Planet Earth Cleaning Co. and Ecobin founder John Engelander proposes that environmental and business sustainability can go hand-in-hand. Show host Gene Tunny asks John about the benefits and costs of businesses adopting more environmentally-friendly practices.
What we discuss with John Engelander, founder of Planet Earth Cleaning Co. and Ecobin
- John’s epiphany that led to the birth of the Planet Earth Cleaning Company [4:15]
- What are the costs and benefits of adopting environmentally friendly business practices? [8:00]
- “It’s not an investment if it is destroying the planet” discussion, in which Gene mentions how economics has been trying to account for environmental impacts [20:38]
- Do we have enough time to avoid a climate/environmental crisis? [25:50]
- John asks Gene if we need to own cars? [33:54]
- John’s final thoughts on the importance of being a conscious consumer [44:29]
About this episode’s guest: John Engelander
A true force of nature, CEO & Founder John was green way before it was cool. It was his belief in profit with a purpose that led him to start The Planet Earth Cleaning Company circa 1994, and he has been inspiring people and companies to be greener and better for the planet ever since.
In 2007, John completed his certificate in Sustainability Advocacy at Swinburne University. He believes, “when you look after the planet, you look after yourself”. When we influence others to take responsible actions, there is a ripple effect. And that’s part of doing good by being good.
Today, John works with people that are looking for a healthier alternative & genuinely cares about making a difference to the planet, whether that’s through The Planet Earth Cleaning Company, the EcoBin business, or his personal advocacy & public speaking. John believes “conscious consumption is a great way to start. After all, less is more, and your planet will be healthier for it.” Now that’s good for business.
Out of the office, John burns off some of his high energy levels with water sports, snow skiing, mountain bike riding, cardio pilates and enjoying time in nature. And when not running after his kids and dogs, he likes to tinker on the piano, watch movies and have dinner with friends.
Links relevant to the conversation
John’s business EcoBin:
Quote by Vandana Shiva:
Mastercard study quoted by Gene:
CSIRO article on natural capital accounting:
UN article on The Rise, Fall and Rethinking of Green GDP:
Australian Government guidance note on cost-benefit analysis, which makes it clear CBAs should consider environmental impacts, quantitatively if possible but otherwise qualitatively:
Transcript: Do environmental and business sustainability go hand in hand? w/ John Engelander – EP172
N.B. This is a lightly edited version of a transcript originally created using the AI application otter.ai. It may not be 100 percent accurate, but should be pretty close. If you’d like to quote from it, please check the quoted segment in the recording.
Ep 172 31 December 22
Sat, Dec 31, 2022 6:16AM • 49:58
people, business, economists, cleaning, planet earth, john, economics, planet, sustainability, clients, cleaners, green, company, eco, thought, buy, organisation, price, good, world
Gene Tunny, John Engelander, Female speaker
Gene Tunny 00:00
Coming up on Economics Explored,
John Engelander 00:03
And I do believe that businesses that are purpose driven, people are attracted to that. And that attraction makes people happier and more productive.
Gene Tunny 00:15
Welcome to the Economics Explored podcast, a frank and fearless exploration of important economic issues. I’m your host Gene Tunny broadcasting from Brisbane, Australia. This is episode 172 on environmental and business sustainability. My guest is John Engelander, founder of the planet Earth cleaning company, and also the founder and CEO of Ecobin. In this episode, John and I discussed his proposition, but environmental and business sustainability go hand in hand. After my chat with John, I provide some reflections on the conversation, so please stick around for those. Also, please check out the show notes for relevant links and information and for details where you can get in touch with any questions or comments. Let me know what you think about what either John or I have to say in this episode, whether you have any thoughts on environmental and business sustainability? To what extent are they aligned or in conflict? I’d love to hear from you. Before we get into it, I would like to let you know that I’m going to take a short break from the podcast over January and come back in early February. Righto, and now for my conversation with John Englander of Ecobin. Thanks to Obsidian Productions for their assistance in producing this episode. I hope you enjoy it. John Engelander, welcome to the programme.
John Engelander 01:26
Well, it’s an absolute pleasure to be here today, Gene. So, thanks for having me.
Gene Tunny 01:30
It’s it’s fantastic to chat with you, John. So you’re very keen to chat about issues around business and environmental sustainability. So you’ve had a very successful career as a business owner, with the planet Earth cleaning company. And also with you’ve been involved in Eco Bins. I’m keen to understand those businesses, what you’ve done there. To start off with, I’d like to ask you about this. This philosophy of yours, I think it is that environmental and business sustainability go hand in hand. I mean, what do you mean by that? What does that mean to you, John?
