The Keys to a Sustainable Future

The Keys to a Sustainable Future

Azeez Mohammed

Azeez Mohammed

Azeez Mohammed is Covanta's president and CEO, leading the evolution of the company to become a world leader in sustainable materials management.

We’re standing at the precipice of the next global crisis. The impacts of climate change worsen by the day, and how we respond through decarbonization in these next few years—specifically when it comes to the sustainable management of society’s waste and its insatiable energy needs—will quite literally determine the future in which we find ourselves. Yes, there is a sense of urgency around this, but there is also a unique opportunity at hand.  For businesses that offer essential, yet sustainable industrial and municipal solutions, there is an incredible potential for innovation, growth and in turn, change, that will positively affect the industry as well as the world.  

Sustainability is on the verge of a revolution, one that has at least two more decades remaining of significant value creation while positively contributing to our lives. But embracing this shift and securing this opportunity is no simple task. It involves an all-hands-on-deck, cross-industry approach that balances the best of our human resources with the best of our technological capabilities to achieve success. It was this line of thinking that led me to where I am today at Covanta.

For some time, I had been watching the waste management industry from the sidelines as an industrial advisor to EQT, a purpose-driven global investment organization that recently acquired Covanta, the company I now lead. I even made trips to several of Covanta’s Waste-to-Energy facilities—sites that process tens of millions of tons of waste every year into energy for local use. During one of those visits, I had a light bulb moment on the incredible potential this company offered, stemming from three key factors that stood out to me.

 

Firstly, its product stood out

I realized that what Covanta’s Waste-to-Energy service offers is cleaner than the cleanest solutions out there for energy, and that includes solar and wind. Along the way, Covanta has built a strong, time-tested business with much potential still to be tapped. Not just keeping neighborhoods and communities clean but offering businesses and industries effective solutions that will enable them to be more sustainable and drive widespread decarbonization forward.

 

Secondly, its platforms stood out.

The facilities we own and manage across North America are truly the best, most sustainable technology to dispose of the waste remaining after recycling. Landfills are a leading source of methane, second only to CO2 in its impact on our climate. Our facilities eliminate that methane. In doing so, every MWh of renewable energy we put onto the grid helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This means that our electricity is in fact better for the climate than wind or solar energy. This was a game-changing revelation for me. I don’t think the market fully comprehends this yet.

On top of this, the Covanta Environmental Solutions platform is an amazing growth engine which enables Covanta to substantially grow our business beyond municipal waste and into more highly profiled industrial waste streams, which is a largely untouched, and growing, premium sector.

In addition, in providing the essential service of waste management, we’re also leveraging a process to generate electricity that is stringently regulated and monitored, well beyond what is required of landfills.

Such capability in the face of the more than 2 billion tons of waste produced across the globe annually, is incredible. On the magnitude of a global scale, it’s invaluable.

 

Thirdly, its promise stood out.

Truly tapping into the sustainability market and encouraging widespread change amongst our industrial peers, clients and communities demands something uniquely different. It requires a value-driven business model; one that leads by example and holds itself to an uncompromising standard of operational excellence.

After all, when it comes to sustainable waste management and disposal, it isn’t just about getting the job done. It’s also about how we get it done. Often it comes down to delivering what was promised, providing widespread transparency and communication; abiding by strict regulatory policies and operational standards; and instilling a mindset of continuous improvement across all areas of business.

But there’s more.

 

Covanta incorporates social integration.

To better understand and accommodate those who will be impacted by sustainable change, we strive to fully integrate into the communities and the markets that surround us by way of financial support, outreach and volunteerism, education, stewardship or any involvement that may fall under “good neighbor” practices and policies.

 

Covanta fosters collaborative governance.

To ensure responsible sustainability has concrete, lasting results, we work with governments and other businesses to establish fitting legislation—policies that incentivize sustainable practices and technologies; hold all of society’s groups accountable for their waste, carbon footprints and overall environmental impacts; and secure sustainable infrastructure that supports environmental justice, health and safety.

Covanta is standing at the precipice of change inspired by a future in jeopardy that demands attention now.

By continuing to address waste disposal and energy generation through the lens of sustainability like Covanta does every day; by continuing to support the people who make it possible; by continuing to utilize modern technology to its fullest; by continuing to deliver on the promises we make and goals we share, I am confident we can rise above the challenges posed by climate change on the way to realizing the promise of a healthier tomorrow for the entire planet.

This blog post was originally published on LinkedIn.

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