This report provides research findings on corporate social responsibility and its relevance to Waste Management, Inc. This report contains an analysis of issues, recommendations, implementation, opportunities for improvement, and potential benefits to the company with respect to people, planet and profit (Richardson, 2015).
Analysis of issues looks at the major stakeholders and how they have been adversely impacted by the company’s past practices, particularly in the areas of environmental violations and personnel issues. Recommendations include improving relationships with customers through education and community involvement, using employee engagement to shift the corporate culture towards becoming more socially responsible, developing new and utilizing existing technologies to find more use for solid waste in the form of fuel, and assisting businesses with reducing waste and introducing sustainability into their operations.
Implementation ideas include forums and community involvement activities for employees, promotions of zero waste events through corporate sponsorship and education, acting as consultants to show businesses how to turn their waste back into raw materials to be used in the production process, and using lessons learned from Waste Management, Inc. facilities that are successfully producing fuel for operations and selling excess capacity. It also includes self-auditing to ensure adherence to contracts and regulations.
The opportunities arising from the implementation of those recommendations provide benefits to the people aspect in the form of actively engaged employees who see their employer as following through on their commitment to sustainability and become more actively engaged and productive. With respect to planet, adherence to regulations and avoiding violations helps the environment as a whole. Additionally, developing new technology to use recycled materials will keep that material out of the waste stream so that less landfills may need to be opened. If Waste Management, Inc. avoids future environmental violations, this will help profit as fines would be greatly reduced, if not totally eliminated. Creating their own fuel for operations and selling excess fuel will also help the company’s profitability.
By following the guidance on this report, Waste Management, Inc. has the potential to not only have engaged, more productive workforce, but also to make a positive impact to the environment by reducing the amount of waste sent to landfills and the ensuing gas produced at those landfills. By becoming the industry leader in sustainability, the organization has the opportunity to positively impact other businesses in their own pursuit of sustainability and corporate responsibility.
Waste Management, Inc. is North America’s premiere solid waste service provider with their headquarters located in Houston, Texas (WM, 2017). They are on a mission to maximize resource value, while minimizing and even eliminating environmental impact so that both the economy and the environment can thrive (WM, 2017). This company operates many different collection operations, transfer stations, disposal sites and other plants to residential, commercial, industrial and municipal customers (WM, 2017). They are strongly committed to the safe and responsible management of waste, working diligently to ensure regulatory compliance and protection of human health and the environment.
The triple bottom line, people, planet and profit, is for businesses that are looking to do more than just make the biggest profit. This is about building ways to also benefit the people in their community and the planet overall has become the recognized way for businesses to become good citizens (Cote, 2016). When focusing on environmental impact corporations and factories have it is important to look at the responsibility to the community in which it exists- to provide jobs for people, to help drive the economy forward, to better the lives of people in the community (Cote, 2016). When it comes to corporate social responsibility, Waste Management, Inc. has been awarded the “100 Best Corporate Citizens” by Corporate Social Responsibility Magazine in 2015 and 2016 (WM, 2017). They have also been awarded many other awards regarding Sustainability, Conservation and Education, and “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the Ethisphere Institute from 2010 to 2016 (WM, 2017).
When you look at the commendable accomplishments of Waste Management, Inc. it is clear that they look to be a good employer as well as be a responsible corporate leader. However, in today’s economy there are going to be issues for any business, especially those in a position to make a real difference for people, planet and profit. Waste Management, Inc. has faced an issue with recycling. More than 34 percent of garbage is recycled, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a gain of over 400 percent since 1960 (Schlesinger, 2016). This is great, but that progress could be halted due to lower oil prices drive down profits in the recycling industry. David Steiner, the CEO of Waste Management, Inc. stated, “When you look at our recycling business over the last three years when we really saw the downturn, it sort of fluctuated from slightly profitable to slightly unprofitable – a big part of that can be linked to cheaper oil” (Schlesinger, 2016).