John Engelander 02:14
Okay, it’s a good one because often I feel incredibly fortunate that I’ve been able to combine sustainability, and commerciality almost as a cocktail. And ther is some perfection in that because you give a lot of thought, I give a lot of thought and consciousness to how we think about the products that we consume, or what we offer our clients. Because I feel that the impact matters. And I think the price we pay for something, let’s call it whatever it might be, dollars, whatever. And then the price we have on our planet require some kind of balance, because, frankly, we don’t have an economy without getting it right with the ecology. Wouldn’t you say?
Gene Tunny 02:58
No, I absolutely agree with you there. I mean, we certainly need the environment to sustain us. So yeah, absolutely, absolutely, agree there. And would you be able to tell us about the planet Earth cleaning company? How you got involved in that? How did you figure out that this was a way that you could have a business that that met these, you know, that was both financially sustainable, and also environmentally friendly?
John Engelander 03:28
I think the like most things that can work out well, is there’ll be a problem. And if you can solve a genuine problem, then there’s likelihood there’s an opportunity, I don’t think you can make up. Often an idea, I’ve done it many times, it’s a good idea should do it. But in fact, there’s no problem to really fix or it’s not going to give people a great deal of joy. And I think there’s a problem when people buy a mountain bike, they buy that for joy, that’s not a problem. So it’s two ways, you either look at it as joy or you’re solving a problem. From my perspective. So how did it come about? I think, purely, it was by accident. I wasn’t planning on going into the cleaning industry at all. In fact, I still don’t plan on getting into the cleaning industry. I plan on trying to resolve something that made sense, and that was that. For those who have heard my story before, it was that one of the cleaners were sick, like they didn’t show up, and I ended up rolling my sleeves and ended up in a toilet cubicle of all things. Cleaning a toilet bowl, which never imagined that would happen. And as I opened up, the cleaning chemicals, the fumes were intoxicating. I also thought I was gonna suffocate and then if I thought that was bad, my hands were starting to crack split from the stingingness, I felt stinging you know, it was like burning, and that was it. Honestly, there’s got to be a better way. How can you subject people to this who were cleaning every day when that happened, and I guess that was one would call an epiphany moment, you know, if there has, if I can look after a way of fixing it for people cleaners, then there’s a there’s possibly a business opportunity, hang on a minute, if it’s good for them, it’s good for the planet. And that was essentially the birth of the Planet Earth cleaning company. Totally. Now, that didn’t mean that three decades ago, people talked about sustainability, then you can talk about green, greens is a fairly new word, back then it was just a colour. So I guess, feeling and believing and having purpose in my day-to-day life all the time drove me. And I could actually lead my people. So they understood that I was actually looking for a way to make their lives healthier. And that was a huge thing, until people started to wake up. Probably more recently, and I say recently went out when Al Gore brought out the documentary Inconvenient Truth, there was a bit of aha moment. And then that slowed down. And that now it just seems, there’s a real inertia in terms of the word impact. And it seems like that the whole idea of impact has become a big topic around what I do and probably attract investors, you know, get the calls, you know, I’ve been doing it for so long that I must know. I do. So that’s it sort of come together. So yeah, it was by accident to see a problem, the problem made sense to fix. And then I figured this is a good business to get into.
Gene Tunny 06:40
Yeah, for sure. John, would you be able to tell us a bit about I mean, how, what your scope of operations mean, where you operate the types of clients or customers that you have
John Engelander 06:52
Sure, so our clients are boutique large, or not so large, when I say not so large, that can fall under the type of clients that that would work with us. we have clients like Katmandu, we have clients like realestate.com, seek.com built a whole lot of building companies, McConnell Dow, which ones largest structural engineering firms in the world, and so forth, just to name a few and Cricket Australia, and other ones. So just a little, few little companies that probably they have good branding, good identity, recognise the need to not just take on cleaning, but see that by having planet Earth, it’s a huge upside for them in terms of letting their people know, when think about what that does to culture when you know, you’re a values based organisation. And we do this in Melbourne and Sydney, we’re looking at Brisbane, but at the moment, it’s really, really the two main cities in this country.
Gene Tunny 08:00
Okay, could you tell me a bit about what you do your operations? I’m interested in this because you mentioned the, the fumes, you mentioned the chemicals that cleaners traditionally use? And I imagine there are companies out there that are still using these chemicals? I mean, what what precisely are they are there some examples you could talk about? And then what what are substitutes? And are they as good? I mean, the thing that I’m wondering is, okay, do you do get the same quality of cleaning is at higher costs. So is this something that is a bit is a bit of a luxury? Or is this something that businesses across the economy can afford? Could you just talk about that, please?
