A Business student at Liverpool Hope University has been collaborating with a local tech company to find innovative ways to make it more sustainable.
Umair Sadiq, 32, is a mature student at Hope, studying an International Master of Business Administration.
As part of the Master’s programme, he was asked to carry out a two-part consultancy project and was praised for the impact his consultancy had on the firm.
In the first phase, Umair provided some recommendations and policy directives to the Liverpool LEP (Local Enterprise Partnership) on making the advanced manufacturing sector more sustainable.
The second phase required working with Liverpool City Region at IoT Horizon – a high-tech and innovative software-based sensor company.
And Umair says he was thrilled to be able to work with the firm to see how they could implement sustainable business practices by utilising circular economy principles.
He explains: “These aren’t purely ‘expert’ consultancies, per se. It’s what we call ‘process consultancy’ where you act as a facilitator, empowering the firm to solve their problem, rather than being the dictator of ideas.
“This consultancy blended process consulting with elements of expert knowledge gained during the process. It’s a collaborative framework and process.”
Umair, of Levenshulme, Manchester, previously completed an undergraduate programme in Textiles Management and Marketing at the Textiles Institute of Pakistan, Karachi, and also completed a Master’s in Marketing at the University of Salford in 2012.
He’s also got a wealth of experience in the industry, leading the marketing team at TEDxSalford, working with a B2B growth marketing agency and more recently a Facilities Management services and software firm.
Last year he was also nominated for ‘Mentor of the Year’ at the 2020 UK Social Mobility (SOMO) Awards, thanks to his voluntary work on the Alumni Mentoring Panel at the University of Salford, leading to the university getting included in the Honour Roll.
The firm Umair examined, IoT Horizon, produces IoT (‘Internet of Things’) sensor solutions.
The sensor product Umair worked on “MPWR:Sense”, measures things like temperature, humidity, airborne particulates, and Co2 levels in real time and is also able to send alerts when necessary.
In practical terms, its prototype sensor enables those in the manufacturing industry, healthcare, or even a typical office, to control an environment where it might affect productivity or health.
The sensor is also able to transfer such data in an extremely secure manner.
Umair and IoT Horizon were keen to ensure the product was sustainable and circular-by-design - making sure sustainability is built into the product from the very beginning.
The 2nd phase of the process consultancy involved five key stages - negotiation, issues discussion, main consultancy ‘project’ phase, reporting and ‘smooth exit’ - and took around four weeks to complete.
The consultancy was also delivered through Hope’s partnership with Liverpool’s The Good Business Festival.
Umair explains: “I worked with the business to increase its knowledge about the wider scope of sustainability and principles of the circular economy. There was a collective learning aspect where I introduced ‘QBLA’ - Quadruple Bottom Line Accounting – to the team, which is composed of four ‘Ps’ - Planet, Profit, People and Purpose.
“And by leveraging the principles of Circular Economy, ultimately achieving zero waste, as opposed to the current ‘take, make, waste’ culture. We have finite materials - so how can we keep them longer in the useability loop and prolong their life cycle? How can we prolong and maintain the loop so that we can keep regenerating biodegradable materials? And how can you extend sharing with the wider community, so that others don’t have to keep buying new products?
“If you can make the product so it’s easy to maintain and troubleshoot, for example, you can prolong its life. And you also need to consider refurbishing and remanufacturing, using parts of a previous product which are still in good condition, and merging them with a new product.
“When you’ve done all of this, and the product is truly exhausted, it should then be easily recyclable.”
Umair says some of the practical suggestions the consultancy created were to use good quality and robust casings and sensors. At first glance, this might appear to raise costs, but the long-term profitability is increased because the parts or sub-components are easier to reuse, remanufacture, refurbish and recycle.
The firm could also use screws or clips to assemble the product to (again) make it easier to open back up, and maintain and reuse without destroying. Similarly, Modular Design aspects for the product were also discussed.
Meanwhile, having a protected QR code which codifies all the components and sub-components in the product ensures that it can be more efficiently recycled or reused.
Through these facilitated discussions, Umair also helped the business identify a new revenue opportunity from their existing business.
Crucially, through this process consultancy, the aim was to equip the firm with the skills to do its own problem solving in the future.
A spokesperson for IoT Horizon said the consultancy had changed its ‘business outlook on sustainability and circularity’.
The firm added: “Umair completed an exceptional consultancy project for IoT Horizon as part of his MBA. His final project looked at how our IoT Sensor solution could become more sustainable by adopting circular principles.”
“Although we were aware of sustainability, Umair helped us to understand the need for circularity and how it was applicable to all areas of the business including: hardware, software and consultancy services.”
“Umair was professional, engaging and informative throughout his project, and has ultimately changed our business outlook on sustainability and circularity. We look forward to working with Umair moving forward.”
The consultancy project was delivered under the supervision of Revd. Dr Tony Bradley, Lecturer in Business Sustainability, Social Enterprise & Innovation at the University.
Umair reveals: “Tony has been teaching us that sustainability is a continuous process, a ‘pilgrimium’ journey, not a goal or destination. Conveying this concept to the team at IoT Horizon was important, as we set them on their ‘pilgrimium’ journey of sustainability, empowered with the right mindset.”
Dr Bradley commenting on the project added: “It is difficult to overstate how impressive a Consultancy this was, diagnostically, methodologically and technically, as well as in terms of reading the culture of the business.”
“The arguments and recommendations were not only convincing, they were being implemented in real time, as the Training Consultancy went forward. This is unprecedented in my experience over 10 years.”