November 25, 2013 Issue
The Most Powerful Name In Corporate News and Information
Alternative Recycling Solutions for Retailers
revolution (g2) is a multinational innovative recycling solutions
company founded upon our commitment to give its clients the freedom to make
the right choice to recycle. Along with its sister company, Watterson
Environmental and Facilities Management, a nationwide environmental
consulting firm, g2 is focused on providing efficient and
cost-effective means of recycling a wide spectrum of materials for retail,
restaurant, industrial, medical, industrial and other commercial locations
in the United States, its territories and Canada. g2 lets the
needs of its clients dictate the specifics of each unique program they
design and implement. Whether driven by regulatory compliance, cost savings,
environmental goals or a need to return waste products into saleable
merchandise, g2 revolution has designed and implemented programs
for companies of all sizes and is currently deployed in thousands of
locations as it continually develops ecolutions® that help
its clients g2 (go green). Utilizing their proprietary eco*trak®
reporting system, g2 provides its clients timely reporting by
individual item and location for each material recycled. At g2
revolution, they are Changing the Way the World Recycles®.
g2 revolution was recently ranked #954 on Inc. Magazine’s 2013
list of the top 5,000 fastest growing privately-held companies in the U.S.
He also serves as the co-owner and Chief Executive Officer of Watterson Environmental Group, a nationwide environmental consulting firm focused on Facilities Management, Emergency / Disaster Response, Phase I/II Environmental Site Assessments, Asbestos, Lead, Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) & Mold, Wetlands, Disaster Response and Underground Storage Tanks. Additional information may be found at http://www.wattersonefm.com.
graduated with a B.S. degree in Accounting from Indiana University in
Bloomington and received his Masters of Business Administration degree from
DePaul University in Chicago. He is a Certified Public Accountant and a
Certified Management Accountant as well as a licensed private pilot.
Interview conducted by: Lynn Fosse, Senior Editor, CEOCFO Magazine, Published – November 25, 2013
CEOCFO: Mr. Graham, what is the concept for g2 revolution?
Mr. Graham: g2 revolution was created to provide alternative recycling solutions for retailers that wish to either increase their compliance to legal requirements at the federal, state or local level in a high-matrix organization or find other ways to eliminate or reduce the amount of hazardous waste generation. For example, if you buy a bottle of nail polish remover from a retailer and for some reason you need to return it the retailer has two choices as to the treatment of that returned item. They can either put it into a hazardous waste drum that would be picked up and most likely incinerated or g2 can manage the material by recycling it as a commercial chemical product and giving it a Second Life®. Our alternate solution for hazardous waste is significantly less expensive, more environmentally responsible, eliminates the risk of future liability and greatly reduces our clients’ hazardous waste generation.
The retailer also has a nice story to tell, especially if we can return that product back into their organization for use as a cleaning agent or even to be resold on their shelves as a recycled or repurposed product.
CEOCFO: Why are any of the traditional companies still in business? “No downside” seems a “no brainer”. How do people find out about you and how do you encourage use?
Mr. Graham: There is tremendous word of mouth advertising. It is a very small sustainability community of individuals within these billion dollar brands. They all have a finger on the pulse. We do not directly advertise. We do attend one primary trade show per year, which is called RILA, the Retail Industry Leaders Association. They have the proper audience for the services and solutions we provide. In many cases our biggest challenge is to get our clients to fully understand the concept, because initially it does sound too good to be true. However, the more retailers that we have on board, the more substance and credibility the company has. We are presently deployed in over twenty-five thousand U.S. and Canadian locations. We will accompany clients or assist them with discussions with state or federal EPA officials. We will provide them with the regulatory framework upon which the model is based at both the state and federal level; local level if need be. Therefore, we are mostly over that hurdle in that some of the toughest accounts out there have come on board after vetting our solution through their internal or external counsel, up to and including discussing some of our proposed solutions directly with the EPA.
CEOCFO: What and how would they need to talk to the regulatory people? Would you give us an idea of how the traditional services work in that manner and how you fit in?
