Texan by Nature is excited to recognize Waste Management (WM) as a 2021 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. Waste Management’s commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Industry and Size: Municipal Services – Enterprise
As North America’s largest environmental services provider, Houston-based Waste Management (WM) operates the largest network of landfills in the industry, managing the disposal of almost 100 million tons of waste every year. This scope requires a forward-thinking approach to mitigate potential impacts from the landfills and ensures communities will be safe and secure in the long term.
WM provides comprehensive waste solutions to a varied customer base, including residential customers, small businesses, large corporations, manufacturing companies, universities, and large public venues.
WM helps customers dispose of the waste they generate in the most environmentally responsible and valuable ways possible. Most of the waste that is not reduced or reused is recycled, composted, or sent to a landfill.
Headquartered in Houston, TX WM has nearly 50,000 employees, with 3,460 employees in Texas – between Field offices and the new HQ.
What is Waste Management’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your organizational culture?
For years, sustainability has been embedded in our strategic business framework. Together, we’ve been committed to moving our vision forward with significant initiatives, investments in new technology, as well as making sustainability the core of our brand promise – Always working for a sustainable tomorrow.
Leveraging our brand reputation, assets, recycling infrastructure, transportation, and logistics expertise, we’re continuing to prove our role as sustainability leaders.
Whether it’s drivers in the field or team members behind desks, everyone’s role plays into the bigger picture – one of a sustainable company that aims to be a leader in the space.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of Waste Management’s business strategy?
At WM, we recognize that the end-of-life for materials is the start of something new. So, we work to manage waste responsibly and collaborate with stakeholders to find ways to create new value – together.
Creating stronger business models through sustainability is critical as we look to include environmental and social metrics as part of our business reviews and investment decisions. We’ll continue to strengthen our supply chain models, prioritizing environmental benefits and diversity in our purchasing decisions.
As North America’s largest environmental services provider, WM operates the industry’s largest network of landfills, managing the disposal of almost 100 million tons of waste per year. Learn more about a WM landfills here and in this video:
Day in and day out, we recommit ourselves to recycling and work to find solutions for our neighbors, team members, their families and friends who want to strengthen their environmental stewardship. From our recycling drivers and technicians to Customer Service teams, we strive to make our communities, cities, towns, and counties better places to work and live.
What are Waste Management’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
In 2019, we announced our commitment to six 2025 goals:
One of our environmental goals is to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Currently, the services we provide avoid three times more GHG emissions than we generate in our operations. Our 2038 goal calls for reducing even more GHG emissions —four times the GHG emissions we generate. All our environmental goals contribute to this overarching mission of emitting less and reducing, avoiding, and offsetting more.
WM aspires to make the communities where we live and work safe, resilient, and sustainable. We invest in programs that preserve biodiversity and conservation; continue programs that prioritize community safety; and organize environmental education programs, including facility tours, community events, and social media engagement campaigns.
Who at Waste Management is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts, and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at WM?
With sustainability efforts as the backbone of our business, team members are always working for a sustainable tomorrow by engaging customers and communities to help find sustainable solutions to benefit current and future generations.
One way we do so is by reducing waste that is generated in our operations and supply chain. As materials break down in the landfill, they produce gas that can be processed into a renewable energy source. Closed landfills can be used for a variety of beneficial purposes such as solar farms or even recreational space.
On the other hand, recycling allows materials to be transformed into new goods. Advanced sorting and monitoring technology at 103 recycling facilities helps us do this with high levels of efficiency. Due to the complexity of the network, and the relationships among recycling commodity markets, policies, and regulations, we are working with partners across the industry rather than trying to identify and solve business challenges alone.
Our recently named Chief Sustainability Officer, Tara Hemmer, is championing our journey toward becoming a corporate sustainability leader beyond the environmental services industry. The focus of our Sustainability Strategy will center on five key areas informed by broader trends framing our world:
“We’re honored that our commitment to sustainability and elevating conservation placed WM on the 2021 TxN 20. Our teams support vibrant communities and we’re proud to help our customers with their sustainability journey. By bringing together our people, customers, and communities as active participants, supporters and advocates to drive our vision forward, we’re continuously solving the challenges of today, while always working for a sustainable tomorrow.”
– Tara Hemmer, WM SVP and Chief Sustainability Officer
Our WM Sustainability Services (WMSS) team helps customers reduce waste by analyzing supply chain choices such as procurement strategy impact on the way waste is managed. These services make recommendations to improve environmental impact and reduce waste generated. Working with a range of sectors—automotive, chemical, manufacturing, and the petrochemical industry—WMSS has helped industrial customers save millions of dollars through a variety of waste reduction and recycling efforts, strategic material sourcing, and optimized logistics.
