Relevant Issues (6 of 26)
The SASB Standards vary by industry based on the different sustainability risks and opportunities within an industry. The issues in grey were not identified during the standard-setting process as the most likely to impact enterprise value, so they are not included in the Standard. Over time, as the SASB Standards Board continues to receive market feedback, some issues may be added or removed from the Standard. Each company makes their own determination about whether or not a sustainability issue may impact its ability to create enterprise value. The Standard is designed for the typical company in an industry, but individual companies may choose to report on different sustainability issues based on their unique business model. Why are some issues greyed out?
- GHG Emissions The category addresses direct (Scope 1) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that a company generates through its operations. This includes GHG emissions from stationary (e.g., factories, power plants) and mobile sources (e.g., trucks, delivery vehicles, planes), whether a result of combustion of fuel or non-combusted direct releases during activities such as natural resource extraction, power generation, land use, or biogenic processes. The category further includes management of regulatory risks, environmental compliance, and reputational risks and opportunities, as they related to direct GHG emissions. The seven GHGs covered under the Kyoto Protocol are included within the category—carbon dioxide (CO2), methane (CH4), nitrous oxide (N2O), hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), perfluorocarbons (PFCs), sulfur hexafluoride (SF6), and nitrogen trifluoride (NF3).
- Air Quality The category addresses management of air quality impacts resulting from stationary (e.g., factories, power plants) and mobile sources (e.g., trucks, delivery vehicles, planes) as well as industrial emissions. Relevant airborne pollutants include, but are not limited to, oxides of nitrogen (NOx), oxides of sulfur (SOx), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), heavy metals, particulate matter, and chlorofluorocarbons. The category does not include GHG emissions, which are addressed in a separate category.
- Energy Management
- Water & Wastewater Management
- Waste & Hazardous Materials Management The category addresses environmental issues associated with hazardous and non-hazardous waste generated by companies. It addresses a company’s management of solid wastes in manufacturing, agriculture, and other industrial processes. It covers treatment, handling, storage, disposal, and regulatory compliance. The category does not cover emissions to air or wastewater nor does it cover waste from end-of-life of products, which are addressed in separate categories.
- Ecological Impacts
- Human Rights & Community Relations
- Customer Privacy
- Data Security
- Access & Affordability
- Product Quality & Safety
- Customer Welfare
- Selling Practices & Product Labeling
- Labor Practices The category addresses the company’s ability to uphold commonly accepted labor standards in the workplace, including compliance with labor laws and internationally accepted norms and standards. This includes, but is not limited to, ensuring basic human rights related to child labor, forced or bonded labor, exploitative labor, fair wages and overtime pay, and other basic workers' rights. It also includes minimum wage policies and provision of benefits, which may influence how a workforce is attracted, retained, and motivated. The category further addresses a company’s relationship with organized labor and freedom of association.
- Employee Health & Safety The category addresses a company’s ability to create and maintain a safe and healthy workplace environment that is free of injuries, fatalities, and illness (both chronic and acute). It is traditionally accomplished through implementing safety management plans, developing training requirements for employees and contractors, and conducting regular audits of their own practices as well as those of their subcontractors. The category further captures how companies ensure physical and mental health of workforce through technology, training, corporate culture, regulatory compliance, monitoring and testing, and personal protective equipment.
- Employee Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion
Business Model & Innovation
- Product Design & Lifecycle Management
- Business Model Resilience The category addresses an industry’s capacity to manage risks and opportunities associated with incorporating social, environmental, and political transitions into long-term business model planning. This includes responsiveness to the transition to a low-carbon and climate-constrained economy, as well as growth and creation of new markets among unserved and underserved socio-economic populations. The category highlights industries in which evolving environmental and social realities may challenge companies to fundamentally adapt or may put their business models at risk.
- Supply Chain Management
- Materials Sourcing & Efficiency
- Physical Impacts of Climate Change
Leadership & Governance
- Business Ethics
- Competitive Behavior
- Management of the Legal & Regulatory Environment
- Critical Incident Risk Management
- Systemic Risk Management
The General Issue Category is an industry-agnostic version of the Disclosure Topics that appear in each SASB Standard. Disclosure topics represent the industry-specific impacts of General Issue Categories. The industry-specific Disclosure Topics ensure each SASB Standard is tailored to the industry, while the General Issue Categories enable comparability across industries. For example, Health & Nutrition is a disclosure topic in the Non-Alcoholic Beverages industry, representing an industry-specific measure of the general issue of Customer Welfare. The issue of Customer Welfare, however, manifests as the Counterfeit Drugs disclosure topic in the Biotechnology & Pharmaceuticals industry. What is the relationship between General Issue Category and Disclosure Topics?
Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for:
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Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Landfill gas is a significant anthropogenic contributor to global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions because it contains highly potent methane. As a result, landfill gas is frequently required to be limited by regulators. These emissions can be reduced through a variety of control technologies that require significant capital expenditures: landfill gas collection efficiency improvements, control devices, and increased methane oxidization. Methane collected through capture systems can be combusted in a flare, an engine, or a turbine to dramatically reduce the overall toxicity and potency of raw emissions. Landfill gas capture is particularly important for owners and operators of large landfills that have been the target of regulation. Companies that operate in the waste-to-energy segment of the industry are able to lower lifecycle emissions of waste through decreased future emissions from landfills and displaced energy generation, but face increased Scope 1 emissions from the operation of waste-to-energy facilities. Overall, GHG emissions pose regulatory risks for the industry, with potential impacts on operational costs and capital expenditures. There is also the potential for revenue generation through the sale of natural gas and energy from waste-to-energy facilities, as well as the ability to lower fuel purchases by using processed landfill gas to power operations. Performance on this issue can affect a company’s ability to secure new permits and/or renew existing ones, which can impact revenue.
Fleet Fuel Management
Many companies in the Waste Management industry own and operate large vehicle fleets for waste collection and transfer. The fuel consumption of vehicle fleets is a significant industry expense, both in terms of operating costs and associated capital expenditures. Fossil fuel consumption can contribute to environmental impacts, including climate change and pollution. These environmental impacts have the potential to affect waste management companies through regulatory exposure and the competitiveness of new contract proposals. Hedging fuel purchases is a common tool used to manage fleet-fuel risks; however, more and more waste management companies are upgrading to more fuel-efficient fleets or switching to natural gas vehicles. A cleaner-burning fleet may also be seen as more favorable by communities living near waste management facilities with heavy traffic.
Air pollution is the presence of air contaminants in such quantities and duration that they can be injurious to humans, animals, plants, and/or property. It also includes contaminants that interfere with enjoyment of life and/or property. Therefore, odors and toxic gases, such as those emitted from landfills, landfill fires, waste incinerators, and waste treatment plants, are considered air pollution. The financial impacts from excessive air emissions vary depending on the specific location of operations and the prevailing air emissions regulations, but they can include capital expenditures, increased operating costs, fines, and lawsuits from affected communities. Human health impacts and financial consequences of poor air-quality management are likely to be exacerbated by the proximity of waste management facilities to communities. Active management of air pollutants and odors—through technological and process improvements—can therefore mitigate regulatory exposure and the associated future costs of compliance from increasingly stringent air-quality regulations, help companies secure and maintain permits, and protect their license to operate.
Waste & Hazardous Materials Management
Management of Leachate & Hazardous Waste
Companies operating landfills are required to manage and reduce risks of potential ecological impacts, including those caused by leachate and hazardous waste. Poor management of landfills and other disposal sites can lead to contamination of the soil, groundwater, and other nearby water bodies. To mitigate risks to the environment and the health of local communities, companies must effectively contain and manage leachate, as well as hazardous waste. Companies that are unable to manage these risks are likely to receive regulatory penalties, lose brand value, worsen future business prospects, and face lawsuits.
Organized labor plays an important role in the Waste Management industry. Many workers are covered under collective bargaining agreements that protect workers’ rights and establish wages. High unionization rates leave waste management companies vulnerable to shutdowns and delays due to worker strikes if labor concerns are not addressed effectively. Proper management of, and communication around, issues such as worker pay and working conditions can prevent conflicts with workers that could lead to extended strikes, which can slow or shut down operations and create reputational risk. Waste management companies need a long-term perspective on managing workers—including their pay and benefits—in a way that protects workers’ rights and enhances their productivity while ensuring the financial sustainability of a company’s operations.
Employee Health & Safety
Workforce Health & Safety
The industry’s hazardous working conditions make safety a critical issue for waste management operations, and accidents can have a great impact on workers. The Waste Management industry has higher fatality rates than most industries. Fatalities and other injuries are due primarily to transportation incidents, contact with hazardous objects and equipment, and exposure to harmful substances. Additionally, temporary workers may be at higher risk because of a lack of training or industry experience. Poor health and safety records can result in fines and penalties and an increase in regulatory compliance costs from more stringent oversight. Waste management companies must ensure that facilities and vehicles are operated with the highest safety standards and that the number of injuries and accidents is minimized through a strong safety culture. Companies that develop proactive safety management plans and training requirements for their employees and contractors, including conducting regular audits, are likely to improve safety records and minimize the chance of safety-related financial repercussions.
Business Model Resilience
Recycling & Resource Recovery
Recycling, reuse, composting, and incineration are general methods of diverting waste from landfills. Landfill diversion can mitigate some of the environmental impacts of landfills and reduce the need for landfill expansion. Additionally, waste management companies play a critical role in the circular economy by separating and recovering reusable materials such as paper, glass, metal, organic materials, and electronic waste. Pressures from new regulations, customer demand, and the increasing costs of extracting virgin materials are initiating the move toward a circular economy. As a result, waste management companies are facing a decrease in the amount of landfilled waste and an expanding recycling market. Cradle-to-cradle approaches initiated by other industries in the economy have the potential to break down if the recovery and recycling infrastructure or technologies do not exist. Companies that provide recycling and other resource recovery services will be better able to address changing consumer needs, thereby positioning themselves for revenue growth while playing a critical role in reducing the environmental impact of the wider economy.
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