Environmental Justice: Case Study on Waste Management Company – Page 2

Neutral Community Members

This group states that the notices of the meeting were very close to the meeting date resulting to the inability of most people to attend. They say that many people heard about the meetings over the world of mouth. They have a mild concern about the community being ignored and to some extent feel that the isolation of the locality as well as the Latino population could have been the cause of Waste Management choosing Kettleman Hills as the waste disposal site, given the fact that there are many other places such a facility could have been established. On the other hand, this group feels that the creation of the foundation plays an important role in portraying the company’s efforts of helping the community.

Opposed Community Members

According to the understanding of this group of Kettleman Hill residents, the creation of the foundation was not initiated by the Waste Management. It took the community through a lawsuit to obtain ask for the foundation as one of the mitigation measures during the permitting process. They say that although the community had asked for special windows along route 41 to prevent the increased traffic noise disturbance, Waste Management complied with those concerns after the lawsuit. They believe that there is absence of clarity on whether the foundation’s benefits exceed the impacts falling on the community (Morain, 2013). They also believe that a monetary relationship between communities and the companies they host is a bad idea since it can easily lead to the compromising of integrity of such communities.

Outcomes of the Process

Implementing the above process provided a relatively satisfactory feeling to the community, promoting the growth of Waste Management’s facility at Kettleman Hills from a history of distrust from the community to that of an active and positive engagement, especially through the creation of the Kettleman City Foundation (Maldonado, 2007). Waste Management has made substantial investment in the community. Finally, the community became more engaged through the foundation, and has been successful in collectively improving the quality of life in the Kettleman Hills region. Through creating the athletic fields for the region’s school, the company initiated the process of improving the relations between the facility and the community. This way, Waste Management feels that it now receives a proper reward for all its efforts through honesty and trust from the Kettleman Hills community members. It was possible for the Waste Management Company to directly donate funds to the community. However, for the fear of undermining the community’s integrity or just benefiting a few members of the community, the company chose to establish a community center since it is guaranteed to benefit all community members without discrimination.

Kings County, the home county of Kettleman receives 10% of the gross receipts from tax on hazardous waste disposal from the Waste Management Company, being the largest source of discretionary income for this that county. The tax has been used for road construction, building projects, the fire department, and as part of the county’s general fund. Waste Management also makes contributions to the California Integrated Waste Management Board, pays property tax for the facility in Kettleman Hills, and pays disposal fees to the Department of Toxic Substances Control (Office of the Federal Register, 2011). Other Kettleman City’s community beneficiaries of the Waste Management environmental justice practices include the region’s elementary school, the Avenal community, and the sheriff’s activity foundation and league.

Lessons Learned

From the experience of Waste Management in its quest to establish a waste disposal facility in Kettleman Hills region, there are several lessons a business entity learns about the concept of environmental justice. To start with, zoning laws, the provisions of RCRA and other legal authorities provide communities with the necessary facilities and opportunities to protest against injustices in courts of law (Brooks, 2000). From the lawsuit experience, Waste Management understands that being in court does not predetermine the outcome. More so, this company now believes that it is possible for all business entities and companies such as itself to set up sophisticated legal defenses to the extent of winning citizen suits. However, Waste Management feels that for better effectiveness and consistency, business entities should use different routes that include the engagement of the community in a more candid and proactive manner. For instance, when Waste Management turned to the community’s needs for resources and their means to meet those needs, a steadfast relationship was established between the community and the company. Waste Management is now able to gain a better understanding of the community’s needs, gather more information and inputs for operational issues, and gain more appreciation for the benefits of working with community on common projects. This relationship furthers business goals and assists in meeting shareholders expectations through the reduction of opposition in the location and permitting processes as well as avoiding image impairment resulting from public controversy.

Waste Management’s Employee Ethical Strategies

According to the mission statement of Waste Management, all the employees believe that it is imperative to practice the highest standards of ethics, at the company level as well as individual employees. This is a key factor that makes them observe and honor the concept of environmental justice. The company aims to be defined through a culture that reflects the company’s key values.

