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Blog: Five Years Later – Holding True to Our Core Values

by Keefe Harrison

I grew up in a family of environmentalists. Educators, artists, entrepreneurs, civil servants – concerned citizens all. My mom still reminds me it was she who taught me how to recycle, and my late grandmothers taught me the lessons of reuse and doing with less that The Great Depression taught them. This background drives my dedication to my career – I come to work each day committed to making the world a better place.

The staff at The Partnership share that commitment. We come to our nonprofit from backgrounds in both the public and private sectors with a shared vision: Building bridges to make measurable change, together. You may be familiar with the phrase, “If you want something done, find someone busy to do it.” It’s a good one. Benjamin Franklin sometimes gets credit for it, Lucille Ball does too. Whomever said it, at The Partnership, we aim to make it true. We are very busy, and we’ve seen amazing results in the last five years, including reaching half of Americans about how to recycle – but there’s more to be done.

The change we lead is rooted in collaboration. Collaboration seems like a “kumbaya” word but, in fact, it’s very difficult. It requires you to drop the “us v. them” mentality and instead work toward a greater good.  Protecting the planet by activating a circular economy is our greater good.

Since day 1 we’ve committed ourselves to working across the entire value chain – from communities to corporations to citizens. From companies that extract natural resources to the NGOs who, like us, work to save them. We’re as fiercely committed to our mission as we are to measurement. Being able to measure the work to date, and the needed work ahead, is critical for using our funding to drive as much change as possible.

We are mission driven, not member driven. When we invite funding partners to join us, we ask them to answer three important questions:

  1. Do you believe in our mission?
  2. Are you willing to fund it?
  3. And will you play well with others?

Citizens are calling on brands and companies to be stronger global protectors, but they’ll never achieve that alone. To succeed, companies need to be both held accountable and supported by trustworthy entities that protect the public good.

Protecting the planet is going to take serious investment of effort, ingenuity, and cash. And that investment must come from companies and government alike. Corporate dollars behind greenwashing is never okay. Corporate dollars behind a dedicated, transparent effort is not only very okay, it’s a must. The Partnership is proud to be a change agent and a leader in the movement to transform the U.S. recycling system. We need change and we need it now – there’s no time to be timid.

There’s a lot to get done and a short amount of time to do it. We applaud all the “doers” working hard on behalf of our planet and its people. Partnership is part of our name for a reason and it’s just one of the core values that reflect the organization and the people who work here – our collective commitment to making the world better than we found it.

What are we wasting for?

Keefe Harrison is the CEO of The Recycling Partnership.