Companies for Zero Waste with Scott Donachie

December 16, 2020

Scott founded Companies for Zero Waste with a vision of catalyzing a greater pace of innovation by connecting leaders in sustainability, investors, and the government to advance the movement towards zero waste goals without sacrificing profitability.

Scott brings 25 years of experience working with hedge funds, private equity, real estate, venture capital and has launched three successful start-ups. Scott launched CZW as a meetings company and it’s now a global consulting hub that matches the public & private sectors with global experts in sustainability.

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. Today I am so honored and excited to have my good friend Scott Donachie. He is on with us today. He is the CEO and founder of Companies for Zero Waste. Welcome to Impact, Scott.

Scott Donachie: Thank you, John. It is an honor to be on your show today, thank you so much.

John: Well, thank you for being here. For our listeners that do not know your history and leading up to the founding of Companies for Zero Waste, can you please share a little bit of your back story, Scott, please?

Scott: Sure. So I worked in banking for years, I worked in mortgages and I also ran hedge fund meetings in New York City. Two years ago I had been going out to breakfast with one of my really good friends who has a composting company here in New Jersey called Java’s Compost. I was really fascinated when I talked to him about a lot of the rules and regulations in New Jersey and how hard it was for him to scale his business up, him and his wife have a composting business right over here in Maplewood, New Jersey. Then after doing a lot of research, I found out that there were over four hundred dormant landfills in New Jersey. I started watching a lot of YouTube videos and doing research and I have always had a big passion for the environment. So I decided to walk away from my banking job and launch Companies for Zero Waste.

John: Wow!

Scott: We launched and had a really big meeting last year in Newark, New Jersey with over three hundred and fifty attendees that came in. Really tackling the waste crisis that is going on globally and just really excited about the business and where it is headed today. So, thank you.

John: I am on your great website right now. For our listeners out there that want to find Scott, and his colleagues, and the great work that they are doing, you could go to www.companiesforzerowaste.com. Scott, talk a little bit about some of the amazing brands and people that have both spoken at your very important events and also attended your events?

Scott: Sure. Thank you. The people that have come into our events have come from different sectors and what has really happened with our organization which is a lot of fun, is that we have really migrated now into a global advisory firm. We have reached out to thousands of these companies. They are coming from different sectors. They are coming from the Automotive sector, coming from the Healthcare industry, they are coming from Retail, they are coming from manufacturing companies that have challenges in their supply chains, with their vendors, with their partners. They are realizing that it is not business as usual. Their supply chains have been disrupted and they need to start changing behavior in their supply chain and looking at new technologies that can help them drive efficiencies. The whole lens has changed during the COVID crisis for this whole industry and I think we are here at the perfect time.

John: What are some of the biggest challenges in moving towards zero waste goals for cities, municipalities, and for NGOs, and just some of the most iconic brands out there today?

Scott: I think one of the biggest challenges is legislation. You have different legislation in different states. Also, all the way down to the MERF’s and the municipalities and the way that they handle different types of waste streams, it can be very challenging with the supply chains. Now, we have all of this disruption with the economy and political unrest but I think a lot of it just has to do with how the supply chain breaks down from the beginning when a product is manufactured all the way to the end of life and how do we start changing and making it more efficient for companies to track these critical raw materials and use them again or re-purpose them, and this is really a huge movement and a daunting task, but there is a lot of momentum going into it and there is also a lot of capital now, too, from Wall Street going in so it is a really exciting time.

John: When you had your initial vision as the founder and the CEO of Companies for Zero Waste, how has that vision evolved because of this tragic COVID-19 pandemic?

Scott: Well, I think what has happened is people are obviously more open to doing a lot of meetings online. The world has really shrunk a lot in the last ten months. When I say that a lot more organizations globally are contacting Companies for Zero Waste, we are seeing a lot more engagement between different sectors which is exciting. When I say that people are more open to sharing stories than they were a year and a half or two years ago, we have a really big– and I do not know if I can mention it here, the name of the company, but they upcycled over a million tons of medical waste last year and used it for infrastructure materials for bridges and tunnels. So this is like an incredible partnership between these two big OEM’s and they are going to be sharing that at our next meeting coming up. These are the exciting things that we are working on.

John: Your great conferences host huge brands, thought leaders, solution providers, what are your prospects for next year? How do you see that growing and is the interest level growing as you hold even from event and see more and more interest in this ESG circular economy the Companies for Zero Waste space?

Scott: Yes, so that is a good question. I would say, last year we were really broad, much more broad. Now, we are going a mile deep, and when I say that people want to get together and they are having discussions about making it convenient for everyone to move toward zero-waste goals, we could use these buzzwords like circularity and tackling climate change. But at the end of the day, you know John as well as I know, we have to make it very pragmatic for everybody in the supply chain. If we do not make it easy for people to embrace they are not going to do that. That is the million-dollar question. I would even throw it back in your court, you have been in this business for so long. How do we do this? How do we make it pragmatic for the whole supply chain?

John: Yes. You are so right Scott and one of the pillars of zero waste and responsible recycling is convenience, making it convenient for the consumer or business stakeholder so that it can be done without massive inconvenience to the supply chain or the lifestyle of the people or the organizations using these materials. So I am with you, it is not easy but I am much more hopeful than hopeless and it is great organizations like yours that bring all of us together to be able to brainstorm how we can move the ball forward faster. That is what is so exciting about what you do.

