TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky on creating a tradition-breaking business where doing the most environmentally and socially responsible things drives profit.
In an economy like the one we're facing now, the conventional wisdom is to pull back on the reins, focus on your core business, and economize in every way possible. We've never been a company to follow the conventional wisdom, and a historic recession isn't enough for us to lose our fearless ways.
TerraCycle is about to go where we've never gone before: the United Kingdom. Starting September 1, we joined together with Kraft UK and Think London, a sustainability focused, private/public-funded service whose sole purpose is to effectively locate foreign businesses and help them establish a U.K. presence. We are also being assisted by our first major sponsor here in the United States, Kraft Foods.
We're an unknown in United Kingdom, and so is, for the most part, upcycling. At least anywhere beyond nichey green boutique stores. We're about to change that, breaking the cost barrier to people making greener choices, due to the extremely low cost of our source material -- pre- and post-consumer packaging, in this case from Kenco and Tassimo instant coffee brands, products Europeans enjoy much more then we do here. They will be transformed from a short-lived package to a long-lived umbrella, weekend bag, and coasters, among other things.
Expanding to the United Kingdom was an obvious choice -- our friends across the poind are savvy consumers who know and vocally ask for products that have a higher standard of sustainability and ethics. Yet, they aren't particularly high-percentage recyclers, partly due to lack of infrastructure.
Yes, they technically speak the same language, but in many ways, it's a different world. Thankfully, Think London's services, as they are funded by the Office of the Mayor of London, were totally free to us, and have helped us extensively in every facet of thinking about and getting established in London. With their assistance and the corporate backing of Kraft Foods Europe, we're looking forward to successful expansion into the United Kingdom and ultimately into mainland Europe
Given this, where in the world do you think your business should next be? How can you do it intelligently? Who can help you locally?
Last updated: Sep 17, 2009
TOM SZAKY is the founder of TerraCycle, a New Jersey based company that makes fertilizer using worms and produces retail products from recycled goods. The firm was started while he was a student at Princeton University. Tom was named "The No. 1 CEO Under Thirty" by Inc. magazine in its July 2006 issue.