Mark Monchek, President/Chief Opportunity Officer of The Opportunity Lab, first met Liana back in 2011. Through their mutual interest in social enterprise, participating in events such as SOCAP, the two have remained connected through the social enterprise community. Recently reconnecting at a November Conscious Capitalism NYC event where Liana spoke about purposeful operations, Mark had the chance to interview Liana about her commitment to working at the intersection of business, environmental sustainability, and social justice, her path on helping grow a resource-strapped company, her advice to aspiring leaders, and more.
“I think it's invaluable to do something you see purpose in and that you're proud of. One of the best lessons I've learned that has contributed to my career is to be service-minded in every interaction, and so I reply / react in ways that makes it easier for others to do their job and always try my best to be clear, efficient and timely. I find that being service-minded is critical to productive teamwork and moving the needle forward.”
Read the full interview with Liana Scobie, an inspiring social innovator and business leader, below.
What brought you to work at TerraCycle?
I was determined to work at the intersection of business, environmental sustainability and social justice after writing my college senior thesis on the rise of capitalism and call for social accounting. I found TerraCycle, which works with some of the largest consumer packaged goods companies in the world to recycle their previously non-recyclable waste, and was amazed by the business model, and that the company was so ahead of its time: incorporated in 2003 and working in 20+ countries.
When we first met, in 2011, you were working as an intern at the Capital Institute with its founder, John Fullerton. Seven years later, you are now Vice President of Staff and Administration at TerraCycle. Given you had no formal training in this role, how did you advance so quickly?
I have deep respect for the people I work with and was fortunate to start at TerraCycle on the Executive Team. From the beginning, I was working closely with the C-suite and senior team. Wherever there was a need I would work to fill the gap. I gained trust and took responsibility. When we started filming the television show "Human Resources", I decided we needed HR, so I took that on, and studied under SHRM, then I took on financial analysis responsibilities of the global operating budget (having completed a professional certificate from NYU), which worked really well for a resource-strapped company. Since then, I've been growing my own team to help fortify a growing company!
What lessons about career and contribution have you learned that you would pass on to aspiring leaders?
I think it's invaluable to do something you see purpose in and that you're proud of. One of the best lessons I've learned that has contributed to my career is to be service-minded in every interaction, and so I reply / react in ways that makes it easier for others to do their job and always try my best to be clear, efficient and timely. I find that being service-minded is critical to productive teamwork and moving the needle forward.
TerraCycle is a very unique company with an audacious mission to eliminate the idea of waste. How is TerraCycle achieving this mission?
Recycling the previously non-recyclable is one way to combat climate change because it creates a closed loop for the material and limits the harvesting of new material, which is hard on the environment. Beyond creating collection and recycling solutions for previously non-recyclable waste, which is unique and amazing in of itself, is how TerraCycle does it. TerraCycle's magic is in the business model and our ability to make a profit recycling previously non-recyclable waste (collecting traditionally negative-value materials) by offering clients a premium solution for recycling their waste, and sourcing companies to buy the recycled plastic. Clients are willing to pay for TerraCycle services because the ROI from their consumers / employees. In turn, it opens our eyes (as participating consumers and employees) to the global waste problem and engages us to see waste differently.
What key changes have you seen in the social innovation space since working at TerraCycle?
When I joined TerraCycle 7 years ago, the landscape of social innovation was relatively small compared to what it is today. Many people and businesses are now trying to creatively solve for environmental and social issues. At TerraCycle, it used to feel like we were trying to sell programs to companies that didn't know they needed us, and now they're knocking on our door, and we've expanded our offerings to enable the collection of almost every type of waste from a wider variety of clients. New companies are coming into the market wanting a recycling solution for their waste stream (or problematic waste) before even launching!