Pro-Bono – How a social enterprise fights for cleaner oceans, reduces poverty and hires the best talent in APAC along the way

    boyd & moore pro bono plastic bank

    Being strongly committed to environmental causes, Boyd & Moore has recently teamed up with Plastic Bank.

    As a social enterprise with environmental focus, Plastic Bank aims to reduce plastic waste as well as poverty around the world. While the business model of paying local workers to collect and sell plastic waste is not new, Plastic Bank has been a strong disruptor in this space.

    “The industry has been traditionally unregulated which leaves a lot of room to exploit workers,” says Claus Skadkjaer, President of Plastic Bank Asia. “That’s why our business model means a dramatic shift.” By paying workers above market rate and giving access to health insurance, school tuition and clean water, Plastic Bank and its customers – mainly global consumer goods companies that turn old resources into new product packaging – help communities out of poverty and, at the same time, transform ‘waste’ into something with monetary value, an important side effect that is crucial for a long-term environmental change.

    “We’re all about setting a gold standard,” emphasizes Claus. “Our ‘social plastic’ is meant to show how business should be done, not just in this industry, but in general. We support local communities, provide full visibility across our supply chains and make a positive impact on the environment. And all that while ensuring its financial sustainable and exponential scalable. We have to be if we want to make the biggest impact possible across the globe.”

    Plastic Bank’s current track record is impressive: 23,000 local collectors gathering 1.2m kilos of plastic waste every month which accumulates to 14.4m kilos per year equaling 720m plastic bottles. In addition, the company has developed a solid supply chain including 350 collection centers. But the end goal is even more ambitious: “Our mission is to stop ocean plastic by gathering together a billion people to monetize plastic waste while improving lives,” explains Claus proudly.

    The key to Plastic Bank’s success

    To keep up with their fast pace of growth, Plastic Bank’s biggest asset is their talent. “Most of our employees come from the consumer goods space – another important differentiator that enables us to serve our clients and their needs even better,” says Claus, who himself spent many years in FMCG before joining Plastic Bank.

    However, their high expectations towards potential employees poses a great challenge, especially in Asia. “There’s huge number of workers available here in the region, but the actual pool of qualified talent is extremely small. In addition, Asia is a growth market for many international corporations that pay big money for high performers. Of course, we provide a reasonable compensation package but as a social business we can’t match what the top firms in the market are offering. That’s why finding people who fully identify with our mission and strive for purpose beyond their salary is crucial. A truly difficult task which Boyd & Moore has helped us tackle very successfully!”

    The best talent for Plastic Bank

    As part of the partnership with Plastic Bank, Boyd & Moore has been helping the social enterprise find the talent they need to reach their ambitious goal.

    In just a few months, Claudia Lau, a Boyd & Moore Consultant, filled 2 crucial leadership roles at Plastic Bank, pro bono.

    A new Country Manager to lead Plastic Bank’s HQ

    Claudia’s first challenge was to find a replacement for the Philippine Country Manager who had recently been promoted.

    Plastic Bank had high expectations. They required an individual who was not only passionate about their cause but also had significant experience in the consumer goods space and, if possible, through working for a multinational cooperation. In addition, the ideal candidate would have experience in business and community development as well as marketing. He or she would be a self-starter who was able to empower and diversify a growing team.

    Despite Plastic Bank being open to both young, passionate professionals as well as senior business leaders, the search turned out to be rather difficult. While younger candidates showed great commitment towards the organization’s cause, they lacked leadership skills and business experience. On the other hand, senior leadership talent wasn’t willing to accept the pay cut accompanying this role even if they were excited about Plastic Bank’s mission.

    “This search was pro bono but we still treated it exactly the same as any other paid retainer assignment”, says Claudia. In order to find the perfect match, she and a team of researchers mapped the market to identify as many qualified candidates as possible. After interviewing 10 candidates with a wide range of backgrounds, Plastic Bank decided to offer an individual with a rather rare but perfectly fitting profile: The final candidate had worked as an advisor for companies that looked to scale their business and was running his own consumer goods related foundation. He was also a passionate diver and had experienced the horrific impact of plastic waste on the ocean. Now, he was excited to help tackle this issue together with Plastic Bank.

    A new Supply Chain Manager to lead the SCM strategy in APAC

    The second search was for a Supply Chain Manager who would be located in the Philippines and play a crucial part in further developing the supply chain strategy connecting Plastic Bank’s growing base of customers in the region with the flood of locally sourced plastic waste.

    Similar to the requirements for the Country Manager role, the Supply Chain Manager would need to show a strong commitment towards Plastic Banks’ mission, have an entrepreneurial mindset and would be able to think outside the box. The ideal candidate was rather senior but at the same time, willing to work with a compensation package below market rate.

    When Claudia started the search, COVID had reached its first peak in the region. While there were many qualified candidates coming from the struggling hospitality sector, Plastic Bank decided against most of them since the flight risk after a market recovery was too high.

    Based on this insight, we focused on real commitment in the second round of research eventually finding the ideal individual for the position. While the final candidate was coming from the hospitality industry, he had grown up in the Philippines and had seen the devasting impact of plastic waste on marine life first-hand. He was also excited about creating job opportunities for lower income communities in the Philippines.

    After Claudia helped with negotiating an acceptable compensation package, Plastic Bank could onboard the candidate after only two months of searching.

    Contributing to positive change

    “We are very satisfied with the excellent talent we were able to meet and eventually hire. And, the search experience was fantastic. For many companies, pro bono work is just a side project. But not for Boyd & Moore. They made us feel like a paying customer. They align with our values and make sure that our needs are fully met. It never felt just like a transaction but a true partnership which we’re looking forward to continuing,” says Claus.

    The positive feeling is mutual: “I am very proud and happy that I could contribute to Plastic Bank’s growth here in the region,” says Claudia. “Contributing to cleaner oceans as well as helping disadvantaged communities are causes very close to my heart. This experience makes my work here at Boyd & Moore even more meaningful.”

    Plastic Bank was so satisfied with the partnership that they retained Boyd & Moore already for a new search – a technical solutions expert who will be able to take the organization’s service offering to the next level.

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