Sustainability and environment, social, and governance (ESG) are not just about preserving materials and being “green,” they’re components of successful business, according to several speakers at ISRI2022.

At the Path to Sustainability: What Is It and Why You Should Care? educational session on March 22, Andrew Coffey, ISRI’s director of member success, moderated. The discussion was timely, as it followed the Securities and Exchange Commission’s March 2 announcement that it is exploring rulemaking to require publicly traded companies to disclose their climate-related risks and management strategies. There is a 60-day comment window, with the SEC expected to finalize the rules before December.

“It’s a milestone that we’re talking about [sustainability and ESG] today,” comments Robert Ellsworth, Schnitzer Steel Products Co.’s sustainability director. He notes: “Sustainability is a broad term often used to describe a company’s efforts to reduce its impact on the world. ESG refers to specific and measurable environmental, social, and governance risk factors, impacts, and value-creation opportunities.”

Rebecca Bar, director of membership at the Value Reporting Foundation, promoted the use of Sustainability Accounting Standards Board (SASB) standards. “We’re seeing increasing interest from providers of all kinds of capital in sustainability information as a means to evaluate companies,” she states. SASB standards, while not specific to recycling, include a “waste engagement” category that helps companies in the space identify, manage, and communicate financially-material sustainability information to their investors.

“As you become more sustainable, that will lift you above your competitors over time,” comments Arnold Bowers, senior director of sustainability resource management at consulting firm ENGIE. Additional benefits of a renewed focus on ESG issues include reduced enterprise risk, top-line growth, improved brand reputation, asset optimization and cost reduction, he says.

At The “New” Requirement for Recyclers: ESG session March 23, moderator Rike Sandlin, founder and CEO of business consultancy Rivervista Partners, reminded attendees the SEC could begin collecting ESG reports from companies as soon as 2024. But it isn’t just federal and state governments that are interested. “A number of banks and investment firms have all said that ESG—environmental social and governance—reporting and disclosure … are all part of their investment strategy,” Sandlin notes. “They don’t want to invest in a company unless [it] has some sort of transparency and disclosure around ESG. That’s going to drive our businesses in new ways.”

Matthew Young, Founder and President of Electronics Value Recovery Inc., gave an example of how recyclers can tell a story about their responsibility. “Device reuse, refurbishing, at its most basic level, is going to extend the lifecycle of these devices, which means less raw materials need to be created and recovered, and at the same time it creates more affordable options and lower barriers to entry for individuals who might not be able to afford the latest and greatest piece of technology.”

As he stated during an earlier ISRI2022 session on information technology asset disposal (ITAD), Russ Ernst, executive vice president of product and technology at data erasure firm Blancco, pointed out how documenting the handling of processed items could benefit a company—in this case an electronics recycler—down the line. “You want to make sure that there’s traceability back to that specific device ID, that that device was processed on a specific date on a specific time by a specific operator using a specific algorithm to prove that when it left that processing facility, it did not have data,” he says. “That way you’re covered for liability.”

Photo courtesy of Storyblocks.






Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.