Javier Sprella Ethics & Business Professional Professor Kenny 23 July 2010 Ethical Culture Analysis My ethical culture analysis will be on the company Waste Management. While researching companies for this analysis, I found that as of 2009, Waste Management is in the top 99 most ethical companies in the world (http://www. ethisphere. org). I already have interest in this company because one of my best friend’s father, Robert Biggs, is the chief financial officer for Waste Management’s Northeast division. His parents have always been like a second family to me.
Robert Biggs came from nothing, worked his way up to CFO, and is very successful. Having said that, Waste Management has always been a company that interests me. I would love to get a job with them once I get my bachelors in Business Administration. They treat their employees exceptionally well considering the field and nature of the business they run and manage to be a top ethical company. Their commercials are always promoting recycling and “going green”. Their website has a “did you know” blurb on the home page that says, “Waste Management’s subsidiary, Wheelabrator Technologies converts municipal solid waste to energy, saving nearly 7. million barrels of oil and generating enough clean, renewable energy to power 700,000 homes each year (or nearly 2 million tons of coal)” (www. wm. com). That speaks volumes on what they are about and their goals as they move forward into a world in need of conserving energy and finding new energy. Aside from that, they offer a lot of different services from residential to commercial needs. They offer waste collection from single households to large national customers. They have 22,000 collection and transfer vehicles, which is the largest trucking fleet in the industry.
They collect about 74 million tons of solid waste a year (www. wm. com). Much of the waste that is collected by Waste Management goes into their own landfills, which is the largest network in the industry. The landfill operations go beyond the regulations. “Waste Management is focused on solutions that impact the future of solid waste management, including Next Generation TechnologySM, which accelerates the decomposition of organic waste so that it occurs within years instead of decades (www. wm. com). ” They are testing the benefits to the environment using this process right now to make sure that they are doing the right thing.
Along with Waste Management’s efforts to reduce waste and use it for energy, their recycling program is the largest in the nation. They process 8 million tons of recyclable materials a year due to their cost-efficient recycling program that is offered to households and businesses in North America. They also have a renewable energy program that makes use of landfill gas. This gas is natural and comes from landfills as the waste begins to decompose. This gas can be used for industries needing it that can produce other energies. Waste Management is involved with current events that happen as well.
They have a “Green Team” that consists of any employees that are willing to volunteer in a disastrous event. They have a whole section on their website dedicated to their efforts in helping along the cleanup process in BP’s oil spill disaster. Waste Management was actually hired by British Petroleum to assist in the massive cleanup. This involves using their employees and equipment to clean up the shoreline and also collecting and transporting the waste collected along the shore. BP asked Waste Management to help because they know that it is a company that can handle the task and is willing to go above and beyond to complete it.
Their ethics about their operations is what got them to be the largest disposal company in the nation. They are also the most responsible. The ethical culture in this company must be high to have so many employees volunteering to clean up the oil spill. The company itself volunteered many of its resources. They have a contract with BP, but it is a noble thing to even want to be involved with that kind of immense undertaking when it has nothing to do with them. The leaders have instilled a strong ethical culture in the company in order for it to be so successful and dedicated to improving operations in every way.
Consider the fact that Waste Management is the only one who is involved in this cleanup when America has several disposal companies that could join in. They have demonstrated a willingness to change the environment, as we know it and make it much better. With more and more people populating America, the waste we are producing is a true problem that needs a solution in a hurry. Waste Management saw that problem coming and has already developed their own technologies to reduce the landfills and make them as efficient as possible.