When it comes to responsible behavior and waste management there are going to be impacts made to the planet, people and the economy. However, when there is lack of responsible behavior there can be possible negative short and long-term impacts. If Waste Management, Inc. has inappropriate social responsibility, air pollution, water pollution and soil pollution are given long term impacts. Poorly managed waste pollutes the soil, attack vegetation, reduce infiltration of rainwater, clogged pipes and drains discharge storm water and waste water (Kafando, Segda, Nzihou, & Koulidiati, (2013). This can lead to unlivable conditions and human health issues. Lack of responsible behavior on the part of Waste Management, Inc. could be anything from issues with regulations or even codes of conduct. This lack of responsible behavior could lead to loss of shareholders, loss of profits as well as fines and lack of trust from employees and customers.
Analysis of Issues
It is important to evaluate the level of attentiveness and responsiveness that leaders of an organization should embody to enhance relationships between the organization and society. It is also imperative to interpret the health of an organization through the lens of a triple bottom line of people, planet and profits. Waste Management, Inc. will devise a strategic plan to practice responsible corporate behavior for the purpose of developing optimal stakeholder relationships. Along with this, it will be important to evaluate the impact of corporate policies and practices on internal and external stakeholders for leading an organization to operate responsibly.
People (personnel)- Major Stakeholders
Waste Management, Inc. has many major stakeholders, however, there can be some that may have been adversely affected by the behaviors of the organization. One could be the shareholders. The Securities and Exchange Commission filed a suit in 2002 against the founder, Dean L. Buntrock, and five other former top officers for misrepresenting and falsifying financial results between 1992-1997 (U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, 2002). This suit stated that the financial results were manipulated on purpose in order to meet predetermined earning targets. This included changing the depreciation expenses on garbage trucks, arbitrarily assigning salvage values to assets, failure to establish sufficient liabilities to pay for income taxes, improper capitalization of expenses, and failure to record expenses to write off costs of abandoned landfill development projects. This was filed against the company by shareholders, which resulted in a $457 million settlement.
Communities and citizens are major stakeholders who have been adversely affected by irresponsibly corporate behavior. Waste Management, Inc. was ordered to pay $2 million in a class-action lawsuit to residents near the Tullytown, PA landfill. The lawsuit was filed by residents that claimed that the foul odors coming from the landfill not only lowered their quality of life but also lowered property values in the affected areas (Rojas, 2016). The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection also ordered Waste Management, Inc. to close and cap the landfill. The organization was also ordered to install and operate odor misting systems, apply odor control suppressants on weekends and to also power wash the walkways and docks of a nearby marina twice a month.
Along with the two above stakeholders impacted by Waste Management, Inc. government agencies in the form of local municipalities have been adversely affected. Franchise agreements with local municipalities typically give certain exclusive rights to a company and franchise agreements concerning solid waste disposal are no different. In Reno, NV this led to allegations that Waste Management, Inc. was charging businesses less than the rate that was agreed upon in the franchise agreement (Conrad, 2015). Because local municipalities receive an agreed-upon percentage of the fees collected by Waste Management, there is less revenue for the local government. In this instance, a spokesperson for Waste Management, Inc. acknowledged that undercharging has been occurring but audits were being conducted to ensure that all customers were being charged according to the terms of the franchise agreement. Although no wrong-doing was revealed on the part of Waste Management, Inc. (Conrad, 2016), this type of perception of creating a monopoly and undercharging which has the potential to create distrust of any organization.
There have been Sustainability reports since 2010 on the website for Waste Management, Inc. The Sustainability Report Appendix for 2014 details some of the actions taken and progress that has been made with respect to personnel relations.
In regard to shareholders, Waste Management is no longer “cooking the books” in order to meet target earnings. In the 2015 Annual Report, Ernst & Young LLP are now the independent auditors (Waste Management, Inc., 2016). By taking steps to ensure that there are no more scandals will help increase investor confidence and avoid another stock plunge due to corporate irresponsibility. The organization has also been included in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index from 2012 to 2015 as well as being named for the eighth consecutive year, as one of the “World’s Most Ethical Companies” by the research-based organization Ethisphere Institute (Waste Management, Inc., 2016). With focus on sustainability, this is important because it makes the company look attractive to future investors looking to create portfolios of companies focused on sustainability.
