Texan by Nature is excited to recognize WM as a 2023 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. WM’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, 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 landfill and ensure communities will be safe and secure in the long term.
As the leading environmental service and solutions company in North America, 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.
What is WM’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
Based in Houston, Texas, WM is the leading provider of comprehensive waste management environmental services in North America. 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 infrastructure, innovation, and expertise, we’ve set a bold sustainability vision for the future: one where material is repurposed, energy is renewable, and communities are thriving.
For decades we’ve played an integral role in keeping communities clean, safe, and functioning. But it’s the work our employees perform each day that makes a sustainable tomorrow possible. Together, we’re working to achieve a bold sustainability vision that reimagines possibilities. Through our sustainability vision, we’re amplifying what’s possible for recycling and decarbonization in communities across the country.
As a result of WM’s commitment to conservation and the environment, we’re honored to be named to the 2023 TxN 20 list. At WM, our teams are driven by three bold ambitions – materials are repurposed, energy is renewable, and communities are thriving. This means we are invested in enabling sustainability progress for businesses and cities across Texas and all the communities we serve in North America.
– Tara Hemmer, WM Chief Sustainability Officer
How is conservation and sustainability a part of WM’s business strategy? Sustainability is a growth strategy. By evolving waste and recycling solutions to expand the reuse of materials, we’re making landmark investments in innovative technologies that turn waste into new forms of energy.
For many decades, we’ve played an integral role in our communities, enabling sustainability progress for businesses and cities across the country. Now, WM is focused on reinventing what’s possible for communities, companies, and society to be more sustainable.
Currently, WM has the most landfill gas-to-electricity plants in North America, is the largest recycler of post-consumer materials with the most recycling facilities in the country, and advances sustainability strategies for some of the world’s biggest brands. As only WM has the infrastructure, innovation, and expertise to drive the sustainable future that companies and our society are demanding, we realized there was an opportunity to do more.
In response, WM set three bold ambitions for the future:
Our industry-leading sustainability vision is focused on waste and recycling solutions to expand the reuse of materials, giving new life to things we no longer use, and lessening our collective footprint. We’re making landmark investments in innovative technologies that turn waste into new forms of energy, which can be used to power our trucks and your homes. And we’re empowering our communities with knowledge and resources to thrive within clean, resilient environments.
What are WM’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
WM’s three bold ambitions (Material is repurposed, Energy is renewable, and Communities are thriving) are supported by the following goals:
CIRCULARITY: Increase WM’s recovery of materials by 60% to 25 million tons by 2030, including an interim milestone of a 25% increase by 2025.
WM’s circularity goal is the largest commitment to recovery and beneficial reuse of materials in our industry. By keeping more material in the circular economy, we can recover untapped value of waste and meet consumer demand for recycled products while simultaneously limiting emissions that enter the environment. To achieve this ambition, we are:
CLIMATE IMPACT: WM commits to reduce absolute Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions 42% by 2031 from a 2021 base year*, and target beneficial use of captured landfill gas to 65% by 2026)
Our climate impact goal is a leading emissions reduction target within our industry. It is aligned with the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to 1.5℃ and the Science-Based Target Initiative—gold standards in climate action and leadership. To achieve this ambition, we are:
We are on a path to expand renewable natural gas (RNG) generated from landfill gas at WM operated facilities by EIGHT TIMES by 2026.
SOCIAL IMPACT: Positively impact 10 million people in our communities through targeted social impact programs by 2030, using the equivalent of 2% of our net income.
Not only is putting people first one of our fundamental commitments, but we also know we cannot thrive as a business if our communities are not supported, clean, safe, and sharing in diverse, inclusive opportunities. Our social impact commitment is a significant, leading investment that exemplifies our dedication to supporting our communities. To achieve this ambition, we are:
Safety: Reduce Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) by 3% annually, targeting 2.0 by 2030; and continued focus on prevention of serious injuries.
Diversity & Inclusion: Represent the communities we serve by increasing female representation from front line to leadership roles and minority representation in manager and above roles.
Who in your company is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at your company?
Tara Hemmer Sr. Vice President & Chief Sustainability Officer
As WM’s Senior Vice President and Chief Sustainability Officer, Tara Hemmer is responsible for growing sustainable service offerings, including recycling, renewable energy and organics. In addition, she oversees all environmental, social impact and governance initiatives.
Brent Bell VP, Recycling
Leads recycling businesses & MRF network.
Shahid Malik VP, Renewable Energy
Leads renewable energy business & RNG network.
P.J. Foote VP, Sustainability Growth
Leads sustainability growth strategy & related PMO.
Eric Dixon VP, Sustainability & Environmental Solutions
Leads environmental, sustainability & advisory services and related reporting.
Kristine Richmond Sr. Director, ESG & Sustainability Impact
Leads ESG & sustainability goal setting & embedding within the business.
Eric Myers Director, Organics
Leads organics & biosolids tech/solutions.
Our Sustainability Team focuses on reporting, educating the public around sustainability initiatives and efforts, staying on top of conservation-related conversations, and more.
