Waste Management actively seeks out dialogue with all stakeholders who have an interest in our business and hold us accountable to our principles.
We engage broadly, and at every level, with industry peers and multistakeholder groups to discuss the issues affecting our business and the ways in which our operations may affect others. Insights from these engagements help shape our strategic plans and business targets and are especially important for guiding our work within our communities.
We take a systematic approach to stakeholder engagement, starting with public accountability. Every two years we identify the key stakeholders with whom we engage – from environmental and community groups to business and manufacturing leaders, from government associations to scientific academies. These stakeholders can be found across multiple sectors and within our communities. All are essential in helping us stay abreast of current trends, perspectives and policy matters that affect our industry, our customers and our communities.
Our engagement takes many forms. When working on facility upgrades and new construction, we map our community footprint and seek to engage groups and individuals in open dialogue through Community Advisory Councils or more informal routine interactions, open house events, public meetings, tours and more. With our larger customers, we host sustainability forums that focus on ways to reduce costs, lessen environmental footprints and increase the reuse of resources.
Participation in policy discussions supplements our dialogue at the local level and ensures that we are working with stakeholders from many perspectives. We give dozens of presentations each year on topics involving recycling, renewable energy and fuel, and civic engagement. Since 2011, we have sponsored the multistakeholder dialogues of the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition. We believe there is enormous value in bringing together diverse viewpoints in a sustained effort to find common ground and mutual understanding of difficult environmental challenges.
In 2014 and 2015, Waste Management representatives served on dozens of boards and governmental advisory committees, including:
- Member of the Board of Keep America Beautiful Outgoing Chair of the Business Network for Environmental Justice
- Member of the Board of the Wildlife Habitat Council
- Member of the Board of the AMERIPEN – American Institute for Packaging and the Environment
- Steering Committee member of The Recycling Partnership
- Founding sponsor of the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition
- Member of the Board of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation
- Corporate Executive Council member of The Sustainability Consortium
For a full listing of our memberships and associations, see our Community Appendix.
Environmental Justice and Corporate Disclosure
Our commitment to celebrating diversity of opinion underpins our longstanding active engagement on environmental justice. One of the central principles of the environmental justice movement is that community members speak for themselves. We agree – and for that reason we continue to sponsor scholarships to the National Environmental Justice Conference and Training Program and serve on the association’s board. This annual environmental justice workshop, co-sponsored by major federal agencies and members of the private sector, brings together community groups and officials from various levels of government charged with protecting human health and the environment to talk about the practical means to achieve environmental justice.
In recent decades, low-income communities and communities of color in the United States have raised the concern that, when compared with more affluent communities, they have borne a disproportionate environmental burden. These communities and their advocates have called for fairness in the siting of landfills, waste-processing facilities and other industrial facilities – an element of what is frequently referred to as environmental justice. This is a concern that Waste Management takes very seriously.
For more than 20 years, we have expressed our commitment to environmental justice through direct and sustained collaboration with regulators, community groups, academics, advocates and others in the industry to ensure that communities that host our facilities are treated fairly. But more than that, we want to assure our stakeholders that our facilities are distributed equitably across the country and are not concentrated in communities where race or economic inequality might affect fair access to the local decisionmakers who determine where industrial facilities can be sited. Using the methodology designed by environmental justice experts and recommended by the U.S. EPA, we believe we were the first to map our landfills and waste-to-energy facilities – the sites for which local community groups and national advocacy organizations most frequently raised concern.
Following our initial report, we reached out to environmental justice advocates and other stakeholders for feedback. They told us they were encouraged by our disclosure, but urged us to go further and map the location of all our operations. This research, as published in our 2012 Sustainability Report, found that Waste Management facilities are generally as likely to be located in communities above the state average income level as below – approximately the “half above, half below the average” of a normal, random distribution. Out of 1,423 facilities, 58 percent are located in communities with higher non-Hispanic white representation than the state average, and 48 percent are in communities with higher incomes than the state average. More information can be found in the Community Appendix.
We will update our footprint again with each new census or when Waste Management undergoes an acquisition or divestiture sufficient to change our demographic footprint in a meaningful way, whichever comes earlier. In 2015, our demographic footprint was modified by under 5 percent due to divestitures and acquisitions. Although we did not undertake a comprehensive revision of our environmental justice mapping, we did review the demographics of both divestitures and acquisitions and found their pattern would be somewhat higher in income and lower in non-white representation than our current footprint.