Their cultural change efforts have been very successful as they lead the nation in recycling. Their renewable energy program demonstrates their willingness and ability to change the ethical culture of America. They have developed a strong foundation and continue to improve their procedures in order to advance in this climate further. In California, about 500 of Waste Management’s vehicles are running on the liquefied gas that is made from the landfills they have in Oakland and San Francisco (www. scpr. org). The fuel is earth-friendly and cleaner than diesel. Waste Management has even bigger plans. Other natural gas facilities are being planned by Waste Management at some of the 270 active landfills nationwide, and the number could grow quickly as communities seek to reduce greenhouse gas pollution (www. scpr. org). ” Their efforts to be ethically earth friendly continue, as they are constantly researching and building toward cleaner operations. It is amazing how they have found a way to use waste to run their trucks. I hope that through more research and development they will be able to extend this to all of their diesel trucks. It would be another source of income as well for the company.
They have a lot of possibilities with this new source of energy and I hope they are able to build upon it. Like most companies, Waste Management is not perfect. The workers are unionized which usually means there will be contract disputes and how they are handled will depend on the company more so because unions tend to not bend. In 2007, Oakland Waste Management Workers Union agreed to a new contract after a twenty-six day lockout that left customers with piles of garbage (Kuruvila). As usual, the dispute was over health care that ended up being preserved.
The workers were on strike for almost a month in which garbage piled up in the area to a point where legal health issues were at stake and enormous pressure was on Waste Management. This is more business than ethics, but ethically a problem like that should not have gone on for such a long period of time. Waste Management should have come to terms more swiftly and been more proactive to resolve the dispute. In the end, it is their responsibility to pick up the trash. By leaving it for so long, it made them act unethically to their loyal customers.
They should have applied one of the ethical decision making formats and the ethical communications strategies in our book. They could have come up with a strategy and solution to the lockout and communicated it to at least keep the workers working. Another matter of ethics in this situation is that they are trying to cut back on health care. Being a garbage disposal company, health care is a big issue for their workers as they are exposed to crude bacterial conditions. The waiting game can work with some companies, but Waste Management had too much on the line.
Workers were even relieved because they were losing money. Workers were interviewed about the situation. “Several workers said they were reaching their financial limits during the lockout. Mortgages and bills continued to arrive, and union stipends didn’t make up for the lost paychecks (Kuruvila). ” Waste Management was hoping for them to break first, but the legal pressure was too strong. This is the game most companies play. Sometimes business gets in the way of ethics and causes companies to perform in such ways. Contrary, Waste Management does have plenty of proof of their ethical practices. In Gloucester County, The county incinerator has been recognized by the Wildlife Habitat Council with a new “Wildlife at Work” certification (www. nj. com). ” Waste Management was awarded 24 of these certificates that mean they have been outstanding in native habitat management and environmental education programs (www. nj. com). This program allows the locals and their kids to come to the site and get a real education through their observations of the site. It is important for companies to demonstrate their ethical commitment to their communities.
Even though Waste Management is a national company, it is always important to remain focused on the actual cities you serve. The fact that they are educating children in the future of managing solid waste shows that they care and want to grow and improve the future. When a company is recognized for doing something positive like this, it is a victory for everyone. These awards are not handed out with ease and require strict guidelines that must be surpassed in order to acquire this achievement. Having this support from the Wildlife habitat Council means a lot for the ethical beliefs of Waste Management.
Values make up the core of the code of ethics possessed. Without values, there would be no way to follow a certain ethical path. Values are a set of rules that decide what is right and wrong. Ethics are a set of rules or values that are adopted by a person or company. Waste Management’s website states their set of values that they instill in their employees. Employees are expected to follow the code of ethics they have in place. I find that Waste Management’s values are similar to my expectations of a company’s ethics. I even share some of their values and live by them. Their first value, which is also mine, is honesty.
They define honesty as being truthful and having a high level of integrity and fairness (www. wm. com). This is a well-defined description of honesty. It is exactly what I would expect someone that is honest to be and the standard I try to hold myself to. Their next value is accountability defined as taking full responsibility for actions, conduct, and decisions (www. wm. com). If you hold honesty as a high value in your value system then accountability should be right next to it. The values go hand in hand because if you are honest, you will own up to your mistakes and be honest about them.