When it comes to employees, Waste Management’s 2014 Sustainability Report details their efforts to acknowledge that employees are one of the most valuable resources. Diversity, talent, retention, and mentorship are some of the ways they are showing a commitment to engagement of employees. Waste Management University is also available which provides continual professional and personal development along with learning opportunities for employments to take advantage of. The organizations attempt to engage more with employees through diversity, training and open-door policies may help them with their personnel relations. The shift towards exhibiting the vales that the company touts, not only will help employees see leadership exhibiting those values, but also help employees feel that they themselves are a valued part of the company (Richardson, 2015). This type of intrinsic motivation may lead an increase in performance and efficiency and also to a decrease in employee turnover.
Becoming a responsible member of the communities in which it operates is also another facet of Waste Management, Inc.’s current practices. Self-auditing ensures that the rates stated in franchise agreements are being accurately charged to that the company seen as behaving in an ethical manner (SourceWatch, 2015). By hosting environmental educational sessions at schools across the U.S. they were able to reach 200,000 students in order to educate them about how their actions can help their communities (Waste Management, Inc., 2015). By partnering with Keep America Beautiful they are able to offer grants for community beautification. They also have an ongoing program for community education on the value of recycling. Participation through tours, open houses, community advisory boards and sustainability forums with business customers offers Waste Management the opportunity of a variety of ways to reach out to stakeholders and promote their values of being a responsible business.
Waste Management is making strides to reach their stated goal of zero waste. They offer sustainability consulting services for businesses to help them develop their own environmental strategy. The residential services offer recycling options from everything from batteries and lightbulbs, dumpster rental, Bagster bags for home improvement projects to recycling by mail (Waste Management, Inc., n.d.). The organization partnered with Whole Foods to create a large-scale composting solution at their Illinois facility which allowed for composting 2,660 tons of scrap food and increasing the rate of diversion of food scraps from ten percent to eighty percent (Waste Management, Inc., n.d.).
While the above examples are admirable, the examples listed in the above section, specifically of the class-action lawsuit in Pennsylvania for odors are unfortunately part of a long history of ignoring the environmental impacts of their actions. The Tullytown, PA lawsuit mentioned previously was not only for foul odors, it also cited leachate storage violations (Packel, 2015). Waste Management, Inc. was penalized for storing excessive amounts of leachate for longer than allowed at three separate sites in Pennsylvania. The violations resulted in a fine of over $500,000 and a cap on Waste Management’s license to operate the Tullytown landfill for only two more years. In 2014, a Honolulu grand jury indicted Waste Management, Inc. of Hawaii’s general manager, a vice president and the environmental protection manager. The indictment stemmed from 2010 incidents of alleged illegal discharges of contaminated storm water. Along with that, the three were also charged with conspiring with environmental consulting firm employees to submit false reports to the Hawaii Department of Health-Clean Water Board (United States Department of Justice, Officers of the United States Attorneys, 2014).
Short and long-term effects
For the short-term, while the current environmental policies of Waste Management, Inc. are very noble, with efforts to increase recycling by educating businesses and residential customers on how recycling will ultimately benefit everyone including future generations, the policies will only be truly effective if they are actually followed by all employees, from the CEO down to the front-line employees. If the environmental policies are followed, in the long-term there will be obvious benefits to all stakeholders in the form of a cleaner environment, less waste being disposed of in landfills and development of better technologies to turn waste into useable materials (products, energy etc.), fair charging of customers and employees who are more productive because they feel they are valued and that their organization is making a difference.
Having a responsible environmental policy is increasingly becoming a part of benefitting companies’ stakeholders as they become more socially conscious of how they, and the organizations they support, impact the environment. Patagonia, the company who makes outdoor equipment and clothing, pledges that three-quarters of their products are “environmentally preferred” by being organic, recycled or otherwise environmentally friendly (Adams, 2014). Patagonia also offers employees who volunteer for environmental organizations up to two months off with full pay. This reinforces the company values with the employees and benefits the environmental group as well.
