[Editor's Note: This is the first post in an ongoing series from Albe Zakes, the Global Vice President of Media Relations at TerraCycle; he is kicking off the series with an overview of how the company creates and continues its relationships to turn trash into new products.]
One of the biggest challenges facing environmentally and socially responsible companies, be they business-to-business or business-to-consumer, is convincing customers that the products or services being offered are beneficial/affordable/effective/efficient. By definition triple bottom line companies are offering something new and different, and sadly that equals "scary" to a lot of folks. By way of introduction, I'd like to share some the experiences we have had over the years in convincing the world's largest companies it was time to go green, even if it cost some green.
TerraCycle is a company that by its nature is collaborative, so I've gotten to know a huge range of stakeholders, from young children whose school has benefitted from being a part of our packaging collection Brigades to the leaders of major global companies. One thing that unifies them: A desire to have rewards for their actions. Good intentions are nice, but a return on an investment that people can quantify, is a prime motivator.
What we do at TerraCycle is simple: Create opportunities where once there was waste. If you look around you, there are probably several things that you cannot recycle or compost and despite a great desire, will have no choice but to discard (or your officemates might begin to complain!)
That's not trash, it's wasted brand equity.
Think about it: Your company has spent months, perhaps years, designing a product and its packaging. Do you want a consumer's last interaction with it to be tossing it in the trash, giving it away, or watching it collect dust in the attic or worse, see it floating down a river? This is where TerraCycle steps in.
TerraCycle seeks out consumer companies with waste issues, and helps them realize that there is immense untapped value to be gained by their efforts beyond a product's intended use. We use a combination of science and design to create end of life solutions where none existed before.
It's not just a matter of creating clever reuses though. We take a holistic approach, developing collection programs that enable us to collect packaging either at the place where consumers tend to use the product, or where they tend to frequent. Beyond making in convenient for them (ease of use is of course highly important) this is about maintaining brand awareness and exposure, about increasing brand awareness.