An interview with Tammy Kaleel
Tammy Kaleel is Environmental Integration Director at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, U.S. She has been working domestically and internationally in the field of sustainability for the past 10 years. Her experience spans sustainability strategy and program development, greenhouse gas emissions reduction, waste to landfill diversion, water conservation, and long-term culture change.
Domestically, I am inspired by the recent full-page Wall Street Journal and many major US-based companies placed urging the President not to withdraw from the Paris Climate Accord.
Internationally, I’m seeing an even greater focus as companies respond to even more aggressive impact reduction goals set by governments striving to demonstrate leadership in this area. I am encouraged because this activity confirms that major corporations understand their role in conserving the planet’s resources AND successfully meeting the citizenship and financial demands of shareholders.
When implementing a sustainability program or initiative, of course, everyone affected needs to be aware and engaged, however, everyone does not have equal impact on the success of the program. What I mean by customized education is that first, the critical positions for the success of the program must be identified, and then training for the managers, supervisors, and employees must occur. This training should be detailed and must be incorporated into the existing training, documentation, and processes for the affected department.
For example, let’s say an office building is trying to implement a new sustainability strategy of which a new recycling program is one component. There may be a three-pronged approach to education and training around recycling.
- Training that must occur for all of the building occupants outlining what’s recyclable and where to properly dispose of this material.
- Janitorial leaders and staff need to know what’s recyclable, and they also need to know where to take the material when cleaning the building, and who to call if the material isn’t picked up on time. Root cause analysis, feedback and additional training may be needed to clarify issues if staff continues to put recyclable materials in the trash instead of the recycling dumpster.
- If the building has a cafeteria, visitors need to know how to recycle properly, and the kitchen staff needs to know which of the materials they generate are recyclable or not, where to put them, the consequences of not recycling properly, etc.
It can get complicated quickly but in my experience, customized expectation setting, training and follow through are critical to the success of any sustainability program.
The ultimate measure of success is whether or not a sustainability program achieves its goal. Behavioral measurements can be indicator measures to help identify opportunities when a goal is not being met.
Let’s go back to our office building recycling program example. Let’s say this organization set a 75% recycling goal, and after hiring a consultant to conduct a waste composition analysis, they learned that their current recycling rate is only 35%. The study revealed three areas of opportunity, and the team decides that the janitorial staff are critical to delivering on the goal.
Some behavioral measures for this group could be evaluating the percentage of trash cans and recycling bins that are properly placed and labeled throughout the building, and trying to drive this to 100%. This information could be collected and recorded through periodic observations and results reported to supervisors to address shortfalls.
Another behavioral measure for this group could be the number of times recycling is spotted in the trash compactor or dumpster with the target being zero. Again, this information could be collected and recorded through periodic observations and reported for action. Behavioral measures are not the ultimate measure of success but can be used to identify issues if a program isn’t delivering the desired result.
A good solid waste management program can absolutely deliver financial benefit depending on the rate structure for the services provided by the waste and recycling hauler.
Going back to our office building example, improving the recycling rate from 35% to 75% will likely reduce costs for trash pickups and should provide a small revenue stream for cardboard collection. Recycling collection and hauling should cost less than trash hauling which also reduces operating costs. Successful implementation is a great example of how business is good for sustainability and sustainability is good for business.