A lot of companies pretend to do this, but you see a lot of companies that will side step blame and accountability and make excuses. From the articles I have seen and the actions Waste Management has taken with being responsible, they follow the value of accountability because they have not had many problems in this area. Safety is a value that every company should have. Waste Management goes beyond saying that they take care of themselves and employees and go on to say they look out for the safety of their neighbors. This is why their landfills and other sites have surpassed regulations.
They have done everything possible to make their facilities safe and efficient. The dedication Waste Management has to improving the environment makes the entire planet safer. Professionalism, respect, and inclusion all are closely related values that Waste Management has. They trust one another to follow through on their commitments, treat everyone with dignity and consideration, and are open to other’s ideas (www. wm. com). These values are important to keeping employee morale high and happy. My friend’s dad is very happy with the company and he does not have a lot of stress because of other people.
The employees are happy with the company, which is why Waste Management is able to accomplish the things they do and receive awards. Combining these values makes for an open forum of ideas that can better the company. This has to be part of the reason for Waste Management’s success and popularity. Employees feel like an asset to the company and will have the feeling of self worth in conjunction. Diversity is a value they hold and won awards for it. This year they already won the Diversity Leader award from Diversity Journal. Waste Management is partners with many diversity outreach programs.
Diversity has been a big issue over the last couple of decades. Companies were hiring based on race and gender more than anything was. Over the years, the push to equalize has been strong and successful. It has made companies more ethically responsible for their hiring’s because they have to hire based on credentials. The company makes sure that all employees understand diversity and accept and respect one another. This is important to the function of the company because a company cannot operate smoothly if its employees do not respect each other.
Recently, the President and COO of Waste Management, Larry O’Donnell, did a show called “Undercover Boss” on CBS. This show takes company presidents and has them work alongside their employees to see what it is like. The president does this anonymously and then reveals his identity to the employees at the end of the show. It is a very unique show that is a really great idea for presidents to do. There is no better way to find out how your employees feel about the company than to actual be with them. I watched the episode on www. cbs. com and noticed a comment on the show.
It is by a Waste Management driver and I want to quote him because it accents how this company treats its employees. “I am a WM employee and have always been proud to work for this company. I have always said this is the best company I have ever worked for and now the rest of the world knows why. I have already seen a positive shift in the way middle management treats its employees. What the show doesn’t tell you is that Waste Management employees are the highest paid in the business and they have one of the best benefit packages around. This company gives continuous improvement a new meaning. Think Green !!!!! by Trashdrvr. (www. bs. com)” This is why they are in the top 99 ethical companies in the world. I hope that when I get my degree that my friend’s dad might be able to help me get a position at Waste Management. It is obvious that the company treats their employees well. They give people every reason to want to work for them and their employees every reason to work hard for them. I decided to watch the “Undercover Boss” episode to understand more about the company and its operations. Being in a position where I have a bottom rung job where I feel the upper management does not fully understand what goes on, I was able to relate to this episode so much.
I have not watch any other episodes and I should have watched this when it came out in February. I really enjoyed watching it. I have always thought the core problem with most places and their management has been that they do not get out with their employees enough. They just sit in their office and hand down policies without any knowledge of the effects of them. In the episode, it was just that case. Larry realized the effects of his policies and what he has done. He immediately felt bad and took action on every problem he saw. The funniest thing about the whole thing was Larry was not able to perform any of the jobs well.
He was overwhelmed by the amount of work involved. One of the bosses even fired him because he was so bad. All the jobs he has done sound like anyone can do them, but there is a lot of labor behind it. The end of the show he gets to introduce himself as the president and talk to each boss he dealt with. He made promises to change every problem he saw to boost morale. A female garbage truck driver showed him her bathroom, which was a coffee can. He was disappointed with the ethics behind that. He was further disturbed when she said that they have route managers that spy on the drivers.
Larry’s post interview explained how unethical it is to have employees treated like this. Managers often forget how important it is for them to interact with employees. I was amazed that even when he revealed himself to the employees, they didn’t recognize his name. Larry completely changed his attitude after this. He realized how not visiting facilities and getting a feel for the average employee has disconnected him from his employees. That also contracted down to middle management where he had a talk with two of them because he was not happy with the way they were operating things.
