J&B Shows How to Enter and Thrive in the Green Sector
One of the speakers at last week’s North East Recycling Forum (NERF) Conference was Vikki Jackson-Smith of J&B Recycling. I was delighted to hear how Vikki and J&B are getting along as I clearly remember the day about 12 years ago when Vikki and I sat in a Portacabin in the corner of a damp Hartlepool coal yard and she told me her plans.
She had inherited the family coal business, J&B Fuels, which was in decline as fewer people had coal fires and demand had slumped. She said:
I realised we don’t have to sell coal. What we actually do is import material in bulk, sort it, process it, bag it and sell it on. We’ve got all the kit – a yard with a weighbridge, trucks and front loaders – and employees who know what they’re doing. It doesn’t matter whether it is coal or something else, we can do it.
What “it” was, originally, was glass collected from pubs and clubs, but since then J&B Recycling has diversified over a very wide range of materials, invested many millions in facilities and grown from 20 employees in the coal business to 140 today.
What I like about Vikki’s story is that it is a shining example of someone breaking into the green sector by:
- Identifying the strengths J&B could bring to the sector: materials handling, logistics, customer service;
- Identifying a profitable first niche in the sector to exploit those strengths, then expanding through diversification to reduce exposure to risks (in this case recyclate prices);
- Getting the business side of things right: customer service, risk management, quality control.
In my first book The 3 Secrets of Green Business, the first ‘Secret’ was “Treat the environmental agenda as an opportunity, not a threat. Grasp it with both hands but, whatever you do, don’t forget you are still running a business.” Vikki is a great example of someone who has got it right.