The environmental services industry is highly regulated and complex. And it’s in flux. Increasingly, Waste Management and other companies like us are doing much more than managing waste. We are producing energy, restoring habitats and helping local governments and citizens to reduce, reuse and recycle materials. As we work with our customers and the communities we serve to create a more sustainable future, we believe we have an important voice to add to the discussion around several key policy debates, as noted below.
These issues represent significant challenges for our industry and are areas of special focus for Waste Management. We welcome engagement from stakeholders around these issues and strive to work with representatives from government, the business sector, community groups and environmental advocates to build consensus for positive change.
As we have sought to maximize the value of the material we manage, we have reviewed U.S. EPA’s waste hierarchy — reduce, reuse, recycle, recover and then dispose — as well as state-level solid waste and recycling priorities. Our review revealed that current regulations regarding solid waste, recycling, energy policy and renewable fuels often compete with each other and produce unintended results. Newer technologies designed to divert material from landfills also do not fit neatly into U.S. EPA’s hierarchy. As U.S. EPA and state governments address the environmental impacts of waste disposal, recovery and recycling, we encourage them to consider life cycle approaches that view waste not merely as a problem to be solved, but as a resource. Moreover, life cycle thinking highlights the measurable benefits of material management in its opportunities to reduce GHGs and use of energy.
In 2011, Waste Management funded the Sustainable Materials Management Coalition to discuss these issues, and the Coalition issued its report in July 2012. The Coalition — composed of representatives of business and industry, academic institutions, environmental and community organizations, and state and local government organizations — came together to develop consensus recommendations on the path forward for sustainable materials management. In 2013, the Coalition developed a second report urging stakeholders to use life cycle thinking to reduce the environmental footprint of products and services. The 2012 and 2013 reports can be found here: https://www.michaeldbaker.com/portfolio-items/guidance-on-taking-a-life-cycle-perspective-to-sustainability/. https://www.michaeldbaker.com/portfolio-items/sustainable-materials-management-coalition/. Beginning in 2014, the Coalition turned to how to improve the productivity of recycling and how to better communicate progress. That report was released in Fall 2016.
In the absence of federal clean-energy standards, state and provincial governments in the United States and Canada bear the burden of developing renewable energy requirements. This has resulted in widely divergent standards. Waste Management supports the development of a federal energy policy that would facilitate the widespread development of renewable energy sources, including municipal solid waste. Federal energy standards would also allow us to make significant strides in reducing GHG emissions associated with fossil fuel consumption.
Achieving energy security relies on lessening our dependence on foreign oil, and domestic production of fuel from renewable sources contributes to this goal. As a partner in energy security discussions, Waste Management supports policies, including existing federal renewable fuel standards, that encourage and facilitate the production of fuel from renewable sources such as municipal solid waste, as well as tax policy that encourages development of alternative fueling infrastructure, and the conversion of diesel vehicles to cleaner-burning natural gas and renewable natural gas from waste. Studies have shown that waste-derived fuels typically have the lowest carbon intensity of all biofuel sources.
Waste Management’s fleet policy calls for a transition to natural gas vehicles, which helps us to achieve our goal of reducing our fleet emissions by 15 percent and improving our fuel efficiency by 15 percent. In 2011, we encouraged federal and state regulatory support for the transition of heavy-duty fleets to natural gas as the preferred fuel for our industry. The natural gas vehicle platform provides an opportunity to use renewable natural gas derived from waste materials, further improving emissions.
Governments at all levels are seeking ways to divert waste from landfills through increased recycling and recovery. Some jurisdictions have implemented mandatory recycling programs, and we support such programs when they make economic sense, have the support of customers and communities, and reflect the planning and preparation sufficient to ensure success.
Our CEO has set, and our Board has approved, aggressive sustainability goals with ambitious GHG emissions-reduction benefits. There is no limit to the number of emissions-reduction activities available to a highly diversified company like Waste Management.
Opportunities presented to Waste Management from outside or inside the company that have the best potential to deliver high degrees of emissions reduction at low cost or to deliver emissions reductions combined with a positive return are given priority for implementation. Our goal setting and disclosure of progress on production of renewable energy, recycling and fuel efficiency drive our investment strategy. This approach to addressing the challenges of climate change is integrated into our evaluation of all activities and potential investments — from collection fleet and logistics to administrative functions and operating facilities. For example, Waste Management has engaged collaboratively with U.S. EPA and state regulators, environmental organizations, and other public and private owners to develop technical information and recommendations on enhancing regulatory control of landfill gas emissions. As part of the President’s Methane Reduction Strategy, U.S. EPA will finalize a rule this year which we hope will provide greater operational flexibility and enhance our ability to install earlier landfill gas controls at our facilities. Similarly, we worked with U.S. EPA, the U.S. Department of Transportation, engine and vehicle makers, fleet owners and environmental groups to provide recommendations on the next phase of fuel efficiency and GHG-reduction standards for heavy-duty trucks. We are hopeful that the new rules will provide a regulatory framework for our continued investment in clean-burning natural gas trucks.
As evidenced by our participation in the CDP (formerly the Carbon Disclosure Project) since 2004 and disclosed publicly since 2008, Waste Management is committed to the annual disclosure of our carbon footprint and to reporting in our sustainability reports on the innovations we are pursuing to reduce GHG emissions in our operations and for our customers.
We are actively working with stakeholders from all perspectives to assess how GHG emissions can be accurately inventoried and disclosed, as well as how that information can be used in climate change initiatives that improve environmental quality and are consistent with a healthy economy. We participate not only with the CDP, but also with the Dow Jones Sustainability Index and numerous NGO and customer sustainability evaluation services, and we have made our voluntary reports to these organizations publicly available. We have also commented on federal, regional and state frameworks for addressing climate change. Extensive comments, all of which are a matter of public record, and recommended strategies have been discussed with the following:
We periodically make financial contributions to candidates who we believe recognize the importance of the environmental services we provide and who support a fair, free-market approach as the best way to deliver cost-effective services. We do not expect the candidates to whom we contribute funds to agree with our positions on all issues at all times.
Contributions made to political candidates must be authorized by our Government Affairs department and must comply with all applicable laws, including public disclosure of political contributions and lobbying expenses. Our contributions are reported under federal, state and local campaign finance laws and are available for review by the public. Following each two-year federal election cycle, our Board of Directors receives a detailed accounting of all contributions.
The company recently enhanced its disclosure related to political contributions, posting on its website an annual listing of contributions made to candidates for federal office and political organizations engaged in federal elections, as well as information on the portion of payments made by the company to trade associations and social welfare organizations that were used for political purposes, as identified by the trade association or organization. This information is available as Annex A to our Participation in the Political Process policy and is subject to certain dollar amount thresholds stated therein. The full policy and Annex A can be found on our corporate website.
To ensure compliance with international law, Waste Management has adopted an anti-bribery and corruption policy and established a Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Compliance Committee. All employees involved in foreign business projects must receive FCPA training. In addition, the Waste Management Code of Conduct includes a section on doing business overseas to ensure our compliance with local laws as well as U.S. laws that govern our activities in international markets. Visit Code of Conduct.