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  • Writer's pictureKat Nigro

Corporate Sustainability: How does composting impact ESG?


If you’re reading this article, then you’re likely in the process of researching how different programs impact your Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals, and have a good sense of the basics when it comes to what an ESG program is, and why it’s important to your organization.

If you’re just starting out, don’t worry – we provide a brief overview in the first section of this article.


In this article, we break down how composting and waste reduction can be an impactful addition to your ESG program portfolio, and help you meet a variety of corporate sustainability goals.


What is ESG?


Environmental, Social, Governance (or ESG) is a strategic plan or system incorporated into business operations, decision-making, and risk management.


The environmental component examines how a company performs as a steward of the natural world, looking at areas like waste management, energy use, and carbon emissions. The social dimension assesses how a company manages relationships with its employees, suppliers, customers, and the communities in which it operates, taking into account things like worker treatment and diversity. Lastly, the governance element involves a company's leadership, executive pay, audits, internal controls, and shareholder rights.


If you’re just starting out in your research, it’s likely that you’ve come across other corporate sustainability acronyms like CSR, SDG, and TBL. You can read more about the differences of each of these, here.


What impacts does waste reduction have on an ESG program?


Since implementing an ESG program is a significant investment, selecting initiatives that support a broad range of company goals is important. Waste reduction in particular is more than just an environmental initiative, it can also support social and governance goals as well.


Below is a full list of benefits that can come from implementing waste reduction programs.


Environmental Impact

Waste reduction directly contributes to environmental sustainability by minimizing the amount of waste generated and the associated environmental burdens. It helps conserve natural resources, reduce pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and mitigate the negative impacts of waste disposal on ecosystems.


Waste reduction initiatives can include implementing recycling programs, promoting composting, and minimizing packaging waste. For example, a company can set up compost and recycling stations throughout its premises, encourage employees to segregate recyclable materials, and partner with waste management companies to ensure proper recycling and disposal. By doing so, the company reduces the amount of waste sent to landfills, conserves resources, and decreases pollution.


It’s important to note that regardless of the type of waste reduction program you choose to implement, you have a clear understanding of how data will be collected and shared so you can track your goals.


Resource Efficiency

Waste reduction promotes efficient resource management. By reducing waste, organizations can optimize their use of raw materials, energy, and water, leading to cost savings and increased operational efficiency. This can enhance the overall economic performance of the company and contribute to long-term sustainability.


Companies can adopt measures to improve resource efficiency, such as optimizing production processes, reducing material waste during manufacturing, and implementing energy-efficient technologies.


For example, with a program that measures and shares data about organic waste collection, restaurants and commercial food producers can better understand where extra wastage is occurring, and implement policies to reduce waste and save on costs.


Reputation and Stakeholder Engagement

Demonstrating a commitment to waste reduction can enhance a company's reputation and positively influence stakeholder perceptions. Customers, investors, employees, and the general public increasingly value environmentally responsible practices. By integrating waste reduction strategies, organizations can engage stakeholders, build trust, and attract socially conscious investors, employees and customers.


In fact, a recent study shows 76% of consumers say they will stop buying from companies that treat the environment or people poorly, while 80% say that companies should be actively shaping ESG initiatives.

An example of how a company can demonstrate its commitment to waste reduction by publishing an annual sustainability report, like this one, that highlights waste reduction targets and achievements. It can also engage in community clean-up initiatives, sponsor environmental awareness campaigns, and collaborate with environmental organizations.


Regulatory Compliance

Waste reduction initiatives can align with evolving environmental regulations and waste management standards. By proactively reducing waste, companies can ensure compliance with local, regional, and international waste management regulations, avoiding potential penalties and legal risks.


Waste reduction efforts can involve complying with waste management regulations, such as proper disposal of hazardous waste and adherence to recycling mandates. Organic waste regulations have also increased in recent years, meaning if you’re not considering composting or organic waste diversion now then you could be mandated by your state in the near future to look for solutions.


Company Culture and Employee Engagement

Waste reduction initiatives can enhance employee engagement and morale. When employees see their organization actively working toward sustainable practices, it can boost their job satisfaction.


According to a 2023 study by Deloitte, approximately 55% of the participants stated that they research companies' environmental practices and impact before accepting a job, and over 40% mentioned that they have either switched jobs or intend to do so in response to climate-related concerns.

Overall, waste reduction is an essential component of a comprehensive ESG program, as it addresses environmental concerns, improves operational efficiency, supports regulatory compliance, and enhances stakeholder relationships.


How does composting impact ESG goals?


Composting can make a substantial contribution to a company's ESG goals in several ways, however it’s important to note that composting with an experienced service provider comes with the added benefits of diverting higher volumes of waste, contamination management, data collection and transparency, as well as onboarding and education.


Composting can contribute to ESG goals by:


Reducing Emissions

Composting diverts organic waste, such as food scraps and yard trimmings, from landfills which are the third largest source of methane emissions. When organic waste decomposes in landfills, it produces methane which is a potent greenhouse gas. By composting organic waste instead, greenhouse emissions are significantly reduced and landfill waste is minimized.


In order to understand how your company is reducing its carbon emissions, it’s important to have access to impactful data reporting on a routine basis, like this.


Data collection and transparency should not be overlooked when comparing ESG initiatives. A 2023 study by IBM shows that executives cited inadequate data as a top barrier holding back ESG progress.

