Core Values

By Bill Prachar,

“It’s in our DNA” is one of the popular phrases in the current language of business.
When we began to reinvent our safety program in the early 2000s we talked about how
we wanted safety to become part of WM’s DNA. Now we like to say it is part of our DNA.
Twenty years ago, few of us would have had any idea what the phrase meant, but today
we all know it means safety (or whatever) is “wired” into the way we do business — it’s part"
of who we are.

This got me thinking, what is DNA really all about and does the real thing have any
implications for how we conduct business?

DNA, or deoxyribonucleic acid, is the hereditary material in humans and almost all other
organisms. In humans, it consists of about three billion combinations of pairs of four
chemical bases. We each receive half our DNA from our mothers and half from our
fathers. We all share 99.9 percent of the same DNA markers. In other words it is less than
1/10 of a percent where the variations that make us each unique.

So, if we are all so closely related, why have we spent the last ten thousand years fighting
with each other over “differences” and discriminating against people we think “aren’t like us?”
Maybe the answer is that as humans we also share 90 percent of the DNA of rats! Maybe it
is because part of the DNA wiring we all share is a natural tendency for “clans” to protect
themselves. This was probably useful when we emerged from caves, but causes a heck of
a lot of trouble in the modern world.

My hope is the deeper understanding we are gaining about DNA will help us focus on our 99.9
percent similarities instead of the 0.1 percent differences. It is great to have safety as part
of our DNA, and thinking ethically (and safely and customer-focused) as part of our company
DNA. Wouldn’t it be great if we could say that mutual respect, non-discrimination, and diversity
were also part of our DNA? It shouldn’t be that hard — after all, we’ve got a 99.9 percent
head start!