The world currently generates over 2 billion tonnes of municipal solid waste each year, that averages out to be around 0.74 kilograms per person per day. And according to The World Bank, global waste is estimated to grow to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050.
This increasing waste is a real concern, and one that has serious implications on our environment, society, and the economy. Companies and large organisations are increasingly becoming aware of the waste that they create which has prompted them to start setting zero to landfill and recycled content targets.
First, some background
In 2018, the Global Sustainability Standards Board (GSSB) initiated a project to review and update disclosures on waste to ensure they were in line with internationally agreed best practice, and leading developments in waste management.
An expert working group was formed and over 50 public submissions were received. This led to the standard being revised and updated, and in May 2020 the new standard known as GRI 306: Waste 2020 was released.
So how can the new waste standard help you?
It gets companies thinking about how you can improve your waste practices. Specifically, it helps your organisation:
> publicly report on how you procure, design and use materials that lead to waste;
> understand the quantity and quality of your waste;
> understand the causes of your waste and how you can manage it's impacts;
> identify circularity and waste prevention opportunities; and
> take responsibility for waste generated throughout the value chain, both upstream and downstream.
How companies manage their waste matters to investors, who are increasingly factoring sustainability risks and opportunities into company assessments and demanding better disclosure. In fact, for some of the world’s largest fund managers it is an investment criteria and if you can’t show how you are responding to these issues, they will assume you aren’t managing it at all.
Why is this important?
We generate so much waste, and it just keeps increasing. Australians generate 67 million tonnes of waste per year. The world generates 2 billion tonnes of waste. And that number is set to increase to 3.4 billion tonnes by 2050. This is an environmental problem and health problem of epic proportions.
But there is another reason: all this waste accelerates a depletion of resources and materials.
What can we do?
First, a major shift in mindset is needed. Waste is not “an unwanted residue” but a valuable resource.
“As the disruption to systems and supply chains caused by COVID-19 has shown, companies need to re-think how they do business if they are to be resilient. The time is right – in fact, overdue – for a shift to more sustainable practices ... [t]his is about fundamentally challenging the perception of waste, from an unwanted residue to a valuable resource.”
- Tim Mohin, GRI Chief Executive.
Next, we need to take pro-active steps to manage the waste generated by organisations. Some businesses are sorting their trash, monitoring their waste and looking for ways to prevent it from occurring – this requires forward planning, innovative thinking and a complete reimagining of how we procure supplies - solving for end-of-life upfront so there is circularity embedded into the cycle. And of course, it requires a significant organisational commitment because successful execution needs operational buy-in and a move away from old practices to new.
We are already experiencing so much change as we live through the Covid-19 pandemic. Employees are under pressure, budgets are tight, non-operational and discretionary spend has been turned off and there is general economic and societal unease.
“This is the disclosure standard that the world needs. It reflects the transition from an outdated ‘take, make, waste’ industrial model to one that that designs out waste and minimizes its impacts. The GRI Waste Standard will help any forward-thinking organization demonstrate to stakeholders – such as communities, customers, investors and governments – that they have a holistic and progressive approach to waste.”
– Judy Kuszewski, Chair of the Global Sustainability Standards Board
But if your business generates waste, it is operational, it is not discretionary - it is necessary that we reduce it or reuse it.
givvable is a data driven technology platform that helps companies find, source and track the impact of sustainable and social spending. It helps sustainability professionals, procurement managers and employees making purchasing decisions quickly find and assess the impact credentials of suppliers and maps this spending to regularly used reporting frameworks so they can more easily communicate their impact to stakeholders.