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Building Bridges for Sustainability and Environmental Justice

2012 July 5
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By Sue Briggum

I’m sharing this video because in my experience, when members of the business community sit down with community members and environmental justice leaders; listen, learn and share candid conversation, they learn a lot about being a better neighbor and a better company.  At Waste Management, our engagement with community and environmental justice leaders over many years has given us critical insights into how we need to shape our business plan to focus on recycling and renewable energy and become part of a more sustainable future.  If a company wants to be sustainable, it must be a constructive community partner and an advocate for environmental justice.

There are many businesses committed to constructive engagement with community and environmental justice leaders and governments, which have been working together in the Business Network for Environmental Justice. I would encourage community members to reach out to members of the business community and begin the dialogue – and encourage businesses to do the same. The message I want to convey through this video is simple: Pragmatic conversations among stakeholders are the best forums to shape sound public policy.

About the author: Sue Briggum is Vice President of Public Affairs for Waste Management.  Sue served on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s NACEPT Superfund Advisory Committees in 1994 and 2004; Title VI of the Civil Rights Act Advisory Committee; Compliance Assistance Advisory Committee; and  Environmental Justice Advisory Council (as Council or work group member) from 1994 to 2012. She co-chaired both terms of the National Environmental Policy Commission, convened at the request of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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18 Responses leave one →
  1. Ernest Martinson permalink
    July 6, 2012

    I also endorse conversation about conservation among stakeholders as a forum to shape public policy. Hopefully, that will be sound policy. But for a company to be sustainable may require more than being a community partner and an advocate for environmental justice. Its hope for sustainability may also rest upon something that does not exist today—a sustainable economy within a sustainable environment.

    A reason that this does not exist today is the absence of proper market pricing. The economy is undermined through punitive taxation, while the earth is mined through subsidy of depletion of natural resources contained therein. It is the land factor of production that should be taxed, not labor and capital. Recovering resource rent would minimize the waste of the natural world and could be the source of funding of an earth dividend distributed to each of us in the manner of the oil dividend in Alaska.

  2. July 6, 2012

    The Good Force be with you!

    Well done, Sue! You take care our environment excellently. Nice video!

    Live forever and prosper!

  3. latonya permalink
    July 7, 2012

    well done, sue. keep up the good work. this society does need the help of others. i agree with everything and i will try to make a difference and take back everythiung i learn to my school.

  4. Robert McDonald permalink
    July 7, 2012

    Very good video with a great message. I’m glad that Industry is playing a role in fixing these problems.

  5. Sue permalink
    July 7, 2012

    Great to see business listening to communities and considering their suggestions in their business practices. I like the positive message, we need more of them in this country where everything seems to have become about seperation and partisanship.

  6. Sue permalink
    July 12, 2012

    Shared your two videos with my book club definitely made for an interesting conversation. We are looking forward to future videos in your series.

  7. Tracey permalink
    July 12, 2012

    This video is absolutely appalling. As an environmental justice advocate, I demand that EPA retract and apologize for it immediately. Waste Management is a known polluter in EJ communities across the country. We don’t just want more recycling, we want to stop the birth defects from environmental exposure to toxins. This video displays a profound, insulting and dangerous misrepresentation of EJ principles on the part of both EPA and WM. Shameful.

  8. July 12, 2012

    This video is a disgrace and a violation of environmental justice.
    It should have been released on April Fools Day.

    How dare the US EPA’s anniversary of their alleged commitment to environmental justice feature the biggest waste company in the world with about the worst reputation for environmental racism and injustice.

    This video was nothing less than blatant polluter-friendly propaganda and greenwashing.

    Funny (not really) how EPA omitted any mention of the chronic violations they recently busted Waste Management for at the giant hazardous waste and PCB landfill in the Spanish-speaking farmworker town of Kettleman City. Chem Waste/WM got busted for years of illegal disposal and failure to conduct some of the required monitoring.

    Funny how Sue of WM never mentions the fact that the company got their county permit based on pure racism and police intimidation, where police dogs and dozens of cops enforced racist hearing rules that gave Spanish-speaking residents half the time to testify as English speakers.

    It was interesting to see the company workers wearing green shirts, the same shirts they put on their out of town workers who they brought in by the hundreds to pack a hearing on the proposed expansion of the dump and heckle residents and laugh at their concerns.

    If EPA is truly interested in environmental justice they would have featured residents of Kettleman City speaking about living next to the giant WM toxic waste dump has brought about great suffering and decades of racism and injustice.
    Shame on the EPA and their buddies at Waste Management.

