Guidelines To A “Good” Waste and Recycling Management Firm: Part 5 – Baseline Development

A “good” waste & recycling management firm will provide a thorough and coordinated baseline development. For those who are not familiar, your first question may be “what is a baseline” in context of waste & recycling? Typically when a management firm takes over management of waste & recycling for a client’s locations, they will need a “starting point” by which to measure their performance. This starting point is usually called a “baseline”. It is made up of all of the waste & recycling data for all of the client’s locations prior to the date that the management firm takes over management. In other words, the management firm will gather data such as the following:

• Container types

• Service types

• Frequency of service

• Waste & Recycling tonnages

• Waste & Recycling costs

A “good” management firm will be very thorough in their baseline development. This means that they will typically gather waste & recycling data from at least the past 12 months. They will complete an analysis of this data to determine the appropriate baseline (typical or normal amount of each data point) for each location. You would be very surprised at how many “so-called” management firms will not want to do all of this work, but instead will just go ahead and make the baseline the most recent month’s data. This does not take into consideration any variances or possible seasonal fluctuations. They just don’t want to take the time to really understand their client’s business and have an accurate starting point to be measured from.

Secondly, the “good” waste management firm will work with their client to develop a “coordinated” baseline. What does this mean? Well, the simple answer is that they complete the analysis of the past 12 months or so of data, and then present it to the client to review and approve the baseline that they have developed. Sounds simple, right? Wrong! It takes a tremendous amount of work to not only do the analysis and come up with the baseline, but also a lot of patience to deal with their client’s review of the data. The client may need or want to involve other departments, regional managers, etc. In their review process. The client typically has a lot of questions, since they typically have never paid this close of attention to waste & recycling previously, and do not know what the baseline should be. It is always interesting to see how some clients react when presented with a baseline to review. Some respond as if they are being hassled. Others are just upset for having to make this effort. Really? Let’s look at the opposite scenario.

The “too busy / don’t have time” scenario described below is what the “so-called” management firms have taken advantage of for years. They will usually wager that the person or group that they are working with, will be too busy or distracted by other responsibilities, to really concern themselves with the “details” of an accurate baseline that all parties agree upon. The baseline discussion usually just slides by their client. The next thing the client knows, they have received their first invoice and it includes the baseline developed by the “so-called” management firm, without the input of their client. The sad scenario for the client is that going forward they never really know what the baseline should have been, or if the performance of the “so-called” management firm is accurate. This is definitely not a formula for building trust with a client.

So, if your management firm does a thorough analysis of your waste & recycling data, and then requests that you take the time to review and approve the baseline data that they have painstakingly assembled, be thankful and know that it is a good sign that you may be dealing with a “good” management firm. Yes, it will be a little extra work and will take a little extra time, but starting out with everyone on the same page in a trusting, open-book fashion, will lay the foundation for a lasting and effective relationship.