Our Social Impact team – at the corporate level and with team members in the field – fosters relationships with partners focused on conservation, including Wildlife Habitat Council. In addition, the team works to implement programs to address environmental and social issues connected to our core focus areas of sustainability education, environmental stewardship, and community vitality.
Our Sustainability Services team works with customers to determine where they want to go and how we can develop efficient, cost-effective strategies to help them get there. By proposing innovative solutions, we pinpoint the actions needed to achieve a variety of ambitious sustainability goals.
Several teams across the enterprise partner to think outside the box to lead conservation and sustainability efforts within their communities and to work with customers to develop innovative approaches to today’s problems.
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does WM lead and participate in?
For 30 years, customers have asked for disposal alternatives for materials. We take the charge seriously, creating an array of service solutions—from consulting to residential and commercial recycling, to investments in technologies that handle industrial material, to other beneficial uses such as composting and energy generation.
CORe® is our organic recycling program that converts food waste into EBS®, an organic slurry that generates green energy at four locations in North America. CORe allows us to collect leftover food and organics from restaurants, schools, food processing plants and grocery stores before we filter out contaminants like plastic, packaging materials and bones.
Where CORe reinvented organics processing, BulkBin optimizes the way organics are transported to processing facilities. BulkBin was created in collaboration with container manufacturers to be used by businesses that generate organic materials on a large scale. BulkBin maximizes transportation space, increases food waste delivered and decreases the number of hauls needed. This reduces transportation costs and greenhouse gas impact.
When a landfill reaches its capacity, it doesn’t necessarily reach the end of its life. After closure, monitoring continues, based on strict standards to ensure long-term safety. WM converts land surrounding closed disposal sites into beneficial community assets. We currently lease eight closed landfills for solar energy development, which collectively generate 60 megawatts of power.
The Sustainable Sports and Entertainment division offers a nationwide network of environmental professionals to help advance teams, venues and organizations operate sustainably. Environmental stewardship offers venues an opportunity to affect social change, engage local communities, grow brand affinity and advance the purpose of sport. For the past decade, WM has been the title sponsor of the WM Phoenix Open, the most attended PGA TOUR tournament and the largest third party-certified zero waste event in the world. This spotlight allows us to engage with stakeholders on environmental issues, shift business and consumer behaviors toward thoughtful product design and materials management and raise the bar for sustainable sports globally. In advance of the 2020 tournament, we joined the United Nations Sports for Climate Action initiative, which is helping to mobilize the sports community in achieving the goals of the Paris Agreement. The WMPO is embracing and advancing the principles established by the Sports for Climate Action Framework, including promoting environmental responsibility, reducing climate impact, educating participants around climate action, promoting sustainable and responsible consumption, and advocating for climate action.
Wildlife Habitat Council –For more than 30 years, WM has partnered with WHC, a nonprofit that empowers companies to advance biodiversity, sustainability, employee engagement and community relations goals, to promote wildlife preservation and environmental education and stewardship at the company’s 74 WHC-certified sites across North America. Through certification, WHC recognizes wildlife habitat management and community environmental education programs. In addition, we are piloting two microforest projects to provide optimum carbon sequestration, air pollution reduction and stormwater control.
WM creates renewable natural gas (RNG) by converting landfill gas, which is roughly half carbon dioxide and half methane, into pipeline quality gas that is interchangeable with natural gas at three RNG facilities in Texas. These three facilities produce a combined average of 9490 MMBTu daily.
How do you see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will WM play in that progress?
For WM, sustainability is truly a growth strategy and a growth lever at its heart.
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 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. In addition, she oversees all environmental, social impact and governance initiatives.
Since the fall of 2020, we’ve been processing a growing volume of residential recyclables as we continue to reduce our fleet emissions. We’re also 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.
Making investments in critical areas, such as landfill emissions and renewable energy, will be essential foundations to our sustainability efforts.
As the world evolves, we’ll look to different technologies for commercial versus residential versus multifamily use and will determine what makes the most sense. Many customers view us as a sustainability leader, and that’s important. Plenty of companies have zero waste goals, and we have a leadership position in that space. Not just from a thought leadership perspective, with the work we do at the Phoenix Open and other events, but 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 apply key learnings to the next generation of technology we deploy throughout North America.
How does WM quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
WM is an environmental services company focused on changing waste collection, creating alternative fuels and circular economies, and forging a more sustainable tomorrow. Our total spend on investment goes toward human capital, communities, greenhouse gas emissions avoidance and environmental and conservation programs.
What is the one lesson that WM 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 world, it’s important to recognize the endless pathways for growth. To effectively adjust strategies to address today’s issues, it’s important to understand the current needs so we can 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 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 WM?
WM’s headquarters in Houston, TX, is 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 information on WM’s conservation and sustainability efforts here.
With an additional 1.6 billion in planned investments from 2022-2025 to grow recycling and renewable energy businesses.
With 73 certified wildlife habitat programs, 70 pollinator programs, and 177 active habitat, species and education certified projects.
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas