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Year in Review

Leadership in
Sustainability

We’re always working for a sustainable tomorrow, which includes managing our customers’ waste responsibly while also providing sustainable services to reduce their carbon footprint.

Our success depends on the actions of many stakeholders, and the polices that shape action at the city, state and federal levels. It is important for us to take bold action. That is why WM has committed to investments in renewable energy and recycling, and is focused on growth in its sustainable solutions. Sharing best practices and promoting the value of recycling and renewable energy are key areas of focus and are integral to what we do.

Throughout the year, WM leaders and experts share their perspectives on critical issues with policymakers, industry peers and the general public. Here are a few of the many ways we drive conversations around sustainability:

An important part of our business is engaging with municipalities to advance the health and safety of our communities. Since the America Recycles Day Summit in 2019, WM has urged an increased use of post-consumer content and packaging by government agencies and large corporations. We have participated in multiple working groups to examine topics such as infrastructure and markets, education and measuring recycled materials. WM also submitted comments to U.S. EPA’s 2020 and 2021 requests for input on their recycling strategy, and definitions and measurement boundaries proposed by the agency in early 2021.

WM has a point of view on what it means to recycle right—but we know many people still have questions. Our leaders regularly appear in news segments or provide quotes for articles, offering their opinions on recycling best practices and industry trends. In the past year, WM spoke with many national and local news outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, ABC News and TODAY, about recycling, business leadership, protecting and empowering the workforce, navigating the safety and financial health of the business during COVID-19 and the path to a more sustainable future.

In 2021, CEO Jim Fish named Tara Hemmer our Chief Sustainability Officer, making her the first in our industry to hold this title. We have also made an industry-first commitment to developing technologies for measuring landfill emissions, and we are increasing our use of post-consumer content in our recycling carts.

While the topic of environmental justice has had increased attention over the last year, it is by no means a new concern for WM. Over the past several decades, we have worked closely with the U.S. EPA and other stakeholders in developing EJ tools, including the EJSCREEN tool. WM is the only company in our industry to publish information about our sites using this tool, and we are developing a formal program to address environmental justice issues at our facilities.

Over the past year, WM has taken on a leading role in communicating broad sustainability issues across our industry. For example, Tara Hemmer spoke at Waste 360’s Global Waste Management Symposium about our industry’s role in mitigating climate change and Susan Robinson, Senior Director of Sustainability, also kicked off Waste 360’s Sustainability Talks Summit at Waste Expo. Susan also writes a monthly column that goes beyond topics of waste and recycling, challenging readers to consider the impacts businesses and individuals can have on ESG issues.

At the annual WM Sustainability Forum and WM Phoenix Open, we engage others in dialogue around protecting the planet and driving change. The Forum brings together stakeholders across industries and sectors for a dynamic knowledge-sharing event.

Learn more about the 2021 Forum, as well as the WM Phoenix Open, on the pages that follow.

The pandemic really lifted a veil from many people’s eyes and showed just how quickly we can fall into a state of poverty and hunger. People stepped up to help, and I’m very optimistic that will continue.”

Jasmine Crowe,
CEO of Goodr

Highlights from the 2021 WM Sustainability Forum

At the 2021 WM Sustainability Forum, the first all-virtual event in our 11-year history, we focused on the theme of “Breakthrough.” After a year of crisis, thought-provoking speakers called for a new equilibrium among political, economic, social and environmental systems in order to create a more sustainable world.

HOPE

Far from being hopeless, addressing climate change is actually one of the biggest opportunities we have to rebuild the future, to build a better future, to build a future we want.”

Jonathan Foley
Executive Director of Project Drawdown

Before joining a panel about how cities, corporations and NGOs can reduce GHGs, Foley gave a presentation on the concept of “drawdown.”

INNOVATION

Our drivers will ride their routes collecting plastic bottles, milk jugs and other materials that will eventually be turned into the uniforms that they wear every day. This is the circular economy in action.”

Jim Fish
WM President and CEO

WM CEO Jim Fish gave the opening keynote on how we are charting a more sustainable tomorrow.

CREATIVITY

I came to love the earth as a playground and also a point of inspiration. And I decided to apply all of that to fashion. I want to make good design affordable, sustainable and optimistic.”

Charles Harbison
Fashion Designer

Harbison, who recently launched a sustainable clothing line with Banana Republic, spoke about what inspires him to design with sustainability in mind.

PURPOSE

Purpose-driven companies—companies with a soul and a character—are going to attract more of the best and the brightest talent.”

Indra Nooyi
Former Chairman and CEO, PepsiCo

Nooyi took part in a conversation about how companies can thrive in a purpose-driven world.

Our opening panel discussion, moderated by Joel Makower, Chairman and Executive Editor, GreenBiz Group Inc., focused on what cities, NGOs and corporations can do to reduce GHG emissions. Panelists included Jonathan Foley, Executive Director, Project Drawdown; Cooper Martin, Director Sustainability & Solutions, Center for City Solutions at the National League of Cities; David Tulauskas, Vice President, Chief Sustainability Officer, Nestlé Waters; Rachel Goldstein, Global Sustainability Director for Scientific and Regulatory Affairs, Mars, Inc.; Susan Robinson, Sr. Director of Sustainability and Policy, WM; and Tim Juliani, Director of US Corporate Climate Engagement, World Wildlife Fund.

On day two, WM CEO Jim Fish spoke with two other CEOs—Doug McMillon of Walmart and Satya Nadella of Microsoft—to discuss leading during a time of change.

Driving Sustainability Series

Leading up to the Forum, we hosted a two-part virtual panel discussion called Driving Sustainability. The first session featured Christiana Figueres, former executive secretary for United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and a Sustainability Forum veteran, in conversation with Jasmine Crowe, CEO of Goodr, a startup addressing food waste and food insecurity. The second conversation, between journalist and author Alex Wagner and Nathaniel Bullard, Chief Content Officer at BloombergNEF, focused on ways leaders can strengthen cooperation and accelerate change in the wake of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Supporting the Next Generation of Innovators

In collaboration with Slow Factory, a nonprofit operating education, design and community initiatives in the fashion sector, WM announced a design challenge that will support emerging designers in applying circular and regenerative principles to their work. Through the WM Design Challenge, Powered by Slow Factory, six individuals/teams will create design solutions for products, materials and/or systems that embrace regenerative practices. Participants will receive grants to develop their ideas and will be mentored by leaders in the textile recycling supply chain. The program will culminate in a showcase of lessons learned at the 2022 WM Sustainability Forum.