Executive Recycling – 60 Minutes Came Calling – Tip: You Need A Greenwash Crisis Plan!

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[social_buttons] Oddly enough, I just write a piece for this blog a few days ago, Building A Greenwash Crisis Plan, looks like Executive Recycling could use one. The 60 minutes report last night, The Electronic Wasteland, uh…certainly gave them cause to need one!

This is a bit of a chilling tale for any eco entrepreneur! Executive Recycling, a small Colorado based, e-waste recycling center, was founded by Brandon Richter in 2004 with high hopes to provide a green solution to a growing problem. As he put it:

You think that you are doing good sending your computers to a recycling company.. but that is not exactly the case..  “Your e-waste is recycled properly, right here in the U.S. – not simply dumped on somebody else.”

I’m going to give Richter the benefit of the doubt here. When the dreaded call from 60 minutes came (You all know the joke don’t’ you? “What are the 5 most dreaded words a CEO can hear? “This is 60 Minutes calling.”) Richter gladly agreed to help them and gave them access to his records.

Things obviously didn’t turn out so well, since 60 Minutes found that containers of used monitors left his facility and were shipped overseas, ending up contributing to the virtual destruction of a town in China that dismantles all kinds of e-waste. A snip from the broadcast transcript…

And Brandon Richter, CEO of Executive Recycling, was still warning of the dangers of shipping waste to China. “I just heard actually a child actually died over there breaking this material down, just getting all these toxins,” he said.

Then Pelley told him we’d tracked his container to Hong Kong.

“This is a photograph from your yard, the Executive Recycling yard,” Pelley told Richter, showing him a photo we’d taken of a shipping container in his yard. “We followed this container to Hong Kong.”

“Okay,” Richter replied.

“And I wonder why that would be?” Pelley asked.

“Hmm. I have no clue,” Richter said.

“The Hong Kong customs people opened the container…and found it full of CRT screens which, as you probably know, is illegal to export to Hong Kong,” Pelley said.

“Yeah, yep,” Richter replied. “I don’t know if that container was filled with glass. I doubt it was. We don’t fill glass, CRT glass in those containers.”

“This container was in your yard, filled with CRT screens, and exported to Hong Kong, which probably wouldn’t be legal,” Pelley said.

“No, absolutely not. Yeah,” Richter said.

“Can you explain that?” Pelley asked.

“Yeah, it’s not – it was not filled in our facility,” Richter said.

Richter then went on to make things worse – becoming defensive.

“I know this is your job,” Richter told Pelley. “But, unfortunately, you know, when you attack small business owners like this and you don’t have all your facts straight, it’s unfortunate, you know?”

What happened here? It seems Richter really wasn’t aware of what was happening in his facility. What can he do now?

Well, this morning they put out a press release.  (update: link to press release is down try here) Seems like a good start, but still a wee bit defensive. Let’s go back to my recommendations.

You probably will have to do some things that aren’t green, but try to do as few as possible.

Be honest with your customer’s about the things you don’t do green and tell them why

Be vigilant! Make every one of your employees the “green police”. Set up a feedback system so they can tell you what’s not eco and let them give suggestions on how to fix it.

Get your customers involved. Set up a greenwatch page on your web site. Solicit ideas from your customers.

Continuous Improvement. Keep customers informed about your efforts to continually go greener.

What other suggestions do you have? Mr Richter- if you’re reading – let us know what you think!

Update: the link to the press release on the Executive Recycling Site no longer works…hmmm…but, I found the text here. So read away and let us know what you think!

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