The case for CSR/ Sustainability Reporting Done Responsibly


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Home / case studies / Case study: How Walgreens Boots Alliance treats waste responsibly

Case study: How Walgreens Boots Alliance treats waste responsibly

Walgreens Boots Alliance is a leading global pharmacy-led health and wellbeing enterprise with a portfolio of highly regarded and long-established product brands, employing more than 415,000 people and present in over 25 countries worldwide. Walgreens Boots Alliance is committed to reducing the waste it creates on a comparable basis  Tweet This!, and to contributing to the drive for increasingly circular economies through increased re-use and recycling.

This case study is based on the 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report by Walgreens Boots Alliance 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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Walgreens Boots Alliance seeks to do its part to improve recycling rates and eradicate waste in order to promote a more circular economy, a restorative and regenerative economic model designed to eliminate waste and minimise negative impacts of products and services through system-wide innovation. In order to treat waste responsibly Walgreens Boots Alliance took action to:

  • implement a zero waste to landfill project across U.S. distribution centres
  • reduce single-use plastics
  • run the Spring Cleanup Campaign
  • promote pharmacy recycling
  • divert feminine hygiene products and diaper waste from landfill

What are the material issues the company has identified?

In its 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report Walgreens Boots Alliance identified a range of material issues, such as access to affordable and quality healthcare, product safety, consumer health education and marketing, employee health, safety and wellbeing, data privacy and security. Among these, treating waste responsibly stands out as a key material issue for Walgreens Boots Alliance.

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 reporting organization shall identify its stakeholders, and explain how it has responded to their reasonable expectations and interests.”

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 Walgreens Boots Alliance engages with:

Stakeholder Group                Method of engagement
Non-governmental organisations (NGOs)

 

 

·      At a minimum, quarterly meetings with key charity partners

·      Formal yearly feedback with key charity partners

·      Regular and ad hoc meetings, as well as conference participation with NGOs; frequency varies from business to business and from group to group

Stockholders, investors, lenders

 

·      Annual stockholders meeting

·      Frequent dialogue through the investor relations team

·      May 2018 sell-side analyst event, participation in investor conferences at least twice yearly

·      Annual submission of CDP Climate Change questionnaire

Government bodies and agencies

 

·      Weekly or more frequent meetings with government agencies

·      Weekly or more frequent dialogue with membership associations

·      Consultation responses at national and international levels

·      Quarterly industry panels

Internal stakeholders

 

·      Annual employee performance reviews/appraisals

·      Quarterly and/or annual employee feedback surveys, varies from business to business

·      Ethics, safety, compliance, development and other training—frequency varies from business to business and from role to role

·      Daily Company and business communications through email, intranet and bulletin boards

·      Quarterly town hall meetings with senior leadership

Suppliers ·      Annual supplier conferences

·      Quarterly joint business plans meetings with selected suppliers

Communities

 

·      Daily, through Walgreens Boots Alliance’s retail pharmacies and CSR initiatives

·      Annual campaigns with charity partners

·      Daily response to issues raised on social media

Customers (pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmacists, consumers, patients)

 

·      Always-on Walgreens and Boots UK customer satisfaction surveys

·      Corporate website, business websites

·      Social media

·      Daily, through Walgreens Boots Alliance’s retail pharmacies and CSR initiatives

Academics

 

·      Face-to-face bi-annual meetings

·      Regular guest-speaker slots

·      Presentations at scientific meetings several times a year

Media

 

·      Media releases and social media most weekdays

·      Quarterly streaming of earnings call with analysts, twice yearly streaming of executive participation in investor conferences

·      Media interviews

Peers

 

·      Ad-hoc meetings and regular dialogue through membership organisations

How stakeholder engagement was made to identify material issues

To identify and prioritise material topics Walgreens Boots Alliance carried out 60 in-depth stakeholder interviews and, through a third party, conducted surveys with thousands of customers in its two largest markets, the U.S. and the UK.

What actions were taken by Walgreens Boots Alliance to treat waste responsibly?