Sound Business Practices (profit)
When a company such as Waste Management, Inc. remains profitable, the benefits to certain stakeholders – employees and shareholders – are obvious through continued employment and stable or increased share priced and dividends. It is with CSR that companies can become even more profitable. With the rise in Sustainable and Responsible Investing (SRI) shareholders are increasingly aware and researching companies CSR policies before deciding where to invest (Noked, 2015). When the company is profitable they are able to reinvest profits in the business in the form of new technology to improve operating efficiently. Communities benefit from the services they provide, the sponsorship of local events or organizations and the continued employment of local people.
It is important for Waste Management, Inc. to not put profit over corporate social responsibility. It may be cheaper to pay the fines for illegal dumping or contamination rather than investing in cleaner operations. However, the “black eye” in the press and accompanying bad publicity could result in stock price drops that could be detrimental to the company. It is important to balance profit with responsible corporate behavior in order to not be seen as a “bad neighbor” in the communities in which they operate. In communities where they wish to operate, it is important to maintain the balance as well; when something such as a new landfill is proposed, if Waste Management, Inc. is seen as being irresponsible there will be many community members who would try to block a proposal for a new landfill based on past actions and the attitude of NIMBY (not in my backyard).
Improving relationships with key stakeholders (employees and customers) will need to be a priority. It is through the active engagement of employees at all levels, Waste Management will begin to see the shift in the organizational culture that will need to happen in order to move towards achieving corporate social responsibility. It is through the engagement of customers and actively involving them in Waste Management’s vision of corporate social responsibility where they will be able to affect the necessary changes in order to move towards becoming a zero-waste operation.
In order to improve on its relationship with employees there needs to be a shift in the organizational culture so that all levels of employees have an understanding of how every role in the organization and every employee is an important part of the journey towards corporate social responsibility, from drivers on up to senior executives. Having a feeling of pride in the work that they do and a sense that their values and the company’s values are the same is a key component to attracting and retaining employees (Meister, 2012).
Since Waste Management serves such a broad population, diversity in their workforce at all levels is another key component of improving Waste Management’s relationships with their employees. Having a diverse workforce will help create a feeling of inclusiveness where all perspectives are considered rather than simply following one narrow perspective. A diverse workforce will also provide more opportunities for innovation and creativity as employees work together to create solutions to issues faced (Waste Management Inc., “Diversity and inclusion”, n.d.).
In order to improve relationships with customers, Waste Management could focus on community involvement. While charitable giving looks nice on paper, making tangible changes/improvements in the communities they serve with the help of their employees will show their customers that Waste Management has a vested interest in being an active part of the communities in which they operate. Incidents such as the one in Tullytown, PA, where Waste Management was the defendant in a class-action lawsuit regarding foul odors (Packel, 2015), or the incident in Honolulu, HI where high-level employees were indicted on a variety of environmental violations (United States Department of Justice, Offices of the United States Attorneys, 2014) do not paint a picture of Waste Management being a good neighbor. Showing a willingness to be an active, contributing part of the community as well as a valuable resource (educational programs, sponsorships) will help to improve customer relationships.
In the Corporate Governance section of their website, Waste Management has an environmental policy which was created in 2002 and recently revised. This policy contains a very high-level overview and outlines principles for compliance, protection, conservation and communication (Environmental Policy, December 8, 2015). These over-arching principles comprise their Environmental Management System (EMS). In their 2014 Sustainability Report Index, further details are provided on areas such as planning, implementation, assessment/corrective action and management review (Waste Management Inc., 2015).
Waste Management may be able to further improve upon these polices by promoting and teaching businesses about zero waste operations. They have enjoyed great success as a sponsor of the golf event The Phoenix Open and achieving their vision of making the tournament a zero-waste event with 100% of trash diverted from landfills (“WM Phoenix Open”, 2016). While Waste Management does assist businesses move towards zero waste operations, sponsoring local events in the communities where they are located and promoting zero waste at those events to educate citizens in additional ways to recycle would not only support their environmental policy but also assist the communities by reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills.