John Engelander 08:44
Great question. First of all, chemicals. What price do you pay for your people getting sick? When those fumes go through your air conditioning wafting through something must happen, can’t measure it. But something must be going on, if it’s happening to my cleaners, because they’re right there and then it’s going to be happening somehow, indirectly to the clients. Better cleaning. Okay, let’s look at acid. It’s really good, isn’t it? I mean, you think about it, you’ve seen urinals we all have as men go into toilets and urinals and the only way to clean a urinal properly apparently is with acid, really. And an interesting story was some years ago, one of my prospective clients who became a client loved the whole story about Planet Earth, but he thought he would prepare cleaning his urinal without telling us so he went out and bought acid and did it. And a very sad story. He suffered for years. Now he called on us I would have gone no way. I’d never give that to my own people. He’s a client. I really adored this person. He took us on board for the very right reasons. And yet, sometimes consciously, it’s possible not to think so his health got a price when he paid for that. Do we have enough money for it? Well, I’m sorry, if you can’t look after yourself and pay for that. There’s an issue, how much more you pay is interesting, right? So think about this, we use chem free, we have a system, which is chem free by planet Earth, we actually installed it in the building’s plumbing system, it converts water through an electrolysis process and turns it into a sanitizer cleaner. The Cleaners just turn up with their little spray bottle, push it in, plug it in, it does that good noise rush, and then it fills the bottle up. And they can use that to clean and yes, it’s effective. And it’s not toxic. It was water, water through electrolysis process. Now, not every body wants to invest in that. So could you say it just cost us not, can do. But are we interested in getting it right for our people? And let’s face it, when you throw away chemicals into your waterways, after you clean toliets or mop floors, do you think that’s really good, can’t be good for the planet. And so all of that, and the beauty of about chem free is that we don’t have the containers. Because when you have containers delivered, that’s transport emission, then you have great big plastic containers filled with chemicals. That’s transport not only transported, but the plastic it took to make it one use. Maybe not, maybe you can send it back to the factory and they fill it up. Well, it’s got to be sent back again, transport. But imagine all you do is plug a little spray bottle in and it fills that up. Now, sometimes you just got to use a little bit more elbow grease. But if you care enough, you’ll do that. Is the price higher? I doubt it. I think what, if anything, it’s really good value. And it all comes down to the effort you put into the job. So the beauty also of that is, if I may, is that, think about this? Is everyone complaining about not being able to get labour at the moment, in this time? It’s 2022. And it’s really hard to find labour. Why is it that a purpose driven company like us doesn’t have a problem, that has to have a great outcome for our clients, because you’ve got people that actually are doing something because it matters for them beyond a dollar, because you’d never pay cleaners enough money to come do their job. But purpose will drive. And purpose if the message is properly conveyed to our clients, people, it all becomes it starts to build culture in terms of value based. And I do believe that businesses that are purpose driven, people are attracted to that. And that attraction makes people happier and more productive. Can you put a price to that? You betcha. You spent $100,000 on cleaning, you’ll get an outcome of three, four times then in your culture development, if you make sure you promote that you’ve taken on Planet Earth Cleaning Company, because it’s a big deal to make the right choices.
Gene Tunny 13:07
Yeah, I think the point you make about health and safety is a good one. I’m not familiar with the data for cleaning, I’ll have to check it out after this. I mean, I’m not sure what the studies show whether there is a significant improvement in health and safety outcomes with using these environmentally friendly products.
John Engelander 13:35
Yeah, no, I’m saying the same thing I can’t measure. All I can say is it’s a good chance. But it’s good to know, if you’ve taken on a cleaning company they care enough about their people to you know, I mean, we go as far as even caring about their mental health, we have a service where they can call up if they’ve got issues. None of my management are allowed to know about it. So yeah, we’ve gone from product to people’s minds to actually having them, you know, on board with, with, with this whole idea of we’re getting it right, because let’s face it, we all have the planet in common.
Gene Tunny 14:13
John can ask you betting impact investing? I think you were talking about that earlier, you were talking about impact everyone people are interested or investors are interested in impact now. So does that. Have you been dealing with that in investment impact or what does it impact investing community? How substantial Do you think that is? Is? Is that going to help support or help grow a lot of businesses such as yours or other businesses and that are environmentally friendly?
