Can Your Business Really Get to Net Zero Waste?
For the purposes of understanding Net Zero Waste, it’s important to know the business context for its need. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) proposed a rule this year that would require public companies to formally disclose climate data as a step toward providing investors with accurate climate risks to make informed financial decisions. These disclosures are based on Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions.
Scope 1 and 2 are more widely discussed because they are the direct, controlled, and indirect external emissions a company is accountable for, respectively. Scope 3 emissions are the indirect emissions in a company’s value chain. This includes, in large part, waste disposal, purchased goods and services, and transportation. While privately held companies might not be required to report their emissions, they may be asked to improve their carbon efforts if they’re a supplier for a publicly traded company.
For our purposes, waste disposal will be more critically evaluated in Scope 3. Waste treatment activities include:
- Disposal in a landfill
- Disposal in a landfill with landfill-gas-to-energy (LFGTE) – the combustion of landfill gas to generate electricity
- Waste-to-Energy (WtE) – the combustion of waste to generate electricity
Scope emissions are directly tied to landfilling as organic matter decomposes and emits methane in landfills. As a greenhouse gas, methane is more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere and has doubled over the last two centuries via human activity, raising the need for universal net zero waste efforts.
Making credible commitments
When structuring a Net Zero Waste Plan, it’s important to work with a trusted partner that can keep goals in line with actions and metrics reporting. Research shows that broken pledges and greenwashing can corrode your company’s brand, so it’s incredibly important to tread with intention and integrity when developing a Net Zero Waste Plan. The reverse is also true; transparency and a well-crafted plan that is backed by metrics and effective reporting can lead to incredible results and significantly boost credibility and financial performance. Making claims that matter in a time when stakeholders’ climate expectations are on the rise will prove beneficial. A Deloitte survey showed that investors cited climate change as the most signification ESG factor by about 86%, the next most important factor came in only at 45%. Knowing your waste efforts, impacts, and goals require follow-through that should be implemented in the drafting of your Net Zero Waste Plan.
What is Net Zero Waste?
As business environmental accountability measures increase, now is the time to clearly understand the various avenues regulatory bodies are taking to curb waste and, ultimately, carbon emissions.
Net Zero Waste is a big part of this concept and acts in accordance with larger picture conservation that covers solid waste, energy waste, and water waste.
When it comes to net zero solid waste for businesses, net zero is the strategic operation to reduce, reuse, recycle, compost, or recover solid waste streams that result in little to no waste going to landfills or incinerators.
Lifecycles are a large consideration for achieving net zero waste, which starts by addressing supply chains and being materiality focused. This requires decision-making associated with the material procurement, manufacturing, distribution, and disposal methods for products and packaging.
Who is responsible for Net Zero Waste?
Of course, Net Zero Waste measures are addressed by local, state, and federal lawmakers. These efforts are executed on the state and municipal levels, with businesses taking responsibility on the supply chain, manufacturing, and business practice side.
However, when it comes to business leadership, it’s private efforts taken on before government measures are put into place can drive individual business innovation. In a way, we are responsible for developing proactive Net Zero Waste efforts, not just to society but to our stakeholders and investors.
How can a business start its journey toward zero waste?
Zero waste is a growing business ambition, and waste experts at National Waste Associates can help your organization toward these goals. We will perform a waste audit for your business and take a snapshot of where your business stands now and the opportunities toward zero waste. Our team will identify and suggest areas of improvement for your supply chain, including shifts that will lower your waste bills or even, in some cases like in manufacturing, create a revenue stream from your waste, depending on the materials, factory seconds, and the market.
What are the top reasons businesses choose a zero waste strategy?
There are various reasons businesses incorporate a zero waste strategy into their business operation plans. More often, it’s for the suite of benefits that come with this approach and not merely one reason in particular. Here are some of the core reasons companies are choosing to go net zero waste:
- Improve brand image and relatability with consumers (study: 68% of people rate sustainability high when making a purchase, 28% say it creates brand loyalty)
- Improve positioning in the market
- Increase price point – people are willing to pay more for sustainability in a company
- Grow wider network – zero waste requires more recyclers and supporters
- Increase employee loyalty (survey: 70% of millennials said they would consider remaining at a company that had an environmental agenda)
- Discover new revenue streams (mainly manufacturers)
- An opportunity to focus on waste diversion and prevention
- Save on waste disposal costs
- Build a stronger relationship with local communities
How does WtE fit into a zero-waste strategy?
Waste-to-Energy (WtE) technologies can help in your zero waste strategy and include any waste treatment process that creates energy. Energy can be defined as electricity, heat, or transport fuels. These technologies can be applied to various types of waste, from sludge to semi-solid waste. The most common WtE technology is used via combined heat and power (CHP) plant.
Employing Waste-to-Energy alongside a conventional recycling program can help businesses achieve Net Zero Waste and are critical waste management tools for companies to understand. Learn more about WtE by clicking here.
Can your business go Net Zero Waste? Here are some examples.
Action is more effortless when we can use already-in-practice models for adopting net zero waste efforts. However, there is no one-size fits all approach to zero waste as each business and location has its own unique circumstances. From international transportation hubs and tech giants to car and clothing manufacturers, these are the corporations aiming for net zero waste:
- San Francisco International Airport (SFO) – is executing its strategic plan for becoming the world’s first ‘zero waste’ airport in 2021
- Subaru – opened a zero waste “zero-landfill” manufacturing plant in Lafayette, IN.
- Google – aims for facilities and new products to be circular
These are just a few examples of companies that have well-crafted efforts toward zero waste. So, yes, it can be done, and any business can get started on their plan to go Net Zero Waste.
Achieve your company’s Net Zero Waste goals
Meet your company’s Net Zero Waste goals with National Waste Associates experts. We take your company through our waste audit process and develop a tailored strategy.
When your company is ready for an effective Net Zero Waste plan, contact NWA professionals to get you the right program to achieve your sustainability goals.
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