Mini-cast 96: Recology Revisited



We visit the archives to learn about Recology, a 100-year old company and 100% ESOP since 1986. Project Equity's co-founder, Alison Lingane, shares how Recology is standing with its employee owners during the pandemic.


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You can hear the original May 15, 2020 release of this episode at Mini-cast 82: EO Spotlight on Recology.

Mini-cast 96 Transcript


Bret Keisling: All summer long on our EO/ESOP Podcast, our primary podcast on Tuesdays, we've been in summer school playing some of the great episodes from the past year. For the next two weeks, the upcoming episodes are going to be Alison Lingane and Hilary Abell of Project Equity. So I thought we'd go back to Episode 82 of the Mini-cast originally broadcast in May of 2020 to hear Alison Lingane talk about a great employee owned company, Recology. Enjoy this archived episode and please join us Tuesday for the full episode with Alison Lingane.


Announcer: Welcome to The ESOP Mini-cast, a great way to wrap up the week.


Bret Keisling: Hello, my friends. Thank you for listening. My name is Bret Keisling and as it says on my business cards, I'm a passionate advocate for employee ownership.

Over the next two weeks on our primary ESOP podcast, we're going to feature conversations with both of the cofounders of Project Equity, Alison Lingane and Hilary Abell. Project Equity is a nonprofit organization devoted to creating and maintaining employee ownership with a very interesting focus on local governments as well as foundations and philanthropic organizations. I spoke about Project Equity on Episode 66 of the ESOP Mini-cast, which you can find along with all of our archives at theESOPpodcast.com. Project Equity was kind enough to reach out to me after the episode and I'm really pleased to bring you the conversations with Alison and Hillary over the next two weeks.


Bret Keisling: While I was talking to Alison, I asked if she knew of any employee owned companies who are really stepping up during the pandemic and she told me about a company called Recology. It's in the waste recovery business, which you and I know as trash collection. It's mission statement indicates that it represents a fundamental shift from traditional waste management to resource recovery and they seek to eliminate waste by developing and discovering sustainable resource recovery practices that can be implemented globally. There are a lot of really cool things about this company. It's over 100 years old and literally evolved from a ragtag group of garbage scavengers in San Francisco. Since 1986, it's been a 100% ESOP. The top two leaders of the company have actually been with the company since the transaction.


Bret Keisling: What caught my attention during my conversation with Alison is how they're stepping up on behalf of their employee owners during the pandemic. With that I'm going to go to a clip and you'll hear this in the full episode on The ESOP Podcast. Here's Alison Lingane talking about Recology.


Bret Keisling: Do you have an example of how employee-owned companies might be responding these days?


Alison Lingane: Yeah, there are a lot of great examples. But I'll share one with you, which is a company that Project Equity isn't directly involved in, but it is in our community, which is Recology. So they're an ESOP, a hundred percent ESOP, based in San Francisco. And what they do is they provide the waste management services for the city of San Francisco, but also they have contracts in California, Oregon, Washington and they have over 3,800 employee owners. And they put a policy in place that they're calling "Recology Recovers." And they initially set it from mid-March to May and it was, you know, they might expand it in the future, but this policy says that if they don't have enough work for any of their employees due to the impact of COVID-19 on the business, they will still pay their full salary during the time period and continue their health benefits.


Alison Lingane: And so their goal, of course, is to support their employee owners to the fullest extent possible. You know, we were talking earlier about the domino effect and the need to support businesses and workers. And what we see is employee owned businesses put supporting their workers as a central goal to how they make it through the crisis. And so this example of Recology is just one example of how employee owned companies really operationalize. What we know from the data, you know, there was an analysis done in 2018 by NCEO that showed ESOP employee owners are, are significantly less likely to be laid off by a factor of one third to one fourth. And so in Recology's situation, they're not only not laying off people, but they're also making sure that they have full pay, even if they aren't able to give them full schedules.


Bret Keisling: I think this is a great policy that really puts its employee owners at the forefront. During the pandemic, every company faces unique challenges. As I think about the waste collection business, it occurs to me that the company continues to service its customers collecting waste. Meanwhile, when we hear of individuals or businesses being unable to pay rent or utilities, I imagine waste removal is one of those things going unpaid by at least a percentage of their customer base. In other words, they're providing full services while probably taking at least somewhat of a hit on revenue and to stand up for their employees at this time is very impressive. No one knows how long a policy of paying employees is sustainable for any company, and none of us know what is meant by the phrase "the new normal" or when "the new normal" will come into being.


Bret Keisling: But for now, I'm inspired by the steps Recology has taken on behalf of its employee owners and I hope you're inspired too If your employee owned company or one that you're aware of is doing anything to step up during the pandemic, please let us know and you'll have contact information in just a moment. We'd love to share the stories of anyone doing good in these very difficult times. I hope you'll join us in the coming two weeks as we feature our podcast interviews with Alison Lingane and Hilary Abell. Project Equity is doing really cool things, some of it quite unique to grow employee ownership, and I'm looking forward to sharing those stories. This is Brett Keisling. Have a great day.


Bitsy McCann: We'd love to hear from you! To contact us, find us on Facebook at KEISOP, LLC and on Twitter @ESOPPodcast. To reach Bret, with one "T", email Bret@KEISOP.com, on LinkedIn at Bret Keisling, and most actively on Twitter at @EO_Bret. Again, that's one "T". This podcast has been produced by The KEISOP Group, technical assistance provided by Third Circle, Inc. and BitsyPlus Design. Original music composed by Max Keisling, archival podcast material edited and produced by Brian Keisling, and I'm Bitsy McCann.


Standard Disclaimer: The views expressed herein are my own and don't represent those of my own firms or the organizations to which I belong. Nothing in the podcast should be construed as guidance or advice of any kind in any field and the fact that I mentioned an organizational website or an advocate or a company on a podcast does not reflect an endorsement, but if you've heard your name or your group's name mentioned on this podcast, I'd love to have you come on and talk about it yourself.


A note on the transcript: This transcript was produced by Temi, an automated transcription service. While it has been reviewed by The ESOP Podcast, we can not guarantee the accuracy of the transcription. Please refer to the original audio when citing sources.

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