Our Sustainability team, led by Susan Robinson, focuses on reporting, educating the public around sustainability initiatives and efforts, staying on top of conservation-related conversations, and more.
Our Social Impact team fosters relationships with partners focused on conservation, including Wildlife Habitat Council. In addition, the team works to implement programs that address environmental education, environmental conservation, and community vitality.
The Sustainability team, Social Impact team, and Brand team collaborate to host our annual Sustainability Forum and other thought leadership events that keep sustainability top of mind. See recordings from the 2021 Sustainability Forum here.
Teams across WM partner to think outside the box to lead conservation and sustainability efforts within their communities, with customers, and to develop innovative approaches to today’s problems.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does Waste Management lead and participate in?
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will Waste Management play in that progress?
For WM, sustainability is really a growth strategy.
To keep up with the evolving landscape, WM created the first Chief Sustainability Officer position among publicly traded waste and recycling companies. WM’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Tara Hemmer, entered the role in a period of increasing scrutiny around the contribution of landfill methane to climate change and a growing interest in environmental, social, and governance (ESG) plans from numerous stakeholders. She oversees the company’s recycling, organics, renewable energy and sustainability policy teams.
WM was on the forefront of the recycling movement when we introduced single-stream recycling for customers. Now we’re looking towards the future by investing in new ideas, new facilities, and new markets.
As of the fall of 2020, we’re processing a growing volume of residential recyclables, we continue to reduce our fleet emissions, and we’re creating value from waste at our landfills to generate clean, renewable energy. Record investments in our recycling infrastructure and fleet will help us continue this path, and investing in critical areas, such as landfill emissions and renewable energy, will be essential foundations to our sustainability efforts.
WM Renewable Natural Gas Plant in Ferris Texas, where methane gas is converted to natural gas
WM continues to monitor changes in the field and relies on different technologies for commercial versus residential versus multifamily, keeping at the forefront of what makes the most sense for each.
Plenty of companies have zero waste goals, and as leaders in that space, it’s important that many customers already view us as a sustainability leader. We are focused on thought leadership through the work we do at the Phoenix Open and other events, and we’re also focused on more tangible efforts related to the investments we’ve made in some of our traditional recycling plants.
We have a lot to learn and will continue to apply key lessons to the next generation of technology we deploy throughout North America.
How does Waste Management quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
In a constantly evolving field, it’s important to recognize that there are always opportunities to grow. It’s also important to adjust company approaches and strategies to address today’s issues, which is possible once we understand the current needs to find relevant solutions.
WM was on the forefront of the recycling movement when we introduced single-stream recycling for customers. We learned to think bigger and to innovate to find a solution that wasn’t already considered. We will continue to look towards the future by investing in new ideas, new facilities, and new markets.
What is the one lesson that Waste Management has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
In a constantly evolving field it’s important to recognize that there are always opportunities to grow. It’s also important to understand the current needs to find relevant solutions, by adjusting company approaches and strategies to address today’s issues.
WM was on the forefront of the recycling movement when we introduced single-stream recycling for customers. We learned to think bigger and to innovate to find a solution that wasn’t already considered. We continue to look towards the future by investing in new ideas, new facilities and new markets.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for Waste Management?
WM’s headquarters in Houston, TX, a strategic choice driven by a business-friendly climate, low cost of living, and proximity to rail transport and the ship channel. Furthermore, Houston and the Gulf Coast region are located along major interstate highways and are the home of many oil, gas, petrochemical, and paper industries, which share the same business sector as the waste and recycling industry.
Learn more about Waste Management’s conservation and sustainability efforts here.
Headquartered in Houston, TX WM has nearly 50,000 employees, with 3,460 employees in Texas. WM employees are engaged in conservation and sustainability through WM’s Sustainability team, Social Impact team, and Brand team.
WM’s sustainability service offerings, such as recycling, renewable energy, and organics are responsible for about 10% of the $17B annual revenue.
WM Sustainability Services has helped industrial customers save millions of dollars through a variety of waste reduction and recycling efforts, strategic material sourcing, and optimized logistics.
BulkBin optimizes the way organics are transported to processing facilities, reducing transportation costs and greenhouse gas impact.
For more than 20 years, WM has partnered with Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC) to promote sustainability, wildlife preservation, biodiversity, and environmental education at the company’s 75 WHC-certified sites across North America.
WM creates renewable natural gas (RNG) by converting landfill gas into pipeline quality gas, producing a combined average of 9490 MMBTu daily at three facilities in Texas.
WM currently leases eight closed landfills for solar energy development, which collectively generate 60 megawatts of power.
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