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Big Ideas for a
Better World

We take our role as an industry leader seriously. Although our operations are based in North America, the implications of our industry on critical issues, such as climate change, are far-reaching.

Waste Management’s vision for Big Ideas and Bold Action for a Better World extends beyond our own company and industry, touching on issues impacting our entire value chain. Not only are we engaged in dialogue about transformative solutions to protect our planet, at our annual Sustainability Forum we are bringing others into the conversation and driving change where we can make the greatest impact.

Highlights of Waste Management’s thought leadership activities over the past year include:

Sports for Climate Action

Using sports as a unifying tool to drive climate awareness, the Waste Management Phoenix Open committed to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Sports for Climate Action (S4CA) in 2019. The S4CA positions sports organizations and their communities on the path to the low-carbon economy envisioned by the Paris Agreement.

We Are Still In

To show our support for emissions reductions aligned with the Paris Agreement and climate science, in 2019 Waste Management signed the “We Are Still In” commitment to the Paris climate agreement. More than 3,700 U.S. organizations—and growing—have expressed their continued commitment to reduce emissions to levels dictated by science. Organizations that join “We Are Still In” commit to supporting climate action to hold warming to well below two degrees Celsius and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy. Waste Management has made this commitment as part of our CDP submission for the past three years and has aligned it with our 2038 sustainability goals.

Recycling Demand Economics

As global recycling markets continue to constrict, Waste Management has elevated the dialogue around the need for domestic end-market demand. From the stage at the U.S. EPA’s America Recycles Day event in Washington, D.C., to our own Circular Economy Showcase at the Waste Management Sustainability Forum, we have been a leading voice promoting the need for manufacturers to use post-consumer content in their products and for governments, industries and individuals to buy products made with post-consumer content. As an example, Waste Management has committed to purchasing collection carts made with post-consumer plastic from residential collection programs.

Building Value Together
Waste Management Sustainability Forum

For a decade, the Waste Management Sustainability Forum has served to educate and inspire business leaders. Recognizing our individual and collective role in the social, environmental and economic realities of sustainability, Waste Management hosts this annual knowledge-sharing event that allows us to be better informed about collective actions that impact our planet.

In 2019, as the problem of plastic waste in the environment became a global concern, we invited National Geographic and leading global companies to take the stage to talk about this issue..

We continued to elevate the global environmental discussion in 2020 by inviting former Secretary of State John Kerry, former Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Christiana Figueres, and geopolitical strategist Peter Zeihan to engage in a dynamic morning of dialogue. Haley Romer, editor of The Atlantic Magazine, moderated a panel of CEOs including our own Jim Fish, Dow Chemical’s Jim Fitterling and Salesforce’s Marc Benioff. (Read about one attendee’s lessons learned during the Forum.)

In addition, Waste Management Vice President of Recycling Brent Bell moderated a panel discussion on recycling, which included panelists from Procter and Gamble, Pratt Recycling and Cascade Cart Solutions. The group discussed how they are increasing recycled content in their products and working across industries to drive change.

The agenda also included breakout sessions dedicated to three of the fastest-growing materials in America’s waste stream—packaging, food and textiles. These moderated sessions allowed attendees to hear from subject matter experts before rolling up their sleeves to brainstorm solutions. You can read a full report dedicated to these breakout sessions.

The state of the recycling industry is a regular part of the Forum agenda. In 2020, Waste Management created a Circular Economy Showcase to show attendees how various materials are recycled into new products. Highlighting 15 Waste Management partners, the Showcase illustrated how recycled water bottles are processed into plastic chips before being melted and made into yarn, shoes and swimwear, and how used paper and cardboard become new paper and event boxes. Attendees watched videos, touched raw materials made from recycled products, and saw the new, high-quality finished products. Participating companies included Advanced Drainage Solutions, Cascade Cart Solutions, Continuus Materials, Essity/Tork, Fiberon, KW Plastics, Mohawk Industries, National Gypsum, Novelis, Novolex, P&G, Pratt, Repreve, Rplanet and Strategic Materials.

Waste Management knows that the voices of young people are important when considering meaningful questions about the future. The opening video for the 2020 Forum featured students who framed up the event as a call to action. We also invited students from Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability to participate in the Forum, attend networking sessions and share their perspectives after the event. This post-Forum engagement served as the first phase on our endeavor to continuously find ways to address all voices in the sustainability conversation.