Mr. Graham: Picture in your mind walking down the aisle of a supercenter, your local drugstore or a large department store and the consumer chemical products that may be returned to them. It could be anything from cosmetics to bug killer to soaps, lotions, shampoos and other similar products. You have a tremendous source of potential waste in these stores, either from products being returned or goods being damaged. In the case of many of our larger customers that sell cosmetics and fragrances, they have a lot of testing units on the floor that once they are done or halfway done they will want to change out to a new brand and they will put that into our specialty containers. Most ship back to us via UPS or FedEx (client’s choice) and whenever an LTL shipment is required we do all of the scheduling and paperwork. It is simply a matter of educating them about the process that we want to implement. Part of that process is us explaining to them what will happen to their materials when they arrive at our Ohio processing center; which is where all of the containers are returned. Sometimes it is difficult to explain to someone that, whether it be a soap, a perfume, shampoo or a bottle of bleach, that these goods are able to be recycled into usable products that are either sold or donated, with their permission, in a non-cannibalistic manner to a food pantry or a shelter, for example. There are some goods that we simply cannot take back, for example spilled hazardous materials that have been absorbed with spill clean-up material. Those are true hazardous wastes for which there is no recycling solution. Therefore, it is not a case of “are you with g2 revolution or are you with a hazardous waste disposal provider?”. You will still need to use that hazardous waste disposal provider for certain items. All we are saying is that many of the items that currently go into that stream could go into the g2 recycling stream and greatly reduce your cost and reliance on your hazardous waste disposal provider. Those would be things such as bleach, cosmetics, soaps, cleaning chemicals and of course all of the traditional goods (i.e., paper, plastic, aluminum, etc.). We are currently up to over 250 types of materials that we can recycle or repurpose. However, if a client has a new material or one that is not on our list, so to speak, we are happy to engage in the examination to see if a recycling solution can be developed. We will identify the solution up front as we do not believe in speculatively hoarding these materials. We will find the solution up front or we simply will not take the material.
CEOCFO: If it is cheaper, which is almost always the bottom line for a company, why not? Where does the hesitancy come in? Is it just a matter of getting to the right people?
Mr. Graham: It is. That is always the case, right? Part of it is getting to the right person. Part of it is finding that person that is willing to investigate this. Perhaps they have their corporate budget already set and they are in compliance and they do not want to rock the boat. Our biggest hurdle still remains, even though I think we are mostly over it, to educate the retailer. That could be everyone from the loss prevention person to their environmental health and safety managers and, perhaps, all the way up through their VP general counsel who is concerned about the long term liability of what might happen to these goods once they leave their facility. Our programs offer 50% or greater savings versus our clients’ current hazardous waste programs. We provide a very detailed account by container, by store, by date, by weight, by material type of that which was sent to us. Therefore, when a client wishes to know what store #123 sent back during a certain time frame, we can tell them by container, by material and by weight of each of those materials. That is something you are not going to get from any of the hazardous waste disposal companies. It is, quite frankly, very unique in the industry. We close the loop for our clients.
CEOCFO: When you are working with a national chain are you working with a state or with a region? Can you get to national? Do they even handle this type of situation?
Mr. Graham: For the most part, we only deal with personnel at our clients’ corporate offices for the program introduction and the “prove out” of it, which would be on a national basis. Most of our programs will start off with a regional pilot program where we deploy to anywhere between one to ten percent of the locations. We try to get a good geographic range on that and a number of stores so that we can have a fairly good representation of the materials we would be receiving. From that we can then work together to finalize the materials that are going to be included in the program, how the client wants to see the data, what type of container might work best and the number of containers to send out to each location on a launch. All of it is tailored to the client, even down to the individual store location if need be. We prove all of this out during the pilot program. Fortunately, almost every one of our pilot programs has gone into a national or at least regional launch..
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the Second Life® product?
Mr. Graham: The Second Life product is our trademark name for the goods that we sell on a retail or industrial level. It is a growing product line, so we have everything under Second Life, the brand name, much like “Sam’s Choice”, where you have Sam’s Choice Cola, etc. Therefore, we have Second Life Industrial Floor Wash, Second Life Industrial Vehicle Wash, etc. This really gets back to how we manage many of the materials that were formally ”hazardous waste” that we have converted into usable product. Therefore, the “Second Life” products can be purchased on our website or through direct sales to commercial customers. For example, we are currently supplying a twenty-two hundred location chain of automotive repair shops with our Second Life Industrial Floor Wash. Our pricing was over 75% less expensive than their previous concentrated floor wash. Ours worked as well or better in the multi-facility rigorous testing that was performed over a period of two years. However, that is one of the ways that we have an outlet to put these products back into use. You will not see it, but many times we will have Second Life product that goes back into a store just for their own use and not for retail sale. This affords a tremendous opportunity for our clients to keep a “green story” inside to publicize to their employees.
CEOCFO: How are you able to do all of this, profitably?
