Recycling Technologies systems engineer Dale Rautenbach doing her bit for plastic waste
Recycling Technologies Ltd
Hiring the right talent is always a challenge for startups, arguably one of the biggest in terms of the constraints it can have on business activities and growth, but those in the sustainability sector seem to be bucking the trend.
The last few years have seen rapid growth in numbers of tech startups developing innovative solutions to global challenges such as plastic waste, which is good for the planet, and also for the founders of these businesses who are finding it easier to attract the talent they need.
A study by professional services firm PwC found that 65% of people across China, Germany, India, the U.K. and the U.S. want to work for sustainable employers and organizations with a strong social conscience. Being green boosts people’s pride in their job, which also helps these businesses to retain talent.
Increasingly people want to work for companies that are making a difference, including British plastics reprocessing company Recycling Technologies. The company has developed a technology that recycles end-of-life plastic waste, previously deemed unrecyclable, into virgin plastic, wax and oils.
Using a process called pyrolysis to thermally crack the plastic using heat in an atmosphere free of oxygen, the company can recycle a comprehensive range of mixed plastic waste back into the oil it originally came from. The oil, called Plaxx, is a valuable commodity that can be used by the petrochemical sector for making new plastics, creating a truly circular economy.
Sales and marketing director, Elena Parisi says: “By using Plaxx oil as a feedstock for making new plastics, the loop is being closed on many more types of plastics and packaging formats, including multi-layered food pouches and crisp packets.”
The company’s goal is to install 1,300 of its RT7000 recycling machines worldwide within a decade, capable of diverting 10 million tons of plastic waste from landfill or incineration each year and producing 7 million tons of Plaxx to replace fossil oils in new polymer production.
The values that the business places on creating social and environment benefit have enabled it to attracting the high caliber talent, including top achieving graduates and post-graduates from some of the world’s leading engineering and research universities. They are motivated by the chance to tackle one of the most pressing global challenges; plastic waste, as HR director Penny Grobler explains.
She says: “When recruiting for our technical and commercial teams, we see candidates looking, not only at their fit to our job description, but our fit to their aspirations to make a positive difference to society and the environment.”
The company has also found that being in this sector helps to attract top senior leadership talent.
“With board level recruitment our commitment to making positive environmental and social impact attracts seasoned professionals because they recognize that putting sustainability at the heart of the business is critical to making the business sustainable, attracting investors and building resilience,” adds Grobler.
While businesses in this sector tend not to have problems attracting enthusiastic candidates, as with any high growth business, getting the right talent is crucial: a calling to do one’s bit for the planet will only go so far.
Striking a balance between technical knowledge and business experience can be difficult to achieve, although a number of universities and business schools now offer sustainability-related post-graduate programs that will strengthen a candidate’s case.
But there are other factors, such as cultural fit and diversity to consider; poor cultural fit is one of the main causes of hiring failure, which often happens several expensive months into the job.
“The importance of cultural fit can’t be underestimated,” says Tim Kemp, partner at executive and non-executive search boutique Warren Partners. “An organization’s values and culture should align with its strategy and vision and be clearly communicated from the start to ensure candidates fit in and stay. This is even more important in small, innovative businesses where everyone will be working at close quarters.”
Innovative startups in this sector should also be hiring for diversity, in order to support the diverse thinking that will fuel further growth.
“Sourcing a diverse candidate pool is just as important for a smaller business, as it is for a large corporate that has diversity targets to reach,” says Kemp. “Regardless of the size of the business, diverse short-lists can challenge people to think out of the box.”