By Ella Rosenkranz, SWEEP Intern and Washington University in St. Louis Alumna
Although third-party certifications have fees involved and require time and effort to make operational changes, their benefits, both explicit and implicit, are important incentives for organizations to become certified. Rerouting solid waste collection vehicles and transitioning to renewable energy sources in processing facilities are some of the ways haulers and municipalities can benefit from adopting SWEEP’s standards. If we take the benefits of implementing SWEEP’s requirements for collection fleets, for example, while there are some capital expenditures required, we can see immediate savings on the costs associated with energy usage, collection efficiency and labor costs. If we look even further than energy savings, we can see some important implicit benefits, such as the reduced risk that comes with increasing worker safety, as well as the decrease in labor costs when more trash is diverted from landfills. 1
While there is concrete, measurable value in cost savings, there is also a great deal of value in the efficiency and credibility that comes with a third-party certification. These programs provide the tools and resources an organization can use to stay accountable and measure its impact. A SWEEP Certified municipality or company will have access to essential tools and guidance to make sure they are achieving the best sustainable materials management practices possible. Jordan Fengel, Executive Director of State of Texas Alliance for Recycling and member of SWEEP’s Standards Committee, advocates for the transparency, credibility and efficiency that SWEEP can give to a company or local government. He comments, “By having a standard way to measure and report material reduction, reuse, and recirculation, it provides a way to avoid ambiguity of a company’s or city’s activities and can help to reduce perceived greenwashing.” Reporting progress in ways that people can trust is crucial in gaining credibility. Stephanie Barger also outlined the importance of metrics when working toward common goals. She said, “Everybody was counting differently. It’s important to have a standard so we can compare and really understand: are we making a difference or not?”
If we take into account the value of credibility, transparency to stakeholders and internal accountability, all combined with the economic value that comes with cost savings and operational efficiencies, it’s hard to ignore the strong benefits that come from third-party certifications. For an organization looking to take the extra step and be recognized as a leader, third-party certifications are a great opportunity to do so.
1 In the case of LEED, for example, certified organizations can measure their savings at about $1 per square foot in
energy and utility savings, on average.