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Saturday, July 16, 2016

Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success

CULTUREa collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

The above is one of several culture definitions provided on the Texas A&M University website. Within the above definition, corporate and community cultures distinguish themselves in many arenas and behavioral patterns. 

Culture often dictates behavior, either via protocol, rules | regulations, or simply "the way things are done" mentality. In addition, culture drives values, belief systems, and motivation factors. For zero waste program long-term success it is imperative to cultivate a culture where sustainability is a grounding force.

Plastic film is a valuable material
when baled for recycling
Although it may originate within citizen | employee actions and | or demands, corporate and community leadership must align with a sustainability-oriented culture; leadership support is necessary to build infrastructure and economic incentives. Zero waste programs often require corporate | community investment in equipment, labor, and adequate space allocation. Leadership is responsible for investment decisions.

In the November 2015 WasteDIVE article Zero waste: An attainable goal? Q&A with Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore culture emerged as the single most important factor in zero waste success. In the article, Holly emphasized corporate and consumer citizens must view discarded items as material with value versus trash. Holly states:
"As long as we view it as trash it will end up in the landfill. We must recognize it as valuable material."
Culture often dictates whether discarded items are treated as trash or valuable material.

In the ZWA Blog article, Keys to Zero Waste Success, culture is infiltrated throughout the recommended steps for implementing a zero waste plan. Under the Take baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps section, the first two steps relate to building corporate culture:
  1. Secure top management buy-in - best to also secure Board of Directors support who are responsible to the organization's shareholders.
  2. Identify a "Green Team" from across departments led by a passionate individual in a decision making capacity; for non-management team members, ensure zero waste support is written into job review criteria so they are recognized, versus penalized, for their participation.
The article lists the following culture-oriented cornerstones in many successful programs:
EFP Bulletin Board in
common area 
  • Top management participates in a waste audit and sees firsthand valuable resources the company pays to landfill; often results in new practices eliminating purchases (switch from disposable to reusable coffee cups) and reducing use (install paper product dispensers); an effective tool to keep top management focused on zero waste success.
  • Formal employee engagement program seeking suggestions for improved zero waste practices; often production line employees experience wasteful practices not seen by management.
  • Zero waste evolves into the corporate culture; zero waste culture is incorporated within the new hire interview and training process; signage is placed throughout the facility to emphasize the importance in daily activities.
  • Fun, lighthearted communication for a serious message.
  • Continuing employee education re: at work and personal zero waste practices along with opportunity for employee feedback.
At the inaugural 2012 National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC), Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an amazing overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. Once top management buy-in was secured, Eiko developed programs requiring 100% employee participation, including training, fun contests and monetary incentives. Ricoh's zero waste culture is incorporated into the standard hiring process from interviews to the welcome process to job training.

Zero Waste Culture is strong @ EFP
Thanks to Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh, zero waste action is successfully interwoven within the EFP corporate culture. Naderah hosts regular employee sustainability training sessions where employees are encouraged to share their ideas for edging closer to true zero waste. Thus, the facility bathrooms have small recycling containers placed next to the sink for the toilet paper cores.

... and EFP's five U.S. plants are Platinum USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certified!

At the Fifth Annual NZWBC hosted this June in Austin, the importance of corporate & community culture emerged as one of two common themes within the program presentations. Food waste was the other common priority among conference speakers.

During her Food - Love it ... But Don't Waste It! plenary panel presentation, Ted's Montana Grill (TMG) Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens included a video dedicated to the TMG sustainability commitment. In the video, TMG Co-Founders Ted Turner and George McKerrow share their common vision for integrating sustainability within standard operating practices and core values. Leading by example, TMG serves as a restaurant industry forerunner for sustainable best operating practices.

The ZWA Blog article, A "Tuned In" Industry Catches a Vibrant Zero Waste Beat, features the stellar 2016 NZWBC plenary program, including Paula's impressive presentation.

In the pre-NZWBC Zero Waste 101 Workshop, Frontline Industrial Consulting President KB Kleckner presented on the importance of Getting Leadership on Board. At the core of KB's message is the imperative role culture plays in zero waste success. KB uses a bridge visual to map the path from strategy to execution:

Bridging Strategy and Frontline Execution ... by structuring and coaching:

  • LEADER DEVELOPMENT: The person at the top.
  • PERSONAL CONNECTION: Engagement on a uniquely personal level.
  • CULTURE: Building beliefs, values, and relationships that guide judgment, decisions, and actions.
KB presenting @ the NZWBC
photo courtesy Scott Lutocka
KB shares his experience crafting strong zero waste programs at Mohawk Industries manufacturing plants during his tenure as Vice President of Manufacturing and Operations of the Home Division. In KB's own words:
"One company does not have the resources to save the world with their Sustainability efforts. But, each company must do their part!  It starts with leadership, culture, and a personal connection with each of the stakeholders, that quickly spill over into business benefits." 
As the opening keynote speaker at the October 2015 SPC Advance hosted in Charlotte, Domtar President & CEO John Williams gave solid examples for crafting a corporate sustainability platform. For success, top management, Board of Director members and shareholders must commit to a long-term program that may include short-run sacrifices. 

It is important to quantify success and demand the supply chain complements the sustainability platform. John recommends using a corporate scorecard to clearly communicate expectations and audit results to ensure authenticity. The ZWA Blog article, Sustainability: an industry defining itself, is an overview of the SPC Advance conference, featuring John's empowering plenary presentation.

Successful zero waste programs make good long-term business sense for the organization, the community and the environment. Corporate | community leadership supports the sustainability culture necessary for program longevity and evolution.

Cultivating zero waste culture within a corporate or community is a necessary ingredient for crafting a sustainable program.

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