John Engelander 14:43
I think that look I don’t know a lot about impact investing. I prefer to invest in myself. But the truth of the matter is that I do believe that there’s a there’s a whole movement towards looking at being ethical, and ethical and impact seems to have they complement each other, don’t they? So let’s, let’s look at it this way. My couple years ago, I think my brother in law showed me a return on investment with an organisation called Australian ethical. Did that year, he made close to 50%? I’ve never heard of that in my life. I fact, I was blown away. I don’t know if they continue to do that. Was that just a fluke that year? Either way, was it settled? It spoke volumes? Didn’t you look at businesses like? Well, if you bought Tesla a few years ago, just 2000. And I don’t know, let’s call it 2020 20, February to 2020. And that share price is $480. I know because I actually invested in that. And it got it went up and up and up and up, went to 2400 got split by five, what was that worth? Then it went up and up. And now I’ve got slipped by three, not doing so well at the moment, which is really interesting, because they’ve been more profitable than they ever have been. But they’ve actually led the field where they go to in the next 10 years. Who knows. Some have faith in it, and some don’t. But it brings a whole lot of other industries together about looking at what’s viable, both commercially and sustainably. Have To be frank, I’m not a big fan of the word sustainable. So which often shocks people, but I think we should consider the idea of being enabled enable the planet, the planets in trouble, we say it’s overheating the the blanket in the sky of greenhouse emissions that are just get thicker and thicker, holding the heat under. So our temperatures change on the planet. Is is that an interesting? An interesting idea. So I think, you know, when we consider the future we’re talking about so that the health of the planet, you know, with all these things, that people plan it all together pretty, pretty combined. I think there’s a good investment even to look after our children’s future that is enabling the planet, I think it’s an essential part of it all. So, you know, often I can call our teams and enablers, they’re proud of it. We recently had our tree growing programme, we do this, you know, half day tree grow, growing programme. And we’re actually looking to do that for our clients next year, too. So because the half day programme really enables a whole, I guess, one’s team to really come together and, and be connected, which is another part of it, too. We all feel connected, we feel better about ourselves and have something in common. So that whole thing has to be viable, I believe for the organisation. To give you an idea when we when we did the most recent one 30% of our staff actually weren’t working that morning. But they showed up to be part of it. What does that say? Yeah,
Gene Tunny 17:59
yeah, that’s a good culture. Yeah, not bad. That’s really good.
John Engelander 18:04
So that has to make, you know, if you have happy culture, and they’re more productive, which I mentioned earlier, that’s going to be a viable proposition for anybody.
Gene Tunny 18:11
Yeah, yeah. Okay, we’ll take a short break here for a word from our sponsor.
Female speaker 18:20
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Gene Tunny 18:49
Now back to the show. I think I may have asked you this. So I think you may have answered it before. But one thing, one thing I’m interested in is whether it does cost you money to do the right thing as a as a business owner. So does it make you less profitable than than otherwise? You may have answered that earlier. But if you can just reflect on that, please, John, that’d be great. Good.
John Engelander 19:13
Okay. So yes, it can and, and like anything, what you choose quality always cost more. But let’s look at it this way. If it’s not, if you don’t see it as quality, but you see it as doing the right thing. Can it cost more? Possibly? I don’t believe if you buy quality, like if we offer a quality service, you pay for it. If we provide green, I don’t believe we’d need to charge you more because we’re agreeing. I don’t think that’s necessary if we manage it fine, right. But when you can talk about what would you pay to drive your workforce? Because you’re purpose driven? What would you would you bring a you know the term people and culture that and companies bring people in and spend Lots of money, right? We don’t have to do that with us. And I think that’s a huge, huge tip, as is bringing in Sustainability Consultants, you don’t need that we, we can give it all eco been planning to go in and give advice on what to do next next year will be big plans to helping organisations transition to a green future. Because I really believe that’s the direction we need to take otherwise, why would you do business with companies that are destroying the planet, and then look at that. It’s not investment, it’s destroying the planet.
Gene Tunny 20:38
So this is a quote behind you. That whose it
John Engelander 20:42
by John, Dr. Vandana Shiva writes it.
Gene Tunny 20:47
not an investment if it’s destroying the planet? So look, I don’t think that that makes sense. What it’s suggesting, as an economist, the way I think about that, is that if you do have something that is degrading the environment, then if we were properly account doing if we were properly doing the economic accounts, then what we would do is we would, we would recognise the subtraction of value in the environment. And, look, I know that economists, you probably object to the way that economists look at this sort of thing, economists would put a value, they would try to put a value on the environmental capital stock, or the natural resources. And then to the extent that there’s degradation of that you could subtract from that. And we should be recognising that in our national accounts as a, as a negative investment as a disinvestment in that in that natural resource asset. So there is a, there are economists that are looking at how we can measure that environmental damage that’s occurring. And it’s a field called natural capital economics, if I remember correctly, or there’s an environmental economics field, and there’s ecological economics, which takes a different perspective. Yep. So it’s not as I mean, economists are thinking about these issues. So yeah, I think that’s that is an interesting quote, to reflect on. I’ll put a link in the show notes to while reproduce it in the show notes and link to put some links regarding it, because I think it is a it is a very good quote.
