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Social Capital

  • Human Rights & Community Relations
  • Customer Privacy
  • Data Security
  • Access & Affordability
  • Product Quality & Safety
  • Customer Welfare
  • Selling Practices & Product Labeling

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  • Competitive Behavior
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  • Systemic Risk Management
General Issue Category
(Industry agnostic)

Disclosure Topics (Industry specific) for:
Waste Management

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GHG Emissions

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 Quality

Air Quality

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.

Labor Practices

Labor Practices

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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