Following its inaugural report based on the guidance of the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures, Republic Services (NYSE: RSG) has published its 2020 Sustainability Report.
CEO and President Jon Vander Ark lauded the company's "vital role in providing sustainable solutions," saying, "we continue to make steady progress toward our 2030 sustainability goals and are excited about innovations and technologies under development that will accelerate our impact."
In his opening message, Vander Ark pledged his commitment to sustainability, saying the company has "an urgency to accelerate our transition to a low-carbon economy."
"It’s imperative for us to reduce emissions and achieve greater circularity with the materials we handle to help preserve the environment now and for future generations," he said. "And I am committed to making Republic Services a model for inclusiveness and equal opportunity. We need a broad range of ideas and perspectives to allow our team members to grow and thrive and to best meet our customers’ needs."
The company's four core Elements of Sustainability have provided a platform for reaching its 2030 sustainability goals.
Despite the pandemic, 2020 was Republic's safest year on record. While its 28,000 frontline workers pushed operations forward, the company saw a 21% reduction in safety incidents.
Republic Services expects to reach a total recordable incident rate (TRIR) of 2.0 by 2030. In 2020, the company's rate remained at 3.7, far below the industry average of 5.8. This included one OSHA recordable incident as well as one worker fatality while operating a collection vehicle.
The 2020 Sustainability Report also detailed the company's commitment to road safety, with an emphasis on its partnership with Together for Safer Roads (TSR).
In a partnership announced in November 2020, Republic Services, TSR and other partners launched a challenge aimed at improving fleet safety with a Truck of the Future innovation. According to the report, the initiative is "expected to identify and test both innovative and cost-effective solutions to eliminate large vehicle collisions through improved driver visibility, a leading issue identified by safety experts from some of the world’s largest fleets."
"We emphasize safety in everything we do – from our drivers’ morning safety huddles to hours of training to seasonal safety initiatives," Vander Ark said.
2. Human Capital
Worker engagement continues to be a baseline to diversity, inclusion and equity efforts at Republic Services. The company transitioned from what it called an "engagement" survey to an "experience survey" in order to get more detailed feedback from its employees. Among the topics examined were company pride, job satisfaction and intention to stay. This allows the company to "dig deeper" into recognition, ethics and inclusion.
"We are making steady progress on employee engagement through talent programs, leadership development and driving an even more inclusive culture," Vander Ark commented. "We are proud of our highly diverse workforce, and we have created even more opportunities for open and authentic conversations among our teams. Every voice matters, and by better understanding our employees’ perspectives we continue to support our team members effectively."
Inclusion is a major component. In order to generate conversation, Republic Services provided "Meeting in a Box" kits to field leaders, which included a 20-minute video as well as talking points. The company encouraged employees to "step outside our comfort zones" by inviting a new colleague to lunch, asking a coworker for their opinion or talking about something other than work during breaks.
"All of us play a role in maintaining an environment where everyone feels like they belong," the report stated.
3. Climate Leadership
In one of its most detailed sections of the 2020 Sustainability Report, Republic Services showed its commitment to environmental efforts, starting with its commitment to fleet electrification. In 2020, the company's first electric collection truck hit the streets.
Vander Ark stressed the company's dedication to electrification, saying, "a zero-emissions fleet is essential to achieving our greenhouse gas reduction goal, and is just one of the ways we’re working to embed sustainability in all areas of our business."
Over the past year, Republic Services decreased operational greenhouse gas emissions by 5% while increasing its recovery of materials to support a circular economy. This encompassed a 7.5% reduction in fleet emissions.
Vander Ark teased new renewable energy projects scheduled to launch in 2021 which will "beneficially reuse more biogas."
Landfill emission reduction continues to be explored. Republic Services stated that current models utilized for measuring and contributing landfills emissions to the overall greenhouse gas footprint are "not well-suited for tracking the progress of reduced emissions from individual landfills." Because of this, the company began identifying additional models to identify the climate-related impact of landfill emissions.
"Where biogas is not beneficially reused, we thermally destruct the methane content, reducing its global warming potential by 96%," the company wrote. "By safely maximizing biogas collection, we minimize gas escaping as fugitive emissions. Landfill emissions make up nearly 90% of the Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas emissions addressed by our Science Based Target goal."
In the past year, Republic Services has collaborated with third parties including the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), which issued a request for proposal (RFP) to further research how greenhouse gas emissions from landfills are managed.
Charitable giving remains a core tenet at Republic Services, demonstrated by a significant increase in the number of people the company stated was impacted through its various grant programs.
The Republic Services Charitable Foundation provided 24 National Neighborhood Promise (NNP) projects with funding. Local schools and community centers were able to renovate their buildings in order to provide health and safe places for youth. This funding also allowed necessary home repairs for veterans and seniors as well as beautification efforts including landscaping and garden beds in public spaces.
The company contributed $3 million to assist small business across the country that were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Small businesses are the cornerstone of strong and vibrant neighborhoods, and many struggled to safely remain open during the past year," the company wrote.
In addition, Republic Services donated $1 million grants to Rebuilding Together, Habitat for Humanity International and NeighborWorks America.
Since 2005, the employee-funded Republic Services Employee Relief Fund has given a lifeline to other workers. In 2020, the Relief Fund provided grants totaling $220,000 to 146 employees. The majority, or 92%, were victims of disasters including fires, hurricanes, tornados or flooding.
Vander Ark showed gratitude to the progress Republic Service workers have made in the past year, saying, "I am tremendously proud of the efforts of all of our employees throughout 2020. Together, they helped drive the social and environmental results highlighted in this report and exemplified what it means to be essential service providers."
Read the full report here.