The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Insights on how you can protect the environment, maintain and increase the value of your company, through a structured process.

Home / GRI Standards / Case study: How Delta reduces the waste it generates

Case study: How Delta reduces the waste it generates

As a global aviation industry leader, providing scheduled air transportation for passengers and cargo across the United States and around the globe, reducing the waste that it generates is important both for meeting Delta’s environmental compliance commitments and for reducing its overall environmental impact  Tweet This!.

This case study is based on the 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report by Delta published on the Global Reporting Initiative Sustainability Disclosure Database that can be found at this link. Through all case studies we aim to demonstrate what CSR/ ESG/ sustainability reporting done responsibly means. Essentially, it means: a) identifying a company’s most important impacts on the environment, economy and society, and b) measuring, managing and changing.

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Delta continually assesses its waste streams and waste handling operations to identify high-value materials for reuse and recycling, as well as ways to minimise what it sends to landfills. In order to reduce the waste it generates Delta took action to:

  • reduce hazardous waste
  • responsibly manage non-hazardous waste
  • reuse materials
  • recycle materials

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report Delta identified a range of material issues, such as environmental compliance, carbon emissions/climate change, community support and engagement, customer safety and security, supply chain management. Among these, reducing the waste it generates stands out as a key material issue for Delta.

Stakeholder engagement in accordance with the GRI Standards

The Global Reporting Initiative (GRI) defines the Principle of Stakeholder Inclusiveness when identifying material issues (or a company’s most important impacts) as follows:

“The organization should identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations.”

Stakeholders must be consulted in the process of identifying a company’s most important impacts and their reasonable expectations and interests must be taken into account. This is an important cornerstone for CSR / sustainability reporting done responsibly.

Key stakeholder groups Delta engages with:   

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Investors ·      Annual shareholder meetings

·      Annual report, quarterly earnings and proxy statement

·      External recognition, ratings and rankings

·      Investor Day

Customers ·      Customer Satisfaction Survey

·      Social media

Employees ·      Employee Satisfaction Survey

·      Employee Involvement Group (EIG)

·      TechOps EIG

·      Reservations Liaison for Information Networking and Communication (ResLINC)

·      Airport Customer Service and Cargo Frontline Involvement Team (FIT)

·      Velvet-360 Tour

·      Town Hall Program

·      Delta Board Council



·      Supplier ESG Assessment

·      Supplier Diversity (MBE, WBE and SBE) engagement

Governments ·      Collaborative partnerships with governments and NGOs around the world
Nongovernmental organisations ·      Industry associations

·      External recognition, ratings and rankings

Communities ·      Delta Air Lines Foundation

·      Social media

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Delta distributed a questionnaire on environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues to its stakeholders, who included customers, employees, investors, governments, suppliers, nongovernmental organisations and communities.

What actions were taken by Delta to reduce the waste it generates?

In its 2016 Corporate Responsibility Report Delta reports that it took the following actions for reducing the waste it generates:

  • Reducing hazardous waste
  • Delta recognises the negative societal and environmental impacts of the improper handling and disposal of hazardous waste – including harm to the health of employees and local communities. Accordingly, Delta meets all applicable regulatory handling and disposal requirements, and achieved its 2016 goal for reducing hazardous waste: 432.22 tons, a reduction of more than 13 tons compared to 2015. Establishing such goals increases transparency, and compels Delta to constantly identify ways to reduce its environmental impact.
  • Responsibly managing non-hazardous waste
  • Understanding and handling Delta’s complex mix of waste material streams means that not all non-hazardous waste that is generated can be recycled or diverted from a landfill. Working to achieve the highest possible diversion rate, Delta continually tries to identify both materials and opportunities to increase its landfill diversion efforts. Thus, in 2016, Delta targeted year-over-year improvements for reducing the non-hazardous waste volume generated in its operations.
  • Reusing materials
  • Delta has established relationships with a variety of vendors and partners, to further reduce its environmental impact. Through these partnerships, Delta employees identify high-value items for reuse, and Delta’s vendors and partners receive the materials to give them a second life, as new products or as product inputs. These innovative diversion programmes, known as upcycling, also contribute to environmental responsibility, by reducing the amount of new materials needed to produce new products in the marketplace. Accordingly, working with its partners, in 2016 Delta diverted 11,456 pounds of life vests, 22,771 pounds of leather seat covers and 12,537 pounds of curtains from landfills through upcycling efforts. Additionally, stations across the system routinely donate Delta’s red in-flight blankets to shelters, and in 2016 Delta added reusable cabin curtains to its landfill diversion efforts.
  • Recycling materials
  • A major way Delta is reducing its environmental impact is by identifying and diverting valuable recyclable materials from its waste streams. Delta is doing this both through recycling goods on flights where it maintains control of the materials at a station level, and by encouraging employees to recycle at home and at work using Delta’s Atlanta-based Employee Recycling Centre. In both efforts, Delta donates all rebate funds earned to Delta community and employee support programmes.

Which GRI Standards and corresponding Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been addressed?

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 306-2 Waste by type and disposal method

2) Disclosure 306-4 Transport of hazardous waste


Disclosure 306-2 Waste by type and disposal method corresponds to:

Disclosure 306-4 Transport of hazardous waste corresponds to:


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1) This case study is based on published information by Delta, located at the link below. For the sake of readability, we did not use brackets or ellipses. However, we made sure that the extra or missing words did not change the report’s meaning. If you would like to quote these written sources from the original, please revert to the original on the Global Reporting Initiative’s Sustainability Disclosure Database at the link:




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