John Engelander 22:33
Look, I don’t blame economic, economical economists. I often believe that where I sit in this world is to be highly relatable. And you can’t do that without understanding others. It’s not enough for me to be persuaded and say, hey, you know, staunch Greenie and you guys are bad. I think that’s not the way to go. And nor is that the other way. Extreme. No one listens to extremist. Really, really interesting. I mean, look, I know both sides of the story. I don’t know if you’ve ever read the book, how the world really works. And it believes that we’re in such a heavy hitter, but
Gene Tunny 23:12
I’m trying to remember if maybe, maybe I haven’t read that one. I’ve read a I’ll have to look it up. I’ve read a book about maybe a thinking of a book about the deals that made the world I think I got confused momentarily. I don’t think I have read it. Sorry, John, can you tell me a bit about it’s okay,
John Engelander 23:29
so, look, all of us we don’t think about what we buy, we just buy it that way. And so don’t consider if we buy a plastic tub, how much oil has gone into it? Or we don’t think about whatever it might be. Oh, when was it the Climate March and I was wearing my planet Earth t shirt. And some young 21 year old came up to me and says, Hey, dude, I love your planet Earth T shirts. And hey, dude, I love your one use water bottle. And it went red. And I actually looked back at him. I said, Look, I’m really not looking at you. And judging, I just think we do forget not thinking. But when when you think about the different layers. For example, ATP is a good good case in point, we brought out a waste system for being able to separate your waste using different colours, red landfill blue for paper, green for food, yellow for recycling, and so forth for plastic recycling aluminium. And, and I’ll go back to the book in a second because it’ll all come together. And when I chose to do that, it’s really good that we’re able to help people sort waste because let’s face it when you change people’s ways, habits through colours, it’s much easier Yeah. Now it’s made in Melbourne, Australia. Not only is it Australia and I thought about what’s called an LCA, a lifecycle analysis, went through the whole thing and understood how much carbon we were able to find a plastic fabric, plastic, believe it or not, but a certain type of plastic that used to 80% less energy and its manufacturing of an equivalent sized plastic bin. How’s that? So the consideration was good, by the way, cost less to make. So I can charge less for other people use the no excuse. It’s quite affordable. So talk about is it costly? Do grain not in that case, but the separation of it means imagine, you throw a plastic whatever in there. And it turns eventually into plastic garden furniture. I mean, it’s it’s pretty phenomenal, isn’t it? I mean, you didn’t have to steal the resources out of Mother Earth. You actually did it, because it was available there and then and didn’t have to go back into it didn’t have to end up in landfill. It ended up converted, right. Good point, right. Here’s the thing. Look at this book. And it’s bizarre how the world really works. And it says, we’re addicted to plastic. We’re addicted to oil. We’re addicted to steel, we’re addicted to ammonia. How are we ever going to change? Then I’ve got another book on the other side of it called the carbon carbon Almanack. It’s not too late. So which one do you believe?
Gene Tunny 26:08
Which one do you believe the carbon Albert ACK or the how the world really works?
John Engelander 26:13
Yeah. Because the Almanack says it’s not too late. And the other one says are we’re in? We’ve got all these habits. Yeah. Plastic oil, you know, ammonia, concrete, you know?
Gene Tunny 26:25
Yeah. Well, I mean, I’d like to think it isn’t too late. I recognise that there is a need to decarbonize our economies? Our look, I think it’s, I mean, I’m, I’m of the view that we need to, I’d be probably advocating a more gradual transition, then then many others, including many other of my fellow economists, I think most economists would support a carbon tax or an emissions trading scheme, which imposes a carbon price, I think there’s a recognition that we need the right signal air to, so that businesses and consumers are considering the what you call the marginal social cost of, of greenhouse gas emissions. So that’s included in the in their economic calculation. So I think there’s there is a recognition that something needs to be done. I’ve just been concerned about the pace of it. And I think, with the issues over energy here in Australia at the moment, cost of energy rising. That’s, that’s something I’ve been concerned about. But I would like, yeah, so I guess I’m saying I’m probably more of a carbon Almanack view. Because I’m just trying to, I think we just need to understand that the world the way that economists think about this, and it is that with these resources, I mean, you mentioned these resources that have been depleted or being used. And you could say, you know, maybe they been used unsustainably. But the standard way that economists look at this is that to the extent that they are, then that’s going to be reflected in the price. And that will encourage conservation of those resources. So that’s the way the the economists tend to look at it. And the argument would be that we really haven’t run out of any essential resource globally. So that’s the that would be the economic argument there. So I guess what I’m saying is that if he asked me to choose between those two, those two books, what was the one that how the world really works?
John Engelander 28:44
It really works and the carbon Almanack Carbonell Almanack. It’s not too late. It says underneath it. Yeah.
Gene Tunny 28:49
Yeah. I mean, my, my view, or rather, my hope is that it isn’t too late. I think it’s something perfect. We can, we can sort out in time. I mean, a lot of these predictions of Apocalypse are coming from numerical models of the climate. Yeah. So Well, yeah. Okay. I know that there are there have been there. Definitely. There’s definitely change occurring. I’m not denying that. But my hope. And I guess my expectation, if I had to put if I had to make a best guess, my best guess would be that we have time. But look, I may be wrong. I’m not. I’m not 100% confident in that, that.
