Committed to making the communities in which we live and work, safe, resilient and sustainable, Waste Management (WM) is setting new goals to ensure that we work towards a sustainable tomorrow by investing in our communities and working to be a good neighbor.
Our new company-wide community investment and social impact strategy is being driven by the vision of shifting to an intentional, purpose-driven brand. The new strategy, being developed in tandem with new goals, is aimed at ensuring that we not only improve our service to customers but also improve our communities and our planet. In the next three to five years, we’ll implement this strategy while measuring impact by tracking brand reputation markers. These include utilizing third-party reputational ratings such as our recent Reputation Institute evaluation. In addition, we will work to maintain external recognition such as our Ethisphere and Corporate Responsibility Top 100 rankings, grounded in community relations. Finally, we will achieve key stewardship and sustainability goals to reach one million people through strategic partnerships, programs and events. This work has been, and will continue to be, centered around social impact programming and stakeholder engagement.
As the corporate giving landscape evolves, it is imperative to understand what “corporate responsibility,” “citizenship” and “social impact” mean for a company. Brands are expected to drive meaningful change around a shared purpose by leveraging business acumen, products and services. It is time to stand for something by stepping up to solve a social imperative.
As a first step towards developing and implementing our new corporate strategy, WM developed a small Social Impact team in 2019. This team convened an Internal Strategic Advisory Group of stakeholders from across the company representing internal stakeholder perspectives such as Sustainability, Marketing, Employee Engagement, Operations and Communication teams to collaborate and map a path forward. These partners brought expertise to the table to strategize and conduct research, gather insights and sit through interviews to understand how to move the needle through a social impact program focused on the correct social imperative. This included:
- Materials Review: Audit of WM internal and external materials (existing social impact initiatives, branding, communications, community impact, environmental issues).
- In-Depth Interviews: Interview employees across multiple departments, members of the senior leadership team, regional Area leads and representatives from three aspirational brands/customers.
- Surveys: 800+ responses from employees across multiple departments and 14,420+ responses from customers.
- Media Dialogue: Current and national dialogue related to WM’s social impact and community engagement efforts; issues attributed to company activities.
- Initial Issue Review: Conducted research into initial issues under consideration to understand areas of opportunity, including environmental education, recycling and community revitalization.
Through focused giving, WM will visibly invest in a cause and make waves through forward-thinking and innovative solutions. COVID-19 delayed the roll out, with a new projected 2021 implementation.
Until then, WM will continue to collaborate with organizations to provide opportunities for stakeholder engagement. In partnership with Keep American Beautiful (KAB), The Recycling Partnership, US Conference of Mayors - City Livability Award, and Wildlife Habitat Council (WHC), we gain authentic access to supporters who educate key stakeholders on environmental initiatives critical to sustaining our strategic corporate citizenship pillars - Environment, Education and Community Vitality.
Waste management itself sits at the intersection of these pillars. With unwanted items entering the recycling stream, we work with cross functional teams to develop and provide resources that communicate proper recycling habits to keep recycling sustainable.
Within Areas, experienced community relations representatives partner with nonprofits to develop programs aligned with a city or county initiative. To ensure a structured approach in determining when, how and why community engagement occurs, we turn to current community giving guidelines and the eligibility criteria listed on the landing page of our giving platform. Overhead costs associated with having in place a corporate citizenship function, based on overall program coordination and communication, was $3.7M in 2019. Valuable connection helps us further impact local business goals, citizens and the economy.