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Social Responsibility

Sustainability on Every Aisle

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From product conception to storefront display, today’s top retailers are trending toward a greener image — and wisely so. Adopting sustainable practices isn’t just the right thing to do for the environment, it’s the smartest thing to do for the bottom line.

A comprehensive environmental assessment is an essential tool for benchmarking water and energy usage, as well as greenhouse gas emissions. A waste audit can also help identify which materials are coming in and how they are being consumed and disposed. This information can act as a springboard for reform in procurement practices that could favor environmentally conscious packaging from suppliers and encourage other vendors to follow suit.

Audit information can also be used to create waste diversion plans that send fewer materials to landfills and boost recycling and reuse. According to the EPA, source reduction and reuse are the best ways to manage solid waste.

Recycling reduces costs
One of the simplest ways to create a green bottom line is to implement an operations-wide recycling program. Today’s technologies allow more kinds of materials to be recycled than ever before. Recycling more can also lead to fewer solid waste pickups, thereby reducing hauling costs and vehicle emissions.

Everything from shipping pallets and wire hangers to construction debris and obsolete electronics can be efficiently recycled. As tracked by the EPA’s Municipal Solid Waste Characterization Report, consumer electronics — including TVs and other video equipment, computers, assorted peripherals, audio equipment and phones — comprise approximately 1-2 percent of the municipal solid waste stream. Rapid growth and change in this product sector is leading to growing concerns about appropriate end-of-life management, an issue Waste Management is dealing with head-on through aggressive e-waste recycling programs.

At the loading dock, innovative baling technologies, together with recycling, can reduce waste pickups and yield substantial waste-cost savings and potential rebates for retail operations swamped with cardboard box material. Seem too simple to be a real cost saver? For one of our retail customers — a specialty store with 1,400 locations across North America — we installed Pack-A-Drum compactors at more than 350 sites. They saved more than $1 million with our compactor technology.

Right-sizing a sustainability plan
It’s important that your environmental programs fit comfortably with your goals and budget. Waste Management right-sized the collection services and equipment and implemented a vigorous recycling and rebate program for the nation’s largest small-box retail group, resulting in $28 million in annual savings.

One of the biggest buzz phrases in retailing today is “zero waste.” Achieving zero waste is a mindset that must be embraced among all stakeholders in your organization and requires substantial commitment and the right environmental programs to be fully realized.

As title sponsor of the Waste Management Phoenix Open — the largest tournament on the PGA Tour — we issued our own Zero Waste Challenge for the event and achieved it. Even with more than 500,000 attendees we were able to divert more than 90 percent and recover more than 70 percent of the materials used during the event. It was a collaborative effort and a shared success — one we plan to improve on at this coming year’s tournament.

No matter where you are on your journey toward sustainability, establishing goals, putting smart, progressive programs in place and engaging employees, suppliers and customers at every step will yield positive economic and environmental results — and green on every aisle.