John Engelander 29:34
You don’t have to be Gene. I think the the point here is why wouldn’t we just do the very best we can? Yeah, there’s no harm in that sort of harm. And the other way, there’s no harm in that. And so you think we all live pretty well. Let’s look at look at Australia. How many TVs do we have in our house? How many cars do we drive? And what kind of is that quality of life or is there something else that’s actually hot at a higher value? I have to tell you I much prefer getting on my mountain bike in the country and writing that than then jumping into someone’s petrol car, you know? So it’s it’s those considerations, what is life? What is it? What is really the essence of the quality? That one would really require the kind of 140 square home carpark underneath? Or do we really need that much? Do we? I’m not saying it’s not a judgement call, by the way. Choices are there? But I don’t know, it’s like, I think it brings it down in my fundamental philosophy. And that is, if someone was to ask be you’re really passionate about the planet? And I’d say no. And so that shocks, but there’s a reason behind that. It’s not important for me to be passionate about that. I mean, I love my you know, I could have someone you ask someone, do you love your mother? Yeah, very much. Are you passionate about it? No. Love it. And so it’s those things that you kind of look at, it’s logical, I look after myself, do you look at yourself? Do you eat good food? Do you do all the right things for yourself? So you do it for the planet, wouldn’t you? You don’t have to be passionate, just passionate. From my perspective, live life fully is my passion. I do stuff, you know, I get out there enjoy the fresh air. I don’t want it to go naturally I want to look after and preserve what’s happening. And what price do you put to that? Now? $1 financial, you know, it’s not important. Entirely. Put it in perspective. But if you have very little it is important. But when you have more, how much more do you need? What is at what point do you say it’s enough? At what point do you tell your shareholders that, you know, we’re going to deliberately make this? It’s okay. But maybe it’s not? Because I didn’t come into business just on that basis, I need to be interested in what I do. And when I’m interested, that fuels me, and somehow Money takes care of itself. Not always. But most of the time, yes, I’ve made, we’ve all made mistakes, I brought out a product called Eco to life. Would it be 14 years ago, that in 14 years ago, while I was trying to and as we were building the product together, it was actually concentrate to sugar cane and corn made into a cleaning product. And there’ll be little little packets, he buys spray bottles. So once you once once you buy spray bottles, you’d have to buy them again, you have to go to the supermarket and get more, but you just add this little bit at the waters, you’re not carrying heavy loads of water home either. And I thought that would be a good idea. And I threw a lot of money into this idea. And it didn’t, didn’t happen. So the timing, you know, today I know what’s happening because I you can buy this, you can buy this. So in a sentence pioneering is it’s very painful. But I’m interested in the topic and it becomes part of my story. And I’m good with that. Instead of being sort of being a victim, you look at it and go, What have I learned? Where can i What, how can I use that moving going forward? And I do believe we’ve got a chance. And it’s a great story for all of us to come together and get it right. And there’s so much new technology coming out. It’s unbelievable. In terms of what we’ll see we’ll see people with solar on their roofs, sharing their power with other people. That’s a great example. Yeah. What about geothermal, and housing your home with heat and air conditioning from the natural substance of Earth, underneath us, and by the way, that could be economical to once we get the price down in terms of that technology.
Gene Tunny 33:54
I think the point you make about the local energy grids or whatever you call them, with the sharing of solar and if we can use EVs as batteries, and if we have smart metres in the household, I mean, there has to be a lot of investment that occurs before this all happens and you know more batteries around the place that Yep, EVS mean, everyone will need to get an EV they’re currently twice as expensive as they probably need to be to have widespread adoption by consumers.
John Engelander 34:27
Jane, question though, do we need to own cars? Ah, we currently use if you’re lucky one and a half hours worth of driving a day.
Gene Tunny 34:37
Yeah. Look, I agree with you there, John. And I mean, I’ve I myself have spent several years of my life without a car. But I recognise that the only reason I was able to do that was because I lived in the inner city. So I didn’t have to commute. I didn’t have a family to to ferry around. into. So I think I think it’s a fair point. And you know, we could look at mobility as a service, I think they call it. So yeah, yeah.
John Engelander 35:12
Call on it when you need it. And now that way, because battery technology, if it’s function properly, it can go a long way. Otherwise, we’re wasting a terrible resource. And we can have less cars on the road. And instead of people going, our batteries are bad. Well, maybe we can turn that whole notion to something that’s productive, as opposed to focusing on what’s wrong, rather than what’s right. You think?
Gene Tunny 35:42
Yeah, well, yes. I mean, I’m all for having fewer cars on the road. I try and walk wherever I can. I just, but that’s partly for self interested reasons. It’s not necessarily for the environment. I think it’s good that it is positive environmentally. But I, I look at it as incidental exercise. I mean, I think that I find that if I don’t, if I don’t walk, to go down to the shops then that I lose an opportunity to do a bit of exercise, and then I’ll go to the gym. But I find that if I can not take the car, I get a benefit that way. And yes, it is good that it is good for the planet. That wasn’t that probably wasn’t my first consideration, though.
