Go to the main content

The self-assessment module

Introducing the Decision Matrix

Several factors will influence how you prioritise your industrial symbiosis activities. As a company, you will want to identify and progress the best match opportunities that are available. In general, re-sources with high unit costs, high quantities, low specifications, and regular supply patterns are more likely to provide valuable business opportunities. To decide which resources would be beneficial to offer (‘have’), or source (‘want’), consider these aspects:

Full description: Technical characteristics, contamination – Items with high quality or technical specifications, items with variable quality (that may adversely affect production processes), or items that have to be segregated for quality purposes, may prove difficult to source or to offer. Is there a property of the resource that could be beneficial to another company? Or equally important – is it contaminated with a substance that other companies should be made aware of? Contamination is not always a problem: sometimes a contaminant to one process is neutral or a positive to another process (for example, a cement manufacturer can use surface water runoff from their yard, whereas a food manufacturer requires clean water; or the wash water from a slaughterhouse containing blood can be used in anaerobic digestion for its energy content).

Quantity – Where quantities are small, is there potential to aggregate these with those of other nearby companies or your other processing sites if located nearby, to make it worthwhile? For example, waste oils and solvents.

Pattern of supply (one-off, continuous, seasonal) – While one-off batches may provide valuable opportunities, a continuous pattern of supply helps develop lasting business relationships with other companies. If your haves or wants are time-critical, what arrangements could be made to mitigate (for example, additional storage, additional supply/demand options to increase resilience)?

Special considerations: Storage, Handling, Regulations – How is the resource currently delivered or stored before disposal? Will it be easy to pass on to, or accept from, another company? Legislation governing waste can sometimes be an incentive to pursue opportunities and some-times a barrier: Does current legislation allow for the easy transport and reuse of this resource? Are permits or licenses required? Is the resource classified as hazardous waste? Are you aware of any upcoming regulatory changes that may incentivise finding alternatives (for example, an up-coming ban on landfilling a particular material, or an increase in disposal costs or taxes affecting a particular waste)?

Costs – Business pressures may lead you to work on those resources which cost the most first, either to purchase (inputs or ‘want’) or to dispose of (waste/by-product or ‘have’). Developing the business case for further action based on cost may help you gain management support for your activities.

Existing arrangements – If you are currently contractually tied in with a contractor for supply or disposal, then the resource may not be immediately available for an alternative arrangement. Contract penalties may prohibit you working with this resource.

Pilot or trial – To confirm the suitability of an alternative material or other resource, a pilot or trial may be required. Factor in the cost, time and possible disruption of any such requirement.

Where the decision whether to pursue an opportunity is not immediately obvious, then consider completing a decision matrix. A decision matrix may be helpful when: you have many resources to consider and only have time to pursue a few of the options; you need to persuade others in your company that an opportunity is worth pursuing; or even as a quick ‘sense check’ for reassurance that the right decision has been made.

The following page has an example of a decision matrix, together with links to download blank versions for each resource type.