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SCS Debuts ‘Different Kind of Zero Waste Standard

When it comes to sustainability certifications, the pass/fail approach does little to encourage genuine progress—and SCS Global Services just announced a new standard that changes the way certifications are awarded.

On Wednesday, the Bay Area third-party certification company debuted the Zero Waste Standard, a new global certification that lets companies demonstrate the degree to which their waste streams are prevented, reused or diverted from the landfill. The scaling certification reflects incremental improvements and provides businesses with a more practical approach to showcasing their sustainability progress.

“This is a different kind of zero waste standard,” said Stanley Mathuram, SCS executive vice president. “It aims to meet companies where they are in their waste reduction journey at their individual facilities by acknowledging the waste diversion they’ve already achieved, as well as continuing to drive waste management toward the zero goal post.”

SCS reported that, while other standards do not allow for certification participation without achieving at least 90 percent waste diversion, the new standard is awarded to those with a score of 50 percent or greater, with the actual percentage reflected on the certificate. A facility that achieves a 99 percent diversion rate or better is considered “zero waste.” Cradle to Cradle, a globally recognized measure of products made for the circular economy, issues certifications on a sliding scale as well, with basic, bronze, silver, gold and platinum achievements levels.

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The demand for transparency has skyrocketed in recent years, as companies’ sustainability claims began losing their luster in the face of rampant greenwashing. Public records and third-party certifications are now a necessity in gaining the industry’s trust, especially in terms of waste, as an increasing portion of the industry shifts to the circular economy.

The Zero Waste Standard recognizes waste diversion at the facility level, which provides more accurate reporting for companies. By certifying at the facility level, companies can benchmark best practices at one location and roll them out across their entire portfolio.

It also allows for diversion of hazardous waste to count towards overall diversion, and recognizes waste-to-energy achievement on a case-by-case basis. The standard offers a more affordable option for companies with multiple facilities, and requires an SCS representative to conduct yearly audits on-site.

According to Inna Kitaychik, the SCS Zero Waste Program’s operations manager, the standard’s flexible approach accommodates “real-life business needs.”

“We saw a need for businesses to have more flexibility in documenting their waste minimization and diversion efforts to showcase their commitment to sustainability and the environment,” she said. “We developed this standard to enable companies to be more transparent with the progress of their sustainability goals and give them the confidence of accurately reporting and communicating their waste diversion data.”