Waste Management

Waste Management

2008 Employer of Choice Award Winner

South/Southwest Region

Carlton Yearwood
Vice President of Business Ethics and Chief Diversity Officer

Although waste removal may not be considered the most glamorous business, without it we would be in a heap of garbage. Waste Management created an axiom that guides its business model: “Think Green.”

Part of thinking green is understanding people and the environment, and diversity is a basic building block to that understanding. The company could not function if it did not understand the differences and the diversity of its customers, employees, communities, regulators, and vendors. Waste Management is proud to encourage diversity not just because it is good for business, but because it is the right thing to do.

One diversity challenge facing Waste Management is in the hiring and retention of female workers. To this end, the company created the Waste Management’s Women and Minority Professional Networks Annual Meeting. The event was held at Walt Disney World’s Epcot® in Orlando, Florida, in February 2008. More than 400 people attended to promote diversity within Waste Management. The company has traditionally demonstrated a diverse hourly workforce, yet continues to address its challenge to hire more women and minorities. This challenge expands to outside vendors, as well as within the professional and management ranks. Waste Management’s next diversity event will be held at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas on March 4, 2009.

(L to R) Bill Lowrey of Shell Oil Company, Rick Wittenbraker, General Counsel of Waste Management, and Veta Richardson of MCCA

In order to determine the level of diversity in each outside law firm that is contracted by Waste Management, every firm is asked to produce a two-page plan that assesses its people and their assignments to the Waste Management account. Every plan is graded as “good,” “adequate,” or “poor.” In 2008, 18% were “good” plans, 56% were “adequate” plans, and 26% were “poor” plans. A poor plan is resubmitted until it shows demonstrative progress. Overall, Waste Management has discovered that many of its outside firms made dramatic improvements by hiring and retaining more female and minority employees.

Waste Management uses many different affiliate groups to seek out diverse attorneys, according to Carlton Yearwood, Waste Management’s vice president of business ethics and chief diversity officer. “We partner with organizations that give us exposure to diverse attorneys such as the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association [NAPABA] and the National Bar Association, an organization committed to the development and growth of black lawyers. We also sponsor, partner, and/or belong to the National Black MBAs, National Society of Hispanic MBAs, Women’s MBA, NAACP, and the National Urban League.”

Yearwood continues, “Diversity isn’t something that you can just announce that you’ve accomplished. A company can never be ‘done’ when it comes to diversity, because today, the focus might be on racial and gender representation and tomorrow it might be defined as something else. Our goal will always be to enhance the work environment for our employees, to be the best place to work, and to maintain our focus on hiring, retaining, and promoting minority and women employees.” DB

From the November/December 2008 issue of Diversity & The Bar®

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