By David Kutoff, president and CEO of Materials Processing Corporation, which has been processing and recycling electronic equipment for more than 20 years.
Remember that Spike Lee movie “Do the Right Thing?” It was made in the 1980s, and though it had nothing to do with business, the title’s four simple words are about as true as any I’ve ever heard. They’re certainly at the heart of our organization.
We’re living in turbulent times— economic upheaval, political confusion, environmental challenges. As entrepreneurs, it’s more critical than ever to lead by example, to set a straight path for our companies and employees, and to motivate the industries in which we work to follow our lead.
When my business partner and I decided to purchase our company, Materials Processing Corporation (MPC), and start out in electronics recycling, we knew two things: We were getting into a business that helps the environment, and there was no way we would just pay lip service to providing that help.
We started out on a path to do the right thing as a company; to put into practice operations and philosophies that would not only grow our business, but also contribute to the greater good. We were able to accomplish this by following four steps:
1. Beat, Don’t Meet, the Standards
As a company, it was important for us to not just meet industry standards, but to beat them. Though we met the most current data security standards issued by the Department of Defense, we knew we could do more. We realized we could make the biggest gains by dedicating our efforts toward the quality of employee life, business ethics and eco-awareness. By paying close attention to the parts of our businesses that no one was telling us to touch, we became more efficient and evolved into better corporate citizens.
2. Personal Values Add the Biggest Value
We’re all in business to be successful, but there is real commercial value in bringing personal values to the work place. My business partner and I are committed to minimizing the eco-footprint of our travel and transportation operations. Also, I don’t believe in waste— period. That said, we have a 100 percent no-landfill policy at our company. Plastic PC casings become paintbrush handles or flowerpots, and even the shrink wrap on inventory is transformed into decking products for the backyard. By bringing our personal values to work, we’re more cognizant of our company’s carbon footprint.
3. Make Community the Center of Your World
Whether it’s the virtual network of suppliers and vendors, the physical neighborhoods where our facilities are located or the extensive network of fellow EO members and organizations, our businesses do not exist alone. By considering what we can learn from and share with others, our industries can grow for the greater good. At our company, we’re starting a certified partner program, where we’re reaching out to smaller, independent recyclers and helping them meet higher operational standards. In turn, they become associates in our business network. They’re not competitors; they’re part of the larger recycling community helping our overall environment.
4. Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Place
This point is hardly revolutionary, though it requires real work and a lot of thought. As a company, we’re always examining ways to give back to our customers, who we see as partners. It’s not that difficult to do the right thing or make your business part of the global community. There are thousands of entrepreneurs, many of them EO members, who know this and commit their business operations to it. Our goal is to inspire more companies to give back. Only in that way can we protect and nurture the environments both where we live and where we work.