Additional recommendations would be to focus on developing new technologies to convert waste to fuel or ways to recycle more material. By finding more ways to convert waste to fuel the benefits would be two-fold: reducing their own carbon footprint by creating a more sustainable operation and less reliance on outside energy sources and also being able to use this knowledge to help businesses find the possibilities to turn their waste into sources of fuel, thereby reducing their reliance on fossil fuels. Assisting businesses with finding ways to convert their waste into materials that could be introduced back into the manufacturing process would lessen the amount of raw materials those businesses would need to purchase. This would not only help their bottom line, but also help them progress towards achieving their own sustainability goals.
By developing or improving technology to create fuel from waste, Waste Management may be able to reduce their expenditures on fuel and also create new streams of revenue. By harnessing the gas produced at landfills and using technology to treat and turn it into natural gas, Waste Management will be able to reduce their dependence and expenditures on external sources of fossil fuel (“Waste Management to build renewable natural gas facility,” 2013). They would be able to use this natural gas to fuel their fleet or to run a turbine to produce electricity for their own operations. By reducing expenditures for in these areas they may be able to increase profitability (as well as sustainability). They may also be able to sell the natural gas produced to suppliers of natural gas for consumption by their customers, thereby creating another revenue stream. This would also have the benefits of lessening dependence on finite supplies of fossil fuel as well as harnessing the gas produced at landfills rather than releasing it into the environment. Communities and the environment at large would benefit from that.
Another adjustment to be considered is that by improving operational efficiency and operating within EPA, state, and local regulations, Waste Management may be able to avoid the costly fines or lawsuit settlements associated with environmental violations. Using Waste Management in the Defendant field on the EPA’s Enforcement Case Search page (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.) yielded 36 cases from 1983 through 2016. While the total federal penalties associated with the 120 cases in the search results were only slightly less than $6 million, the EPA also includes the value of complying actions (the costs the defendant incurs to comply with the law and restore the environment) and the dollar amount attached to that is listed at over $236 million. This begs the question of whether it would have been less expensive to comply in the first place, rather than pay fines.
Operating responsibly does not mean that a company must sacrifice profitability. Consider Patagonia, the maker of outdoor equipment and clothing with upwards of $540 million in sales; not only does it pledge that 75% of its materials are environmentally sound, it also tithes 1% of profits to environmental groups (Adams, 2014). Whole Foods is an advocate of waste reduction and reducing the consumption of nonrenewable sources. It also created the Local Producer Loan Program, designed to provide low-interest loans to small, local producers so that they can grow their businesses (Liodice, 2010). Burt’s Bees is a member of both the Natural Products Association and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition; as part of the Natural Products Association they also helped to develop guidelines for what can be deemed natural (Liodice, 2010). These companies are examples of what is increasingly important to consumers; not only touting that they are socially responsible but also actively demonstrating that commitment by their actions.
Having employee engagement is going to be a key to success in adopting corporate social responsibility. If middle- and front-line employees do not believe that leadership is truly committed to becoming a socially responsible company, the culture of the organization will not change. One such step could be the implementation of employee forums at each main facility. The forums should be comprised of volunteers from all levels of employees and it should be made clear that there is no class distinction between employees in terms of seniority or place on the organizational chart. The forums should not be gripe sessions, but rather focus on issues that matter to the employees, such as improving the local community or the environment, or brainstorming ways to conserve water or energy in the facility. Focusing on issues that matter to them will make it more likely for the employees to be actively engaged (Gross & Holland, 2011).
Employee engagement may also be heightened by involving them in activities in the communities in which they work. Allowing employees paid time off to volunteer at local events (sponsored booths, playground cleanup, beautification events, Habitat for Humanity) where skills that lay outside the scope of their normal duties are needed may have the benefit of intrinsic motivation. Seeing the difference, they can make in the community may have employees feel that the company truly is committed to social responsibility. Doing this will also have the additional benefit of improving relationships with another group of stakeholders – the communities they serve. Waste Management would benefit greatly from being seen as both a good neighbor and a good employer.
The main sacrifice that would need to be made in order for these particular implementations are man-power. Asking employees to volunteer for forums or community events while trying to balance the same workload would send the wrong message and could be seen as an unreasonable request of their time. The CSR efforts may come to be seen as an afterthought rather than an integral part of the organizational culture. Projects would need to be prioritized and resources may need to be rebalanced in order to make the accommodations.
