What Can Organizations Learn from the WMPO
Tom Carpenter, director of sustainability services
Although the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) event is officially over, many people are still working
to reuse, recycle, compost, and divert materials from the landfill. Continuing with the topic of why we invest in
the PGA TOUR and the WMPO, I thought we could realize even more value by sharing lessons learned from the
event that could be transferred to other areas of WM business.
To many, the WMPO is just a large sporting event. However, if you peel back the curtain you will see a dynamic
case study that exhibits every sustainability solution our company has to offer. These solutions are transferable
to every customer segment and are exhibited on the grandest stage for all to see.
What we have learned over time is that if you can’t get the buy-in of all the various stakeholders (anyone who can
affect or be affected by the actions of the business) involved in putting on an event, it will be difficult to impossible
to reach your highest goals. At the WMPO, stakeholders include golfers, 500,000+ attendees, volunteers, the
community, the Thunderbirds, the WM employees, and vendors. Throughout the year we spend time identifying, building
relationships with, and getting feedback from these stakeholders. This is one of the single most important things we do
because it provides invaluable feedback and allows for year over year improvement.
Our approach to an organization is no different. In order for sustainability to drive value, it must be embraced by every
facet of the organization. Waste Management is positioned to be the catalyst of this engagement.
Vendors build the WMPO, tear it down after, sell food and merchandise, and service the event; it is imperative that
we know how to best support each other. Open communication allows us to understand the challenges in their
business and provides us an opportunity to educate them on using more sustainable materials that can be reused
each year and recycled at their end of life. As a result, we were able to reuse 88 percent of 2013 tournament
signage at the 2014 event. The vendors are proud to provide us with high-quality sustainable signs, and we are
proud to support them and to extract as much value as possible from their materials.
This engagement mimics every customer supply chain. When we assess the impacts associated with all stages
in understanding sustainability in business, both risks and opportunities are unveiled. I often use the analogy of
balancing a view between the telescope and microscope. There is no other way to drive lasting impact within
business and again WM can lead this effort for our customers.
The WMPO is the most attended tournament on the PGA TOUR, generating over $6 million for local charities and
a total economic impact of $231,700,000 in 2013.
Phoenix gains a lot from this event, and in return they allow over 500,000 people to flood their communities, drive
on their streets, and use their natural resources. We have a good idea of what is important to the community because
we talk to them through meetings, emails, surveys and in person before and after the event. Water conservation,
zero waste, and alternative energy use come up over and over again, so we work hard to improve on these each year:
By talking to the community, we can understand their concerns and lessen the impact. Everyone wins.
Every customer deeply desires to achieve the same level social impact. In fact, sustainability and social responsibility
are rapidly merging. WM is uniquely positioned within each of our communities to not only provide customers with
sustainable strategies, but also covey the net positive impacts of these programs through dynamic reporting and use
Global Reporting Initiatives.
In 2013, beverage containers were recyclable along with paper and cardboard. That means that whatever liquid was left in
these containers ended up in our recycling stream, making the cardboard and paper very wet and much less valuable, and
the bags heavy and awkward to carry. Operation Team Manager Jeremy Bradley had the idea of reusing the large containers
that port-o-let chemicals come in to collect liquid waste from attendees. Taking the time to ask for feedback from the
operational team helps us run more efficiently and feel that we’re all part of the success of the event.
Sustainability drives innovation. Some organizations remain trapped in a risk management and compliance mode. However,
leading organizations have used sustainability as a level for innovation. WM has a tremendous track record in driving innovation.
From the years of Upstream to our technologies within OGG to our Sustainability Services, WM has driven lasting value for our
customers. We innovative and optimize value creation within materials that are deemed by many to have no value.
Rather than continue the basic story of a golf tournament that has transformed itself into the “#Greenest Show”, I would issue a
challenge to take a step back. Collectively we need to transform our story, our messaging and embrace the fact that we are
leaders that are driving sustainable innovation. We have redesigned a business model for the largest golfing and entertainment
venue and built lasting value for stakeholders, vendors and the community. The Greenest Show on Grass indeed!