In its 2018 Corporate Social Responsibility Report Walgreens Boots Alliance reports that it took the following actions for treating waste responsibly:

  • Implementing a zero waste to landfill project across U.S. distribution centres
  • The Walgreens zero waste to landfill project was implemented across 15 Walgreens distribution facilities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, after a pilot test in select locations. In fiscal 2018, the facilities involved in the project diverted 93 percent of waste from landfill, compared with 88 percent in fiscal 2017. Walgreens also carried out an audit of the current recycling processes at its corporate campus in Deerfield, Illinois, in partnership with the Astor Company, a recycling and consulting firm. The audit analysed current programmes, gathered information for a potential composting programme and generated baseline data for measuring effectiveness of future strategies. Among the resulting key learnings were increasing standardised recycling containers, implementing the composting programme and consolidating an improved cardboard recycling programme. Additionally, in fiscal 2018, during the renovation of 17 stores in Gainesville, Florida, Walgreens diverted 107.3 metric tonnes of construction material from landfill to recycling and also diverted more than 3.4 million pounds (1.5 million kilograms) of products from landfills across the U.S. by donating them to Feeding America, the largest domestic hunger-relief and food rescue organisation.
  • Reducing single-use plastics
  • In a commitment to reduce single-use plastics, in July 2018 Boots UK joined the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP (Waste and Resources Action Programme). The Pact initiative brings together businesses from across the entire plastics value chain with UK governments and non-governmental organisations to tackle the issue of plastic waste. Through its pledge to the Pact, Boots UK aims to help make a fundamental change in the way businesses design, produce, use, re-use, dispose and reprocess plastics. Boots UK is working collectively with members of the Pact, including other major retailers, to transform the UK plastic packaging sector through a multi-step approach, including making 100 percent of plastic packaging reusable, recyclable or compostable by the year 2025.
  • Running the Spring Cleanup Campaign
  • In April 2018, the Walgreens support office in Deerfield, Illinois held its annual Spring Cleanup Campaign. Over the course of the week-long campaign, more than 37,000 pounds (16,000 kilograms) of paper were collected for shredding and recycling. In addition, over 3,400 pounds (1,500 kilograms) of electronic waste were collected for environmentally responsible disposal. The Spring Cleanup Campaign at Walgreens Boots Alliance UK office locations resulted in the removal of redundant IT equipment, documents for archiving, used batteries and general waste. Employees also donated gently used clothing items to Cancer Research UK, replaced plastic bottled water with canned water and replaced plastic cutlery and dishware with compostable alternatives.
  • Promoting pharmacy recycling
  • In fiscal 2018 Walgreens retail pharmacies completed the implementation of a new process for returning disposable patient information to distribution centres for recycling. As of August 2018, Shredit, a document destruction firm, was removing documents from more than 8,000 pharmacies. Between December 2016 and August 2018, this recycling process translated to more than 317,000 saved trees and more than 129 million saved gallons of water.
  • Diverting feminine hygiene products and diaper waste from landfill
  • Boots UK works with an external waste service provider to divert feminine hygiene products and diaper waste from landfill, converting them to fuel pellets for incinerators. After a pilot programme in the Boots UK support office in fiscal 2017, the process was extended in 2018 to most Boots stores and, during the fiscal year, 97 metric tonnes were diverted for incineration, out of a total of 136 metric tonnes.

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

The GRI Standards addressed in this case are:

1) Disclosure 301-3 Reclaimed products and their packaging materials

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

 

Disclosure 301-3 Reclaimed products and their packaging materials corresponds to:

  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 8: Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
  • Business theme: Resource efficiency of products and services
  • Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12: Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns
  • Business theme: Resource efficiency of products and services 

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

 

80% of the world’s 250 largest companies report in accordance with the GRI Standards

SustainCase was primarily created to demonstrate, through case studies, the importance of dealing with a company’s most important impacts in a structured way, with use of the GRI Standards. To show how today’s best-run companies are achieving economic, social and environmental success – and how you can too.

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References:

1) This case study is based on published information by Walgreens Boots Alliance, 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:

http://database.globalreporting.org/

2) https://www.globalreporting.org/standards/gri-standards-download-center/

Note to Walgreens Boots Alliance: With each case study we send out an email requesting a comment on this case study. If you have not received such an email please contact us.

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