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ESG in practice: Steve Earl looks at the example of waste management firm Cory Group's approach to ESG

There are surely few industries that have less appeal for proactive, emotive external ESG storytelling than the waste management sector.

Companies that make their money from disposing of waste may outline their performance and achievements in being effective at what they do, and in minimising environmental impact. But few have made a virtue of the waste they manage, of the infrastructure they operate and, above all, of the part that they play in making society tick by getting rid of what people throw away in places that are well out of sight.

Which makes London-based Cory Group one of the exceptions to the rule. The company - which has been operating in London since Victorian times - has chosen to show the outside world what it does, how it does it and how it is becoming more sustainable, with a level of disclosure normally associated with businesses in other services or utilities sectors.

That has even included a 3D immersive, interactive tour outlining every step that material goes through from the moment it is disposed of to the moment it is processed, demonstrating each point at which the company has invested to improve the recyclable and non-recyclable waste management process, and does not hold back in giving a full and frank view of how that is handled.

“For us, environmental factors and demonstrating social value are our main ESG focus. We’re a business that complements recycling, which we do both by processing recyclable waste at our materials recycling facility in Wandsworth and by disposing of materials that can’t be recycled at our energy from waste facility,” said Caroline Dobbin, Cory Group’s Head of Communications and Public Affairs.

“We’re privately-owned, but our sustainability strategy includes us being transparent on ESG topics and reporting on our progress in ways that public companies are compelled to. We produce an annual report and a sustainability report, and we benchmark ourselves against AIM-listed firms. We assess materiality regularly and that understanding of what matters most to our business and its stakeholders has directly shaped our sustainability strategy,” she said.

That insight is also informing communications strategy. For example, the reuse of what would otherwise be waste material has recently emerged as a hot topic in the sector, and one that Cory is now working to demonstrate its commitment to.

“Above all, we place a premium on being completely transparent about our environmental impact and on using visual content to explain what we do, and how that is changing,” said Caroline. “We report emissions on our web site monthly, and we’re proactive about sharing operational information.”

Cory Group operates an energy from waste facility in Belvedere in south east London, with barges and tugs used to collect waste from transfer stations in Wandsworth, Battersea, the City of London and Tower Hamlets. This saves more than 90,000 truck movements a year, and the facility generates enough electricity to power around 195,000 homes.

“We provide a vital public service and prevent unnecessary material being buried in landfill. Recycling and resource recovery helps to keep materials in use for as long as possible and to grow the circular economy of London and the south east,” added Caroline.

The company needs to maintain a strong reputation with local authorities in the London area given that they are the mainstay of its business.

The level of transparency that it has adopted helps it do to that, but Cory also intends that it will play a broader part in helping to raise the public’s understanding of where waste goes, and what is being done to reduce its impact.

The ESG News Review is written by Steve Earl, a Partner at BOLDT.

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