Conserving Resources

Composting conserves resources by recycling organic waste into a valuable soil amendment. The resulting compost can be used to rebuild soil health in gardens, farms, and landscaping projects. By returning organic matter to the soil, composting improves soil structure, enhances water retention, reduces erosion, and promotes healthier plant growth. This reduces the reliance on synthetic fertilizers and helps conserve water resources.


Supporting a Circular Economy

Composting aligns with the principles of the circular economy by closing the nutrient loop. This promotes a regenerative and sustainable approach to resource management, where waste is viewed as a valuable input rather than a disposal problem.


Composting at scale creates organic recycling infrastructure and provides an opportunity to create meaningful and sustainable jobs in our local communities. In fact, industrial scale compost operations can generate twice as many jobs as landfilling and seventeen times as many as incineration.


Engaging Employees

Composting initiatives can engage employees in sustainable practices. Organizations can implement composting programs in office spaces, provide composting bins, and educate employees about the benefits of composting.


Depending on the compost service provider your organization works with, there may be additional employee benefits like discounts on services at home or at drop-off locations. At CompostNow, we work with employers to build engagement programs for employees to participate beyond the office.


Impacting the Community

Community composting projects, such as community gardens or municipal composting programs, foster social connections, promote environmental education, and encourage active participation in waste reduction efforts.


An example of this in action is our Garden Partners Program, which we started in 2011. As a service provider, we turn the food scraps into compost and share it with a network of local gardens and farms at no cost to the grower. It’s a great way to help companies support the local community without having to support a stand-alone initiative.

Overall, composting offers significant environmental benefits, contributes to resource conservation, supports waste reduction, fosters circular economy principles, and engages employees and communities in sustainable practices. By incorporating composting, organizations can make meaningful contributions to environmental sustainability and address waste management challenges.


How do different types of businesses benefit from composting programs?


The benefits of implementing a compost program will depend on the business type and the amount of compostable waste that an organization produces. As mentioned above, the benefits listed below apply to businesses that choose to compost with a service provider. If you want to learn about other ways your business can compost, check out this article.


Corporate Campus and Offices
  • Waste Reduction: Corporate Campuses generate significant amounts of food waste (e.g., cafeteria leftovers, coffee grounds, and tea bags) and paper waste (e.g., shredded paper). Composting programs allow offices to divert these organic wastes from landfills, reducing waste disposal costs and environmental impact.

  • Employee Engagement: Composting programs provide opportunities for employees to actively participate in sustainability initiatives, fostering a sense of environmental responsibility and teamwork.

  • Sustainability Leadership: Implementing composting programs demonstrates an office's commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship, enhancing the company's reputation and attracting environmentally conscious clients and employees.

  • Learn more about our Corporate Campus/Office compost services.

Arenas
  • Waste Diversion and Emissions Reduction: Arenas generate large volumes of pre and post consumer organic waste from concessions, food courts, and events. Composting programs can divert food waste, napkins, and compostable service ware from landfills, reducing landfilled waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Fan Engagement: Post consumer composting programs can be integrated into fan engagement strategies, promoting environmental awareness and encouraging fans to participate in waste reduction efforts during events.

  • Learn more about our Arena/Event Center compost programs.

Grocery Stores
  • Food Waste Reduction: Grocery stores often have unsold or expired produce and other perishable items. Composting programs enable stores to divert these food wastes from landfills, reducing landfilled waste and greenhouse gas emissions.

  • Consumer Education: Composting initiatives can educate customers about the importance of food waste reduction, sustainable agriculture, and responsible consumption, enhancing the store's reputation as an environmentally conscious retailer.

  • Learn more about we support composting programs for Grocery Stores.

Restaurants
  • Waste Management Cost Reduction: Restaurants produce significant amounts of food waste. Composting through a service provider can help restaurants audit and measure wasted food, so they can adjust spending and reduce costs.

  • Sustainable Practices: Composting programs align with sustainable practices, allowing restaurants to showcase their commitment to environmental responsibility and attract conscious customers.

  • Local Partnerships: Restaurants can collaborate with local composting facilities or community gardens to ensure proper composting and use the resulting compost locally, fostering community engagement and supporting local initiatives.

  • Learn more about we support composting for Restaurants and Coffee Shops.

Universities and Schools
  • Waste Education: Composting programs in educational institutions provide opportunities to educate students about waste reduction, recycling, and environmental sustainability, promoting a culture of environmental awareness.

  • Curriculum Integration: Composting programs can be integrated into science, biology, or environmental studies curricula, offering hands-on learning experiences and reinforcing environmental concepts.

  • Campus Sustainability: Composting programs contribute to the overall sustainability goals of universities and schools, reducing waste, conserving resources, and engaging the entire campus community in sustainable practices.

  • Learn more about our University and School compost service programs.


Conclusion


Ultimately, building a corporate sustainability portfolio requires a strategic and integrated approach that considers the entire spectrum of sustainability issues and opportunities, and involves collaboration across the organization and with external partners.


Composting and waste reduction can be an impactful addition to a company's ESG program portfolio, and help meet a variety of corporate sustainability goals. By selecting the right mix of sustainability initiatives and implementing them effectively, companies can not only achieve their goals, but also generate business value and create a positive impact on society and the environment.





corporate sustainability

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