In order to change the culture of the company, employee engagement may be the biggest challenge, as this encompasses over 38,000 employees (Waste Management Inc., 2015) but it has the potential to bring even more positive change to the company in terms of employee productivity and efficiency. Employees are more likely to view a socially responsible organization as being a fair organization and are more likely to be loyal, dedicated and productive (Gross & Holland, 2011).
Waste Management has succeeded in achieving its goal of zero waste at the Waste Management Phoenix Open (“WM Phoenix Open”, 2016). It is this type of outreach that can have a tremendous impact as they reach a wide audience with an event such as this, and there is the potential for each attendee to take the philosophy of zero waste back to their own community after the event is over.
Some immediate steps they can take to move forward on the recommendation of zero waste is to conduct additional outreach. Promoting zero waste at community events will reach a local audience that otherwise might not know about how it is achieved at a golf tournament. Educational programs at schools or partnering with schools in zero waste initiatives has the potential to reach a young, impressionable audience that may readily embrace this philosophy, return to their homes and start zero waste campaigns in their own households by encouraging other family members.
Another immediate step Waste Management could take is to take the lessons learned from its Riverbend, OR facility and begin to implement them at other facilities. One hundred tons of dry waste from businesses and residents are taken from the nearby transfer station and hauled to Waste Management’s material recovery facility In Hillsboro, where it is sorted and repurposed (Waste Management Inc., “Zero waste,” n.d.). Not only is this material being diverted from going to a landfill, but the waste that actually makes it to the landfill is being used to provide renewable energy to local businesses and residents by harnessing the methane produced from decomposition. Through a series of pipes, this gas is collected and delivered to Waste Management’s energy plant where it is used for powering engines that generate electricity for sale to a local power company.
Implementing the above steps would show elements of social responsibility regarding the environment by increasing recycling (thereby decreasing the amount sent to landfills), harnessing the gas produced at landfills as a renewable energy source and educating the public about how they can play a part in the process. By creating and working on solutions rather than maintaining the status quo and continuously filling landfills, the company culture would shift towards a more sustainability-driven culture of trying to increase the life of the current landfills, saving land (a finite resource) rather than having to create new landfills and harnessing power to provide a renewable resource rather than relying on fossil fuel.
In order to remain profitable Waste Management should develop and/or invest in the technology to convert landfill gas to energy as well as develop and/or invest in ways to convert solid waste to fuel or other forms of energy. The benefits of developing or investing in these technologies are two-fold: using these sources of renewable energy to power their own operations would reduce expenditures in this category while at the same time keeping the raw materials (solid waste and landfill gas) from further filling landfills or the atmosphere.
Another step that can be taken to remain profitable is to self-audit their activities in an effort to adhere to regulations and contracts so that they are not found to be in violation or the subject of lawsuits. As previously stated, complying actions in order to remediate the effects of environmental violations amounted to $236 million between 1983 and 2016 (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.). Aside from any monetary impact is the perception that Waste Management finds it acceptable to pollute rather than be socially responsible.
By taking the steps above, Waste Management has the chance to show their employees that they are indeed moving forward on the path of corporate social responsibility, which is a good step towards a shift in organizational culture away from the attitude of anything for a profit. A 2012 article by Jeanne Meister states that 53% of workers said that having a job where they could make an impact was very important to their happiness (Meister, 2012). Feeling that the company’s values align with theirs may make employees feel more loyal towards their employer and they may also be more productive (Gross & Holland, 2011). A more productive and efficient workforce can help the company remain profitable.
The cost of implementing any of the above changes needs to be considered an investment; an investment in all three aspects of corporate social responsibility (people, planet and profit). If the changes are implemented correctly they should lead to a more productive and efficient work force which will help the company remain profitable. Investing in technology to turn waste into fuel and selling it to power companies could open up additional revenue streams, helping profitability as well.
As a result of implementing the recommendations described, Waste Management, Inc. has potential for opportunities in several areas. 1) improving their relationships with community stakeholders, 2) helping the industry as a whole, and 3) enhancing the company’s profitability.
