The Village Green: Building Partnerships to Create Environmental Value

They say it takes a whole village to raise a child. A child, like an idea, must be nurtured by many people working together for a common cause. So too must socially responsible companies join together if we are to achieve our common goal of a socially responsible, environmentally stable world.
Eco-friendly or triple bottom line start ups and small businesses face a steep climb to success. Traditional companies are able to make products and services faster and cheaper because they are not necessarily as concerned with the effect of their practices. So small start ups must find ways to compete with companies that have a well developed relationship with retailers and consumers, have more sales/marketing dollars, and only have one bottom line to reach.
I believe that to succeed “Green” must be a movement, a group of unified businesses that are willing to help, support and guide each other through the many challenges so that we all can reach our goals in unison. TerraCycle strives to do this through our Brigade programs, which we first launched with the help of Honest Tea and Stonyfield Farm. I think both of these partnerships represent a different, but important way that triple bottom line companies can partner.

Seth Goldman, Tea-EO of Honest tea is an old friend of mine. Casually at a conference last year, he mentioned that Honest Tea was launching a line of kid’s drinks, called Honest Kids. He was concerned because the pouches that most kids drinks are packaged in are non-recyclable. Seth could not bring himself to accept that millions of his company’s packages would be going to landfill. So together we came up with the Drink Pouch Brigade, a program that would pay schools and non-profits to collect drink pouches of all kinds and send them to TerraCycle to be reused.
This symbiotic relationship was ideal. Seth was able to offset the impact of his packaging and TerraCycle was able to secure affordable , eco-friendly materials from which to build products. Plus we could combined our marketing efforts to get more exposure for fewer dollars. This is a great example of similar sized companies working together to become more competitive.
The example of TerraCycle’s partnership with Stonyfield Farm represents a much larger, more established company like Stonyfield helping a smaller, up and coming company like TerraCycle. For decades Stonyfield has been a pioneer in CSR practices, lending credibility and making it an honor to work closely with its leadership to reward schools and non-profits to collect yogurt cups. In this scenario, a younger company is able to learn from and take the lead from a much more experienced company as well as gain exposure from its existing network of yogurt eating evangelists.
In return, the smaller company brings a new eco-friendly practice or concept to a company that has already proved its environmental mettle. TerraCycle is able to positively impact younger consumers and to support Stonyfield Farm’s sustainability.
What do you think about small companies partnering to help each other or larger companies helping develop young companies who share similar value? I think this is crucial especially in today’s economy. What are famous mutual beneficial partnership within the Green Movement? What possibilities have yet to be explored?
Photo: Snowdeal on Flickr

Tom Szaky is the Founder and CEO of TerraCycle, Inc. a company that makes eco-revolutionary products entirely from garbage! TerraCycle, since its humble beginnings in a Princeton University dorm room, is committed to being a triple bottom line company. Tom at the ancient age of 19 learned about composting with worms. The concept of using tiny little worms to turn food waste into a powerful, organic fertilizer fascinated Tom, who was appalled by the amount of food discarded by his campus's cafeteria. Tom started TerraCycle with no investors from a friend's garage by building a Worm Gin where he could house millions of worms in a small area. He all but bankrupted himself and maxed out all his credit cards to build the machine. With the help of friends he would shovel pounds of rotten, maggot-infested food from the Princeton cafeterias. Without any money left over, Tom could not afford to buy bottles to package his fertilizer. That's when the sustainability gods smiled on Tom, who was up one night wandering the streets Princeton in search of an answer to his packaging dilemma. It just happened to be recycling night and Tom realized that millions of homes were putting billions of free bottles out on the curb once a week! That serendipitous moment set everything to follow into motion. Slowly he began to finance his infantile start up by winning business plan contests. Finally he hit the pay dirt! He won the million dollar grand prize at the Carrot Capital Business plan contest. However, the financiers of the contest wanted to move TerraCycle away from used bottles and away from it's environmental focus. Despite being on the verge of bankruptcy, Tom turned down the money. In the six years since then TerraCycle has grown to a multi-million dollar company that doubles in size every year. Still we are committed to our triple bottom line beginnings. Still making our products from other's people waste. Still based in an Urban Enterprise Zone in Trenton, NJ. Still a second chance employer. Find out how and why, here at

One response

  1. The partnering seems to be a good idea. One issue would be: what happens to the material once the second set of consumers is done? Of course, a continuous cycle of reusing the materials is the ideal.

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