Mr. Graham: Fortunately, the company has been profitable since day one when it was a spinoff of one of our other companies called Watterson Environmental and Facilities Management . We have staffing flexibility in terms of having some of our labor come in through a Manpower-type service. We take care of our own so that if we have to ramp up the productivity I know that the folks on the floor will step up, not just because they are paid to, but because they are well taken care of, they are appreciated and a healthy percentage of our annual profits are returned to our employees in a bonus pool. It is also not a very capital intensive business. While we do not use complicated contracts, we will make sure that we have the client’s purchase order in house prior to purchasing equipment because the equipment that we need is not terribly complicated to get. These are the basic business practices that I have used throughout the past twenty five years; very simplistic and a basic focus on cash flow, good return on investment and taking care of your employees, clients and vendors. We sell to the masses so our margins are respectable but we prefer to make our money on volume, not margin.
CEOCFO: Would you tell us about the ecolution® with Dog Hair?
Mr. Graham: We developed an ecolution for a national pet chain that had a grooming business for dogs. They called us up looking for an outlet for the dog hair. What we found through a little bit of trial and error - it probably took about four weeks - was that we could have that dog hair spun into yarn and used to create dog hair sweaters (for dogs) or dog hair blankets that you would lay down in their beds and they could lay on that. The solution was well received at the corporate level. The solution worked, but we knew that we were going to depend on a healthy amount of product to come in from their stores. We had the logistics all worked out with respect to how to get the dog hair back in from the groomers. It was a fun challenge and we were proud to innovate a commercially viable solution.
CEOCFO: It certainly is an example of creativity!
Mr. Graham: More that than anything else. We figure if we can find a viable solution to recycle dog hair then most of our clients’ needs should also be able to be solved.
CEOCFO: g2 has donated to a substantial amount to food banks. Would you tell us about giving back for the company?
Mr. Graham: We have two programs at present, but we add more each year. One of those is food banks that we donate to through our “Feed the Future” program; the equivalent of two and half pounds of food for every container that we process on a monthly basis. We will donate tens of thousands of dollars this year which is in excess of 200,000 pounds of food. The primary recipient right now is the West Ohio Food Bank, which is the food bank near our Findlay, Ohio processing plant. That is the food bank that my business partner frequented growing up when he was going through some tough times as a child. Many soup kitchens and Thanksgiving dinners he enjoyed through their generosity and that is the origin of this charitable act. The other one that we have just started to be a contributor to are “no kill” animal shelters. These are starting in the Illinois area by our plant in the northwest suburbs of Chicago where I am located. This originated from an employee vote. We do three things with them. One, we donate money. Two, we donate concentrated industrial floor soap. That is because these facilities scrub down walls and floors up to two or three times a day. Third, we donate time. We have a program that we just launched within our company called “Time to g2”, which is short for “Time to Go Give”, where we give our employees a certain number of work days off per year to go volunteer at either the food pantry or the animal shelter; work days above and beyond their traditional PTO or vacation days. That program, although it is just starting out, has received tremendous response from our folks. We firmly believe it is very important to not do this for the wrong reasons, not just to get a public pat on the back, but that you really have to believe that what you are doing has to make a difference, more so than economically. We focus on time, talent and treasure: we give our folks time off to let them volunteer; we give product and we give money. We will work this up to at some point to be about five percent of total profit, regardless of how big that number gets, just from a community stewardship mindset.
CEOCFO: Why does g2 revolution stand out?
I think that
goes back to, “what are you charged with as a company and a retailer” which
is our primary customer. “What are you trying to accomplish?” Our approach
is different at g2 in that we go back to the three or four main
benefits we offer. First and foremost, it is environmentally friendly. You
are not putting these materials back into the air or the ground. We are
truly recycling them. Second, it is significantly cheaper - at least fifty
percent or more. Third, you have eliminated that future liability as the
materials we process are never classified as hazardous. Fourth, our clients
get to claim all of these savings in their waste stream which matters more
with today’s SEC rules for publishing your sustainability efforts and
attempts to get to either a zero waste goal or greatly improve waste
reduction year-over-year. Until recently retailers really had no option to
put a dent in their hazardous waste generation percentages. Now with g2
they can go out there and make a significant dent in these materials and
reduce the percentage of hazardous waste they generate. We spoke on this
topic at the RILA show in Orlando a few weeks ago and received tremendous
feedback. We have been sending out three or four proposals a week, on
average, from about fifty retailers that frequented the booth. We have even
launched some pilots since then including everything from cosmetics to
aerosols to lamps to traditional goods and consumer chemical products
recycling. It is starting to really come into its own.
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