John Engelander 36:25
But you know, you said something really profound is that you looked after yourself. Look at the planet, you look up.
Gene Tunny 36:34
Yeah, there’s a nice correlation. There are a nice coincidence of, of interest there. Yeah, yeah.
John Engelander 36:40
Yeah. I just, I just hope that the economists see the logic and the fact that, from what I understand is a sustainability scorecard that I that I believe will will come to come to businesses, whereby it’ll be just as important as your financial accounting, as it will be to show that you’re actually showing your impact.
Gene Tunny 37:04
Yeah, yeah. I mean, one thing I’m interested in it is, to what extent can this be led by this transition? To what extent can be led by business and consumers directing? Well, by their purchasing power, directing, production, directing the commercial activities of businesses and how they treat the environment? In particular, we have the scorecards, if there’s greater transparency, to what extent can change be led, in a bottom up way, rather than top down with government policy to have any thoughts on that? I mean, to what extent is a lot of this stuff already happening? Or does it? Or do we? Or do you need government policies such as carbon pricing as well?
John Engelander 37:53
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it can be, it feels a bit disappointing if you thought that’s what it would have to happen. Look, look at our young generation, they want to work for companies that are values based, they care that have this notion about the planet. So it could happen from the bottom up, down, right? Because you do attract. I’ve heard this so often attract and retain staff. I know, it happens, we do it. So if you, you can do it from the bottom up. And I don’t really want to see people forced to engage being engaged. It’s like leading a horse to water, isn’t it? So imagine if you just got people from a feeling of what would we call it excitement, or at least be happy and joyful about the fact that work for a company that actually cares put together green teams develop ideas together. It’s, that’s one of my missions next year, actually, is to help business transition to a green future. And there’ll be in this regard our membership base solopreneurs, coming together, and having evening discussions about what’s possible, and then see what of the possibilities we can actually put into action or influence others to put into action. But to I can’t have all the answers, but I can certainly bring the right people together in order to support the needs of of local organisations. And certainly one of the things I do find really of high value. And I mean, when you talk about bottom up, if I get invited as a speaker into an organisation, I’m talking with a level of enthusiasm that will that I’m believable, inspire everyone to actually feel like we can do this. We can all be planted enables. Because by that way, we enable the planet and they’re viable because they’ve got a sense of purpose when they come to work every day.
Gene Tunny 39:47
I think that does make sense. The challenge is, and this is this is probably obvious. It’s probably rather a trivial point. But the challenge is that you as a Business, you could be doing the right thing. But if your competitors aren’t doing the right thing, then they can get a competitive advantage by having a cheaper product. But then you’ve got the advantage that you’ve got, you can label well, you can promote yours as the clean green, the environmentally friendly alternative. So that could give you an edge in the marketplace.
John Engelander 40:20
I think it would accept that when you say that, and you have a cheap, cheap and nasty cleaning company, putting it together a quote, one needs to ask, what are you really getting for the money? Let’s put aside the green aspect. The Greens there to you know, from my perspective, you have that as a product, it better be good. Once it’s good, everything else should come together. I hope you know. And so I don’t, yes, it does give it does allow people to have their eyes pop out and go up, I’m going to listen to you because you’ve got a green way of doing things, but also gives you an opportunity to say how you’ll do it. And how you’ll do it better for them. If you get that chance that really shouldn’t have that boring conversation that most companies are, oh, you should use our business because we’re we give good service to our customers. And we do this and we do that. And you know, I’ve heard that everyone, everywhere. So what makes you really stand out? And it’s what you stand for. That makes you stand out?
Gene Tunny 41:27
Right? Yeah. And I mean, have you had? How do you prove that to to your customers? John, how do you are the fact that you’re the sustainability? You’ve got testimonials? And you’ve got? I mean, you got a track record now, haven’t you? I guess one thing that would be it seems like you’re talking about the service people trying to promote themselves based on superior service. And I mean, a lot of businesses will say that. How? Yeah, yeah, exactly. So I guess you do need to demonstrate that if you have this environmental commitment, you need you need some is that there’s a certification, I’m just trying to think how
John Engelander 42:13
it’s a great term certification, I think that does belong to some people who need it. And so when you’re born green, the birth of a planet back in 94. So essentially, that’s us were born green, we know it, we should be the ones giving the certification to others. And that’s why when companies take us on, they suddenly become greener, they, they have an opportunity to tell their people. And let me tell you that that’s a good news story for their for them. That’s, they want that message. And so when you offer eco bins, colour coded bins, systems, and you roll it out for no charge whatsoever, and then you give a morning tea talk on why we do what we do, and how they can also become plant enablers. The who does that, and then with, with all those other aspects about talking about chemical free cleaning, and then everything just comes together, you can’t find that just anywhere. You can’t. Even in the name planet Earth, we imagine this, you have the person who made the decision they send on their intranet, to their 500 cluster. We’d like to welcome to planet earth, their new caretakers around our building, starting on Monday, you can’t do that if you’re gonna make up a name Zen topless and Sons cleaning service, it just doesn’t feel it just it doesn’t register, right. And that’s more than ever, this whole idea, it has never been more relevant for what’s going on in business. And what’s and it’s relevant for what they tell the people, it’s relevant to attract people to your company. By golly, you know, all you have to do is ring up, see, all you have to do is ring up any of our clients. You know, it’s it’s a given. And in my decision, because I’ve done it for three decades, and know what I know and want to help and support organisations. How do you beat that? Warren Buffett has a great line. And he talks about enduring, competitive advantage. You can’t beat three decades. He can’t beat being born green. Can you?
