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7 Starting Points for Effective Sustainability Strategies

February 12, 2024


In today's environmentally conscious world, businesses can no longer afford to ignore the impact of their waste. There is simply too much at stake on both sides of the matter. 

Ecologically, the planet faces an escalating climate crisis and a plethora of risks tied to its shifting temperatures, unpredictable weather patterns, and growing propensity for super storms and natural disasters. Economically, the market faces an escalating wave of its own—a demand for transparent, ecofriendly products and services, and an unprecedented amount of growth opportunities for those willing and able to deliver.

But how can businesses effectively align their environmental and financial goals without hindering either? While the answer is as varied as it is complex, the following practices are excellent entry points into greater strategies that will ultimately build resilience, create value, and foster long-term growth for both world and wallet.


1. Embrace the Waste Hierarchy

By following the Waste Hierarchy, businesses can do more than better their environmental performances—they can create value from their waste, turning what was once a liability into an asset.

Reduce: Prioritize minimizing waste at the source. This involves analyzing product design and packaging, opting for reusable materials, encouraging bulk purchases, and promoting sustainable consumption among employees and customers.

Reuse: Before discarding, explore opportunities to reuse items. Implement a repair and refurbishment program for equipment, donate used items to charities, and encourage reuse within the organization.

Recycle: Ensure clear and accessible recycling facilities for accepted materials. Partner with reputable recycling companies and educate employees on proper sorting practices.

Recover: For waste that cannot be properly recycled, seek out technologies that can divert it from landfill disposal and transform it into renewable fuel or carbon-negative energy--processes that ultimately "close the loop" on materials' lifecycles.


2. Implement Extended Producer Responsibility

Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs shift some end-of-life management responsibility to producers, incentivizing them to design environmentally friendly products and take responsibility for their recycling or disposal. Ensure the goods you produce use succinct, efficient packaging; are easy to reuse, refurbish, and recycle; do not use environmentally harmful components; and the like. Consider joining existing EPR programs or advocating for industry-wide adoption amongst your peers.


3. Invest in Renewable Technologies

Certain technologies can transform unsalvageable waste into renewable energy sources. Explore options for waste-to-energy solutions, alternative fuel engineering, anaerobic digestion, and other resource recovery processes that divert waste from landfills. Not only will they mitigate their many risks, they will drive recycling efforts, improve environmental performances, and open the door to new revenue streams.


4. Partner with Sustainability Experts

Collaborating with consultants or waste management companies with expertise in sustainable practices can prove invaluable. The right company can deliver tailored, end-to-end solutions and ongoing support. They can offer valuable insights into the industry and its policies; help with waste audits, program implementation, employee training, and performance reporting; connect you with their network of technology and partnerships; and more.


5. Foster Transparency and Communication

Publish your sustainability report to your website and promote it--and your accomplishments, goals and initiatives--through press releases, social media, and other visible channels of communication. Share progress reports and celebrate achievements to build trust and engage stakeholders. Conduct regular awareness campaigns and training programs for employees to encourage participation and responsible waste management practices on the job, at home, and in their communities.


6. Support Circular Economy Initiatives

Explore opportunities to integrate your business into the circular economy, where resources are kept in use for as long as possible. This could involve designing products for disassembly and reuse, participating in product buy-back programs, or collaborating with other businesses for resource sharing and waste minimization.


7. Advocate for Policy Change

Support policies that promote sustainable waste management, such as extended producer responsibility regulations, landfill bans, or investment in recycling infrastructure. Engaging with policymakers and industry associations demonstrates your commitment to sustainability and can create a more favorable environment for responsible businesses.


The Benefits of Effective Sustainability Strategies

Implementing these strategies can lead to significant benefits for businesses in a wide variety of ways.

Cost Savings: Reduced waste generation, efficient recycling, and thorough resource recovery can lead to significant cost savings in waste disposal, raw materials, and energy consumption.

Enhanced Brand Reputation: The market increasingly values sustainable practices. Demonstrating commitment to waste reduction and resource conservation can bring in top talent, secure industry partnerships, attract environmentally conscious customers, and build brand loyalty.

Compliance with Regulations: Proactive waste management helps businesses stay compliant with evolving environmental regulations, avoiding potential fines and litigation.

Improved Operational Efficiency: Streamlining waste management processes and investing in renewable technologies can lead to improved operational efficiency and productivity. This manifests through using resources more effectively, discovering new synergies between them and their systems, and creating new value from their components after their standard lifecycles.

Resilience and Long-Term Growth: By minimizing waste and maximizing resource use, businesses become less vulnerable to resource scarcity and price fluctuations, ensuring long-term growth and sustainability.


The Opportunity Ahead

Waste management is no longer just a compliance issue; it's a strategic opportunity for businesses to build resilience, secure growth, and contribute to a more sustainable future. By embracing these effective strategies and fostering a culture of responsible resource management, businesses can create a win-win situation for themselves and the environment.

Remember, even small changes can cascade into big impacts.

For more on how sustainable waste management can build a more responsible and resilient business model, check out our article.


A major source of net carbon negative energy

8 acquisitions
For each ton of waste we recover for energy, Covanta saves 1 ton of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). In 2022, we avoided 19 million metric tons of CO2e.

A major source of net carbon negative energy

8 acquisitions
For each ton of waste we recover for energy, Covanta saves 1 ton of CO2 equivalents (CO2e). In 2022, we avoided 19 million metric tons of CO2e.

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