In fact, Waste Management was in a recent publication named in the list including the most ethical companies of the world by Ethisphere Magazine, being the only company from the environmental services sector (Waste Management, 2013). This company understands that long-term success depends on the vibrant indulgence of a diversified workforce that works their best for the advantage of the company, for the business in general, and for the communities they serve.

The ethical objectives of the employees include the creation of an environment where they can understand the standards of ethical conduct and by abiding to those standards observe the maxims of environmental justice. More so, the company allows the employees to communicate breaches confidentially and anonymously without fear of retribution. This helps them to enlighten the effectiveness of all its efforts to ensure total compliance to environmental justice from all its employees at all levels. Lastly, the company supplies training with the purpose of educating the employees on the ethical standards set by Waste Management towards service commitment, conduct and community involvement.

Still on ethical behaviors, the company has set up a relevant code of ethics for its employees titled, “Focus on Integrity and Inclusion.” The content of this code include the company’s key values of accountability, honesty, safety, respect, diversity, professionalism, inclusion and employee empowerment to deal with environmental justice issues as soon as they surface. There is also an emphasis on the need to enhance fairness and honesty in the dealings of the business at all aspects, including the provision of the necessary general guidance. To help the employees who have emergency environmental justice related issues, the company operates an integrity help line; a confidential and multilingual too-free service that operates twenty four hours a day all year long (Waste Management, 2013).

Recommendations for Improving Environmental Justice Measures

According to Brittle, a worker in an anonymous organization in Arizona that campaigns for environmental justice by business entities, there are certain things that a company, like Waste Management, should do to ensure successful community involvement. First, Brittle says that it is important for a company’s employees to undergo intense environmental justice training so as to attain the necessary ability of dealing with location and permitting decisions in the future. More so, Brittle emphasizes on the importance of just disposing just the toxic and hazardous waste from the host state without importing from other states.

In addition, Brittle says that the grassroots community organizations involved should work towards improving their communication skills in the quest of remaining as viable factors in the matters concerning environmental justice. They should continue to work actively ensuring that they get more legislative support when necessary. Brittle says that it is also necessary for them to enforce permit violations in a more stringent manner. Finally, Brittle emphasizes on the use of media coverage in creating public awareness on the struggle of environmental justice. This provides other communities suffering from similar situations get a vivid case of reference.

Conclusion

The environmental justice concept is a relatively new aspect in most business entities across all industries. Most management personnel do not effectively differentiate between environmental justice practices from corporate social responsibility. However, it is good to understand that while corporate social responsibility has some aspects of choice, environmental justice is a pure obligation for all business and must be present especially when directly dealing in demographic locations characterized by socially minor or low-income residents. As seen from the case study of Waste Management activities in Kettleman Hills, the success of setting up business operations in such areas depends on how well environmental justice maxims are applied.

List of References

  • Arnold, T. (2007). Planning for Environmental Justice. Planning & Environmental Law , 3-12.
  • Brooks, S. (2000). Innovative Waste Utilization and the Concerned Residents of South Phoenix, AZ. Dallas: University of Texas.
  • Maldonado, R. (2007, October 9). Kettleman City foundation Openings . Retrieved June 26, 2013, from The Sentinel: http://www.hanfordsentinel.com/news/kettleman-city-foundation-openings/article_625453dd-7265-50f4-a2bc-43e40a4e73a6.html
  • Morain, D. (2013, March 17). Hazards of Life in a ‘Green’ State. Retrieved June 27, 2013, from The Sacramento Bee: http://www.sacbee.com/2013/03/17/5267202/hazards-of-life-in-a-green-state.html
  • Office of the Federal Register. (2011). Code of Federal Regulations, Title 40, Protection of Environment, Parts 266-299, Revised as of July 1, 2011. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office.
  • Vaughn, J. (2009). Waste Management: A Reference Handbook. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO.
  • Waste Management. (2013). Ethics. Retrieved June 26, 2013, from wm.com: http://www.wm.com/about/company-profile/ethics/index.jsp
  • Wüstenhagen, R. (2008). Sustainable Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Northampton: Edward Elgar Publishing.
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