By: Anna Krotova
Global Reporting Initiative (GRI)
COVID-19 has been disrupting commercial activities globally, affecting, among others, the composition and volume of waste generated by various organisations. Transparency about how waste management systems are designed and function, has become a key issue.
Some companies now have to offer adequate protection for workers dealing with waste, while others face new waste-related impacts and re-think their business models, as both resource supply and product demand have been interrupted.
To guide companies through a holistic assessment of their activities from the proxy of waste, with opportunities for improvement, GRI launched, in May 2020, a new Waste Standard for any company around the world to freely access and use. Tweet This!
Where to begin
Sustainability reporting according to the GRI Standards starts by identifying material topics, from an impact perspective. Waste, although key, is seen as something unpleasant and, as a consequence, its value is often underestimated. Additionally, people who handle waste usually don’t have decision-making power and are not listened to.
The new Waste Standard helps reporters acknowledge waste in their operations and identify relevant impacts. It recommends that companies visualise and understand how inputs and outputs move through their own activities and value chain, so as to identify interventions and decisions for addressing the root-causes of their waste-related impacts.
Why context is important
As a result of the pandemic, waste generation rates fall in some sectors of the global economy and rise in others, as a consequence of increased or decreased activity. While urban retail, for example, has decreased, e-commerce or medical services have rapidly increased. Keeping good records of volumes of waste generated, its composition, and movement, is therefore essential. In addition, the new Waste Standard sets out what is universally appropriate and forward thinking as regards waste management and its challenges.
How much to report
Sustainability reporting is not a check-box exercise. It is a self-assessment tool to help companies identify the most important negative impacts of their activities. Accordingly, GRI’s Waste Standard guides companies through the reporting process to help them better understand their own waste management system and collect and filter relevant data. Companies can also build their reporting gradually: start from an overview of waste generated and disposed in their activities and progress to the most important impacts and their causes.
…and to whom
Companies have to understand who their report users are (e.g. investors, civil society, or other stakeholders), and what information they need. The new Waste Standard helps companies communicate relevant information to different stakeholder groups, as its set of metrics already represents consensus from civil society, business, investors and labour organisations on what needs to be known about the issue, how to measure the information and how to deliver it.
Where do we go from here?
History has shown that it is crises moments like this pandemic that can create the urgency and openness needed to achieve change. Waste management is one such area where companies can learn from the crisis, understand the root-causes of why waste is generated, acknowledge the wider impacts on the environment and people and collaborate to find solutions.
About the author
Anna Krotova works in Amsterdam for Global Reporting Initiative (GRI), provider of the world’s most widely used sustainability reporting standards. Anna leads the development of Standards covering environmental issues, such as water, waste, and biodiversity, to ensure they steer organizations toward addressing present-day challenges through transparent reporting.
Prior to joining GRI in 2016, Anna was a consultant for environmental services firm Metabolic, and worked in stakeholder outreach for the International Finance Corporation. She holds a Masters in Industrial Ecology from Delft University, and a Diploma in Environmental Policy, Lomonosov Moscow State University.
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