develop skills systems for jobs of the future to interviews with the Apprenticeship and Skills Minister.

We record our own exclusive FE News podcasts, work in conjunction with sector partners such as FAB to create weekly podcasts and daily education podcasts, through to working with sector leaders creating exclusive education news podcasts.

Education Video Interviews

FE News have over 700 FE Video interviews and have been recording education video interviews with experts for over 12 years. These are usually vox pop video interviews with experts across education and work, discussing blue sky thinking ideas and views about the future of education and work.


FE News has a free events calendar to check out the latest conferences, webinars and events to keep up to date with the latest education news and strategies.

FE Newsrooms

The FE Newsroom is home to your content if you are a FE News contributor. It also help the audience develop relationship with either you as an individual or your organisation as they can click through and ‘box set’ consume all of your previous thought leadership articles, latest education news press releases, videos and education podcasts.

Do you want to contribute, share your ideas or vision or share a press release?

If you want to write a thought leadership article, share your ideas and vision for the future of education or the future of work, write a press release sharing the latest education news or contribute to a podcast, first of all you need to set up a FE Newsroom login (which is free): once the team have approved your newsroom (all content, newsrooms are all approved by a member of the FE News team- no robots are used in this process!), you can then start adding content (again all articles, videos and podcasts are all approved by the FE News editorial team before they go live on FE News). As all newsrooms and content are approved by the FE News team, there will be a slight delay on the team being able to review and approve content.

 RSS IconRSS Feed Selection Page