ITAD industry veteran Todd Zegers recently left Ingram Micro to start his own consulting business. As he launches his new venture, Zegers spoke with E-Scrap News to share reasons for the transition and insight on industry trends he’s seeing.
A Southern California resident, Zegers worked his last day on March 3 at electronics distributing giant Ingram Micro, where he served as global vice president of ITAD and reverse logistics in the Ingram Micro Lifecycle business.
Last month, he launched his Newport Beach, Calif. consulting firm, called Circular Integrity, which is consulting on environmental, social and governance (ESG) in the ITAD/reverse logistic space, providing mergers and acquisitions advice and helping companies develop ITAD and reverse logistics programs.
Simultaneously, Zegers, who loves the ocean, is setting up a boating chartering business. In some ways, the 48-year-old is working to “figure out who I want to be when I grow up,” he said.
Regular reinvention of self
On his path to Ingram Micro, Zegers became exposed to a healthy cross-section of the industry. In 1998, he started working in sales for Insight, a large global technology reseller, which in 2002 purchased Comark to expand into value-added IT services. For the next couple of years, Zegers worked in the services group and became acquainted with ITAD processes.
In 2003, he left and co-founded an ITAD company GreenAssetDisposal, which used a software platform to subcontract out processing work on behalf of customers. One of the processing partners was CloudBlue Technologies, which ended up purchasing GreenAssetDisposal in 2009. CloudBlue, in turn, sold to Ingram Micro in 2013.
Zegers said he learned early on from a business mentor the importance of regularly reinventing yourself, which Zegers says he has tried to do every five years or so. An employee of Ingram Micro for about a decade, Zegers felt it was time to leave for a number of reasons.
Chief among them was his desire to spend more time with his family.
“The biggest driver was my family,” he said. “I’m ready to slow it down a little bit. I’m not that old yet, but I want to be there for my kids as much as possible.”
Leaving Ingram Micro’s staff, some of whom he had worked with since even before the CloudBlue acquisition, was hard.
“It was an emotional time for me when I was telling my team I was leaving Ingram,” he said.
Zegers said his past experience has touched all the different facets of the electronics section, including manufacturing and assembly, distribution, resale and system integration, consumer and corporate IT users, IT maintenance services companies, ITAD service providers, e-scrap recyclers and downstream materials recovery companies.
In that way, he can address a number of different needs through his firm, Circular Integrity, which already has clients.
Examples of projects he could help with include helping companies start or expand ITAD and reverse logistics programs, assisting in writing requests for proposals for ITAD vendors, helping educate private equity interests or other strategic buyers as they search for companies to acquire and more.
“Where my focus is really going to lay is helping OEMs and corporate America develop the right solutions and networks,” he said.
He wants to raise awareness for OEMs and other corporations about what really happens in the ITAD space, where material goes and how to effectively audit downstreams, he said.
A varied new venture
One of his focuses is the environmental, social and governance (ESG) push in the ITAD/reverse logistics space.
“Companies in the ITAD/RL space need help with this topic and their strategy around it, particularly quantifying the environmental benefits that comes from using an ITAD/RL company and how recycling versus reuse benefits their clients’ ESG strategies and reporting,” he said.
Because of pressure from Wall Street and private equity firms, ESG frameworks are becoming part of the DNA of corporate America, he said. “It’s no longer a thing that’s optional,” he said. “It’s now a requirement.”
As a result, ESG “is going to start rearing its head in the ITAD space,” because the data is becoming extremely important to corporate clients. He noted that, for many companies, e-scrap is one of their biggest Scope 3 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions sources. He used the examples of insurance and financial institutions, which are producing words and numbers, not tangible products that become waste and generate greenhouse gases in landfills.
He’s hearing from ITAD industry professionals who are hearing from clients’ environmental, health and safety staff seeking more environmental data and in different formats. Those ITAD and recycling companies that can provide that data will have a business advantage.
But a lingering challenge for the ITAD industry is coalescing around a standardized way of calculating the environmental impact of electronics reuse and recycling, he noted.
“There’s a race in the space right now to really come up with what an environmental calculator could be and who could validate it,” he said.
He also shared insights on the reality of enabling true closed-loop recycling of electronics, an aspiration that’s emphasized more and more by OEMs. The reality is recycling complex products such as electronics means commodities heading to a multitude of different downstreams, however – a printer or laptop may contain materials ultimately shipped to 17 different places, he noted.
Unless an OEMs owns and operates its own recycling centers, it’s not realistic to recycle 100% of material from their branded products into new branded products, he said, adding that even getting 20% back would be a huge win.
“All of that said, I think there should be an absolute push by OEMs to source recycled plastic, metal, glass, etc. from downstreams who are known recipients and parts of the downstream e-waste ecosystem,” he said, “as at least in that model they are getting some of their own raw materials from products that have came back through numerous channels.”
More stories about markets refurbishment/reuse
- Low chip prices hurt processor’s resale revenues
- Group calls on Google to stop ‘Chromebook churn’
- Why an ITAD firm landed on Ohio for its new location