Scott: Absolutely!

John: Again for my listeners who just joined us, we have got Scott Donachie with us today. He is the CEO and founder of Companies for Zero Waste. To find Scott, his colleagues, his next conference, go to www.companiesforzerowaste.com.

John: Scott, talk a little bit about your global advisory services hub and how that actually works?

Scott: Right. So thank you. We are really excited. We launched this recently. We have a network of global advisors that help OEM’s and brands with specific issues that they have in their supply chain. Obviously, right now, some major issues are greenhouse gas emissions, also tracking any type of solid waste. Looking at really holistically how companies are manufacturing goods. A lot of organizations just do not really know where to start. We have been reaching out to organizations and because it can get very complex when you are looking at tier 13-14 vendors and a complex supply chain, a lot of times they need advisory services to really optimize the resources in their supply chain and really take a step back and map out. They do not have to look at things as though they have to change everything overnight. It is just making incremental steps toward zero waste is what is going to get companies to be more efficient and having transparency and trust between other organizations, even competitors, it is the only way that we are going to have a more resourceful economy. A lot of companies are getting on board with this because they are looking at it through the five years out instead of every quarter. Does that make sense?

John: That makes total sense. How do some of your work do in terms of connecting the importance of your conferences as a facilitator or connectivity platform for Asset Managers, Infrastructure Managers, Recyclers and Recycling Technologies, and ESG Professionals, be at that there are financial institutions that want to invest in the space and are looking for the best and the brightest? How does your platform work to connect all these great folks and stakeholders and again move the movement forward faster?

Scott: Well, that is a great question. What we like to do or the way I like to look at this is to really orchestrate things in a way so that people can communicate with other people that are not in their industry or maybe not in their wheelhouse. If you have an investment banker that is going to talk about investing in renewable energy infrastructure and hydrogen or something very specific, what is he going to have in common with someone else that has a start-up that is in composting? You see, these are people that want to make the planet a better place but they are not in their exact wheelhouse. The daunting task is getting people together that have the same type of mission and they are working on a problem and they want to solve that problem. They do not want to just talk about climate change but they want to put in the hard work. I think that is the really big difference with the people that come to these meetings, they are putting in a lot of hard work before they come and they are not just having a show and tell, but they are saying, “How do we sit down and actually try to solve problems and expose ourselves and say, ‘Okay, you know what, this did not work last year. We actually did not hit our goals. How do we get better as an organization?'” Having those honest conversations and having fun with it, too. Having open debates where people are having fun and pushing each other is a good way to learn. To even hear another person’s exact opposite opinion of what you think, you are going to learn a lot that way. So I think that is a great time.

John: Agreed. Scott, how many conferences did you have this year, and what is your intent next year? How many of these wonderful conferences which I have attended almost all of them, so I am learning a lot and I get to be a student again, and also a teacher at these conferences, how many did you have this year? What are your prospects for next year? What is your vision for next year?

Scott: Our company, and what we are doing, and our big focus is on the Convo Advisory Services. We are getting away from the conference model and what we are doing is we are focusing on smaller round table discussions where we are bringing in twenty or thirty thought leaders that are in a space that can talk about a specific problem that they can solve. We are hosting those every month and those are wonderful round tables and workshops. On top of that, we are setting up one-on-one meetings with specific experts. We have Advisory Services, right now we are up to thirty-five advisors that we work with. They advise a lot of these organizations on how they can monetize waste and how they can help and really be compliant. There are different opportunities and it is just an exciting time.

John: I know you have one more great event coming up before this year is over, 2020 is over. Can you share with our listeners when that event is and where they could sign up to be a member and a participant in this event, and really get to see the importance of the great work that you are doing, Scott?

John: Well, thank you, yes. The next meeting coming up is on December 17th. It is called Circular Planning and that is going to be for Supply Chain Directors, Sustainability Directors looking at tracking critical raw materials, and a lot of the new emerging technologies that exist, then also looking at inefficiency in their supply chain. Then there is another meeting, too, coming up in January, which is really exciting at the Supply Chain Summit. We have over a hundred supply chain directors coming in from different markets talking about a lot of the issues that they have in the supply chain. Trying to move towards a more circular supply chain and really trying to understand where they can make it more like a closed-loop model. So we are really excited about this.

John: How can our listeners sign up for this event? Is it just going to www.companiesforzerowaste.com?

Scott: Yes, and then when you go on there, you will see virtual meetings. Then you just click on there, and any questions they can contact me as well. So, thank you.

John: Awesome. It is going to be another great event. I am going to actually be participating as well. I love to participate in your events. Like I said, I both get to teach and learn which is always the funnest way to be enjoying the journey professionally and personally in life. For our listeners out there, again to find Scott, his colleagues, and their great work, and to sign up for his next meeting, please go to www.companiesforzerowaste.com. Scott Donachie, you are not only a good friend, you are also making the world a better place every day. I am so grateful for you and you have a safe and wonderful holiday season. I cannot wait to work with you more in 2021 and way beyond.

Scott: Thank you so much, John.