Controlling operations so that they do not infringe upon the community or become a nuisance, as in the Tullytown landfill class-action suit over odors (Rojas, 2016) would serve Waste Management, Inc. well in terms of being viewed as a good neighbor. Increasing volunteerism in the communities they serve (and not in terms of mere sponsorship) may help with community outreach. Educational programs at schools may encourage children to bring the message of how recycling can benefit the community as well as the planet, back to their families and homes. Creating community gardens in cities where green space is limited may provide not only a community-building experience but also spark sustainability through composting in order to provide soil nutrients for growing fresh produce in those gardens, which could be particularly beneficial in cities and towns alike.
The implementation of the recommendations may also help the industry as a whole. Waste Management, Inc. is the largest provider of solid waste disposal services in North America (Bose, 2016). By implementing these recommendations, the organization has the potential to set the standard for the rest of the waste management companies in the industry in terms of sustainability efforts. Waste Management, Inc. has shown that it can be done on a large scale such as their sponsorship of a national event – a zero waste professional golf tournament (“WM Phoenix Open”, 2016). By setting the benchmark and demonstrating a commitment to furthering zero waste efforts, sustainability and investing in technology to create additional uses, such as fuel out of waste, this creates pressure for other waste disposal companies to follow suit. If they don’t, those organizations could be seen as “out of touch” or “archaic” in terms of their initiatives and efforts. These companies will need to step up their game in order to be seen as a competitive alternative to Waste Management.
Although the implementation of some of the recommendations listed in this report may incur up front expenses in the short-term, they may also have a positive impact on the company’s profitability for the long term. Waste Management, Inc. would still focus on their core business, which is solid waste disposal but they may have opportunity for additional revenue streams by using solid waste to produce fuel or harnessing greenhouse gasses as fuel. They may either se those sources of fuel to run their own operations or they may also sell fuel in excess of what they use.
There is also an opportunity in regard to the recommendation of self-auditing in order to maintain adherence to regulations. The $236 million paid in environmental violations between 1983 and 2016 (United States Environmental Protection Agency, n.d.), while not enough to seriously hinder operations, would not have impacted the overall bottom line of profitability if those violations had been avoided in the first place and corners not cut. By avoiding the accompanying bad publicity associated while these violations, Waste Management, Inc. might also realize opportunities with respect to more contracts being awarded to them for waste disposal and having negotiations being viewed more favorably.
Currently, Waste Management, Inc. does not appear to be in danger of losing its position as the largest provider of solid waste disposal services in North America (Bose, 2016), it can improve upon stakeholders’ perception by making a solid commitment to corporate social responsibility. Becoming more active in educating citizens on sustainability in the communities the organization serves may potentially help reduce solid waste that finds its way to landfills. Promoting sustainability and zero waste at various events through corporate sponsorship may help to provide many stakeholders with a different view of the organizations public persona. While its reputation has suffered from past blemishes in the form of violations and fines, avoiding these violations in the future will help avoid negative press it receives when violations happen. Helping to promote an organizational culture of social responsibility will let employees see that not only does the company provide valuable services but is actively making strides towards social responsibility. Advancing the technology necessary to turn solid waste and landfill gasses into fuel will eventually reduce fuel expenditures for the company. Also, by selling any excess fuel to power companies, it may help the bottom line even further.
On Waste Management, Inc.’s website, it states its mission is “to maximize resources value while minimizing – and even eliminating – environmental impact so that both our economy and our environment can thrive” (Company profile, n.d.). The recommended changes will help them live up to their mission statement. By maximizing resources in the form of turning waste into fuel it will help the environment by keeping more waste out of landfills. Since land and water resources are finite, keeping more waste out of landfills and using less water in processing waste, will allow for those resources to be preserved. By using fuel that is made from waste, the organization is also preserving the environment by not relying as heavily on fossil fuel. The recommendations in this report will not only help Waste Management in remaining profitable by opening potential new revenue streams, but will also help Waste Management, Inc. to be seen as a corporate citizen. Company employees may be more productive if they feel that the company is truly striving towards its mission. It may also attract a new generation of potential investors who are seeking to add sustainability to their portfolios.
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