He vowed to change the ethical culture and policies of the company. He rewarded the employees he met because their work ethic was extremely positive. He asked them how they keep such a positive attitude. He was in disbelief at that because their jobs are not fun and very hard to do. Work ethic and personal ethics can be very different. They can be similar when a worker is happy and wants to work for the company. Then they will use their personal ethics to influence their personal ethics in order to perform better for the company.
When you care about the place you work for then you will give a good effort every day to do your job the best you can. When a worker is unhappy then their work ethic and separate from personal ethic. For jobs that do not have much satisfaction behind them such as some of the jobs at Waste Management, it is hard to keep your personal work ethic together. These workers are happy with how they are treated so they keep a positive attitude and will perform for the company. Increasing the working conditions is the best way to improve employee performance. This is what Larry O’ Donnell is hoping to accomplish and I get the impression that he will.
After doing “Undercover Boss,” he realized this and also saw how to fix it. Very important for a COO to understand the problems within the company first hand instead of how they usually see problems. That is how you can transform a company ethically into a top 99 internationally ethical company. In conclusion, Waste Management is an ethically transformed organization because of the above reasons. They keep in my mind their entire employee base and their customers as well as the earth. A solid waste disposal company would not be expected to perform to the ethical level that Waste Management has.
The fact that they are in the top 99 most ethical companies means they are doing a lot of things right. They demonstrate this by always having a plan for the future to help reduce waste. Their work on finding renewable energy has improved the company itself and the planet by producing cleaner fuel that their own trucks run on. Their recycling facilities perform beyond expectations as they lead the nation. My impression of this company through my interview with CFO, Robert Biggs, and the feedback from other employees is that they are treated well and happy working for Waste Management.
As always, there is room for improvement. Waste Management is a very good company and they do not need to improve much. They have had issues in the past that have proved to be unethical on their part. They have fixed these problems. The company has come a long way to be where they are as a company ethically. I would have said that there are things deep inside the company that need to be improved ethically, but after watching “Undercover Boss,” it was clear the COO and president, Larry O’Donnell, will and has fixed these issues.
By him doing that, he experienced the flaws in the company that you don’t see firsthand. Every company would benefit by doing such an experiment. They seem to strive to keep moving forward and getting better as a company. They are constantly planning and preparing for the future. I could not find any recent flaws in this company and I’m sure the reason is because they fix them as soon as they come up. They take pride in their rank ethically and in their performance. Would I work for this company? Absolutely. I wanted to before I did this research paper, but this has solidified my opinion on Waste Management.
I would not want to do the dirty jobs there, but they make it worth it as well. I could see that by the attitude of the workers. The ethics Waste Management possesses passes on to their employees to make it into a culture you want to work for. I would also recommend someone to work for them if they could. After all the awards they have received along with their accomplishments, it is a company that makes progress and gives a chance to be promoted. Works Cited 2 July 2010 <http://www. ethisphere. org/wme2009/>. <http://www. wm. com/index. asp>. 5 Janurary 2010. 8 July 2010 <http://scpr. org/news/2010/01/05/trash-gas-landfill-energy-projects-increasing/>. 12 Novemeber 2009. www. nj. com. 21 July 2010 <http://www. nj. com/gloucester/index. ssf? /base/news-13/1258012512148680. xml&coll=8>. 7 February 2010. www. cbs. com. 23 July 2010 <http://www. cbs. com/primetime/undercover_boss/video/? pid=eeih_jUDpC4RUe_O4m88dgi91p_wErmd&vs=homepage&play=true>. Kuruvila, Matthai Chakko. 29 July 2007. www. sfgate. com. 20 July 2010 <http://www. sfgate. com/cgi-bin/article. cgi? f=/c/a/2007/07/29/GARBAGE. TMP>.