Gene Tunny 44:29
Exactly John, that’s, that’s terrific. Any final thoughts before we wrap up?
John Engelander 44:35
Yeah, whatever you do, start to think about the choices. Because our choices do have impact. And being a conscious consumer makes a huge difference. And people notice you. They do they do when I when I bought my first TV seven years ago, boy, did they have a message. I didn’t just buy a car. So I think being conscious and other people watching you do what you do. You don’t even have to tell people, if they watch how you do it. Let them ask you the questions, but really, that don’t. I don’t think it’s a good idea to be an extremist. If you want to be listened to, and and hold an open mind, and we’d live with what’s possible, that’s what I do.
Gene Tunny 45:22
Okay, so a steady, can we take a steady approach? I mean, I’d like to be more conscious, more environmentally conscious. I’d find a difficult making radical changes at the moment. But I know that because I know there’s a movement for people to live off the grid. I don’t think I mean, I could never imagine myself doing that. But I mean, is that something you’d be considering? John?
John Engelander 45:43
Not? Yeah, I have solar and I have batteries. And very convenient. But depends. I like this term shades of green. Okay, where you sit, let’s just get, we don’t have to be perfect. Let’s you don’t have to be you just be better, not perfect. And if you just do one thing at a time and think about the one thing you can do today, I think that makes it simple. Otherwise, it becomes complex. And honestly, it’s not as hard as you think.
Gene Tunny 46:15
Yeah, I think that’s a great message to end on John, John Engelander. And that’s been great. I’ve really appreciated your, your thoughts and your insights into business and sustainability. So thanks much for your time.
John Engelander 46:29
It’s a pleasure, and I’m really glad that you’re able to catch up with me. So thanks, Gene.
Gene Tunny 46:36
Okay, so what are my big takeaways from my conversation with John? My first takeaway is that it’s clear that many business owners can have sustainable businesses and look after the environment to John’s businesses are great examples of how that can be done. As an economist, however, I wonder just how widespread this phenomenon can be. In the absence of regulation or policy measures covering all businesses, many businesses will probably choose lower cost and less environmentally sustainable practices. And many consumers will choose lower price options over more expensive, environmentally friendly ones. That said, public attitudes are changing and it’s possible consumer behaviour will drive more environmentally sustainable practices by businesses in the future. Following my chat with John, I found a really interesting study done for MasterCard and 2021. And I’ll put a link in the show notes to it. This study reported that more than half 54% of those surveyed across the world believe it’s more important to reduce their own carbon footprint since COVID-19. And more than three and 560 2% said it’s now more important than before that companies behave in a more sustainable, and eco friendly way. changing attitudes could have big implications for business in the future, and I’ll aim to have a closer look at consumer attitudes and behaviour in a future episode. My second big takeaway from my conversation with John is a reminder that we need to consider any degradation of our natural environment if we’re properly measuring the benefits of economic activities. The discussion I had with John in this point was inspired by a quote that John had on the wall behind him in our conversation over zoom. It’s not an investment if it’s destroying the planet. That quote is from Dr. Vandana Shiva, an Indian scholar and environmental activist. I would know that for several decades now, economists have thought a lot about how to account for any environmental degradation and cost benefit studies of projects. This is not something we’re ignoring or don’t care about. Economists have also thought a lot about how to augment the traditional national accounts to reflect environmental considerations. I’ll aim to cover how economists analyse environmental impacts in some depth in a future episode. For now, I’ll include some links in the show notes relating to the field of what’s called natural capital accounting. And I’ll also add some links regarding how economists have been trying to account for environmental impacts and cost benefit analysis. Okay, those are my big takeaways from my discussion with John Englander. The EcoBin, do you think I picked the most important ones? If you’re willing to share your own takeaways from the episode, please send them to me via contact at economics explore.com or send me a voice message via SpeakPipe. You can find the link in the show notes. Thanks for listening and Happy New Year. Okay, that’s the end of this episode of economics explored. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please tell your family and friends and leave a comment or give us a rating on your podcast app. If you have any comments, questions, suggestions, you can feel free to send them to firstname.lastname@example.org And we’ll aim to address them in a future episode. Thanks for listening. Until next week, goodbye
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