Meaningful Business (MB:) Please tell us a bit about your background.
Benjamin Gonzales (BG): I have a Commercial Engineering degree from the Finis Terrae University (Chile) with a Diploma in Management of Non-Profit Entities from the CEU San Pablo University (Madrid).
I have worked for more than 15 years in different executive positions in the areas of administration and finance, in various companies in the aquaculture, maritime and financial services fields.
In October 2016 I founded Greenspot Upcycling when I decided to take a risk and start my own sustainable entrepreneurship venture, focused on upcycled raw materials.
MB: What led you to start GreenSpot Upcycling?
BG: The idea was born after many years working in the salmon/aquaculture industry. This experience allowed me to detect the growing need to generate a sustainable solution for the treatment of discharged plastic material in Patagonia, but from a different paradigm; being able to deal with the “waste” nearby the waste-generation zones.
MB: What is the problem you are trying to solve?
BG: We give a new solution to discarded industrial plastics and Expanded PolyStyrene (EPS) foam, converting the material into high-quality, fully recycled products, which we can then sell. In the past year, we have added even more ‘final products’, such as compost bins, trash cans and different industrial racks.
MB: What is your biggest challenge right now?
BG: To be able to grow and scale the business, increase our facility capacity, impact zones and incorporate new processes. Our goal is to move the circular economy process on, and to help other countries get closer to achieving a circular economy.
MB: What is your vision for the future of your business?
BG: I think there is still a lot to do in this area. For example, in Chile only 9% of plastic is recycled according to official sources. It is a very challenging moment because we are facing critical problems such as global warming and climate change that urge states and companies to rethink the way we develop the economy. In this sense, a circular economy emerges as a good answer.
We must change the plastics production model; its regulation, as well as incorporating this material into the circular economy model. Last but not least, we must change consumer habits.
I see great possibilities for local waste management being able to reduce the distance and emissions between the generation zones and the upcycling process.
Finally, I see more motivated citizens every day that need and want sustainable solutions at their fingertips, and to be able to help the environmental crisis. This is the key for the development of this industry. Companies must track the demand for sustainable/recycled products. The people’s choice is, and will be, the future of this industry.
MB: What is your advice to other leaders who want to combine profit and purpose?
BG: My advice is simple – the world needs more purposeful entrepreneurs. It may not be easy, but the important thing is to have a dream and work hard to achieve it. Society is changing and we are understanding that it is necessary to find a balance between profit and impact that allows us to survive as a species.
Everything we do – it doesn’t matter what – has three impacts: environment, people/social/community, and finance. The world needs people taking care of sustainable development… this will be the only way to move forward.
MB – What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
BG – Hard to choose just one… I have two in my mind.
When I was just beginning, and finding it stressful starting a company from scratch, my mother-in-law encouraged me to move forward, saying “take it easy, I know you and that is why all is going to be fine.”
I am not sure if it is advice, but a former boss and incredible entrepreneur told me the only difference between an entrepreneur and everyone else is that they take their ideas and make it happen. It doesn’t matter if the idea is good or bad.
It’s amazing the power of some words and advice and how it can really make a difference.
MB – Who inspires you?
BG – Good question! I must say that passion is the key driver. Passion has different ways to show up in my life: sports, jobs, family. In my case, I am passionate about being able to build up a decentralised and sustainable business model, based under the Triple Impact Umbrella (B Corps), demonstrating that the circular economy is not just a beautiful concept. It is a feasible reality that must and can prevail all over the world, generating jobs, opportunities, and sustainable development.
MB – How do you define success?
BG- For me, true success, especially in this business, is making a difference and generating solutions that will impact on a long-term basis, but not only in financial terms. I want to take care of the environment, my community, and have a business that also generates profit and can be sustainable.
MB – What is something you wish you were better at?
BG- This one is easy for me. I would like to improve in order and structuring skills. Even if I am “good enough” on these fronts, it is something I can improve.
MB – What is the one book everyone should read?
MB – What do you do to relax?
BG- I like to ski, cook and practice hot yoga. All these activities make my mind stop thinking, which is, in fact, the best way to relax.
Discover the other MB100 leaders recognised for their work combining profit and purpose to help achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals in 2020, here.