  9. William Ryder permalink
    July 13, 2012

    I like this video – its one of the few times that I have heard business talk about working with EJ leaders and trying to do something positive in the community. I’m glad EPA is sharing different perspectives and stakeholders who are working on environmental justice. I’m anticipating the next video in the series.

  10. Hector permalink
    July 13, 2012

    Hmmmm I watched the video and felt that what was shared was very positive. I hope that some of the issues that have been commented on in the response section are being addressed. I looked at the other video in the series and it had a great message and taught me a few things about asthma rates.

  11. Katherine permalink
    July 13, 2012

    As a person who works in communities, I know how difficult it can be to get Industry to come to the table as an equal partner. It was nice to here from a business leader that they have learned important lessons from EJ leaders and communities and are incorporating those lessons in how they do business. We need to hear from more business and Industry leaders on the same thing and then work with them to make words become reality. Great Idea to have diversity in your video series. I hope that as the series continues we will see videos that focus on local governments were many planning decisions are made. I would aslo like to see videos that focus on the great work that youth organizations are doing in this area. Also. it would be nice to hear what other federal agencies are doing on this subject, many of the issues in our communities require many different federal, statle and local agencies to be involved.

    Great job on creating this video series!

  12. Doug permalink
    July 13, 2012

    I love the message of collaboration. I look forward to hearing more stories from communtie leaders like you shared in your first video in the series. Great Job!

  13. Maricela permalink
    July 14, 2012

    Waste Management is a company that is less than truthful and has questionable ethics. I live in Kettleman City, CA, home to WM’s largest toxic landfill in the Western US. In the late 80’s this company tried to sneak in what would have been California’s first toxic waste incinerator. They didn’t notify the local community, didn’t provide translation at meetings or of key documents related to the project, despite the fact that the community is 97% Latino and monolingual, Spanish speaking. Fortunately the community got together and defeated this proposal.

    Fast forward to 2012, now the community is facing an unexplained rash of birth defects, 13 in the past 5 years. At the same time, WM is trying to expand the size of their landfill in Kettleman City by over 50%. Additionally, the company has recently received millions of dollars in fines for improper disposal practices, violations in their lab work, & improper monitoring of PCB’s (which are known to cause cancer and birth defects!). The State has conducted a bogus study on the birth defects to absolve WM from responsibility, but not once was there any bio-monitoring of the mothers or infants (the surviving ones). The ‘study’ consisted of an 18 page questionnaire. And WM continues to campaign for their expansion permit; giving away t-shirts and lunch bags to buy people in this low-income community, packing hearings and meetings with their own workers, even providing them transportation, and encouraging a strong police presence at meetings to intimidate residents from attending. Does this sound like a company that cares about environmental justice? Shame on you, EPA for giving them a platform to spew even more propaganda.

  14. Luis permalink
    July 16, 2012

    Considering the hot topic in Kettleman, California and violations of Waste Management… Not the brightest idea USEPA!! Please someone with a little more brains please inform Lisa Jackson and Lisa Garcia about this.. and Please just remove it, it does not help improve USEPA’s image. Considering the good with the bad, we the environmental justice movement try to help USEPA remain an agency that protects the environment and the public; but please help us help you!!! Also, don’t let the director who approved this video make any future decisions without serious scrutiny. As an environmental justice advocate I try to look at the opportunities to collaborate with all stakeholders; but this one wins for plain disrespect to the environmental justice communities in particular Kettleman.

  15. Roy Lee permalink
    July 18, 2012

    I enjoyed the video. I read all the comments the majority seem to be very positive. I hope WM is working to address the concerns of the community in Kettleman City. I hope to see more stories of Businesses who are working with community organizations to create healthier communities. I’m glad you are doing this video series. The first videoon WEACT was one of the best I have seen.

  16. Maria permalink
    July 27, 2012

    Great video with a very good message. As a facilitator, I know how difficult it can be to get everyone around a table with equal access and ability to participate in a process. I think this an opportunity to allow this company to put its words into action. I’m glad to see this type of social media being used in an instructive and positive way.

  17. Jimmy permalink
    March 8, 2013

    Thanks for doing this video and all the comments have helped me to have a better understanding of these critical issues that many face. As a student, it is good to hear all the voices involved in EJ. This video series has helped me alot in learning and hearing the voices of the leaders and others, I might never get a chance to meet.

  18. sleeeze permalink
    July 15, 2013

    Thank you for this great post

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