The closing keynote at WasteExpo Together Online featured a chat with Patrick Dovigi, founder & CEO of GFL Environmental, who was interviewed by Darrell Smith, president & CEO of the National Waste & Recycling Association.
Dovigi shared his take on top issues of the day in the waste and recycling industry, what the future may hold for GFL and more.
Here is a look at some highlights from the discussion.
Dovigi started by reflecting on his roots in Canada and the importance hockey held in his life and community. He looked back on his first career as a professional hockey player and how “it wasn’t always the team that had the A+ talent that went the furthest and the deepest. It was being led by a coach that allowed us to play the game and didn’t run a dictatorship.” He said that the same philosophy applies to leading an environmental company: “It’s not only picking the right talent but allowing people to be involved in making decisions; not just being told what to do and what playbook they have to execute.”
Dovigi noted that, “We have to rely on the people running our markets as the entrepreneurs who can tell us what’s happening, and we then make decisions collaboratively and empower them to make decisions and run their business.” This makes people feel “more engaged, involved, attached to the company, and they want to see it succeed.”
He also talked about the early beginnings of GFL and how their commitment to differentiating themselves was at the forefront of the work they do. From choosing their name to avoiding the word “waste”, it is an interesting origin story.
When asked about COVID-19’s impact on GFL, Dovigi said that, “No one knew what to expect. By and large when you look across the industry, we all have weathered the storm extremely well.”
On the topic of safety, Dovigi emphasized that there has to be “zero tolerance” for distracted driving and texting and driving and that it needs to be top of mind and constantly reinforced for everyone — through legislation, company policies and beyond. He said that Canada has drawn a very hard line when it comes to texting and driving. People just need to be retrained on how it’s essential, like wearing a seatbelt.
Dovigi also talked about the IPO that GFL went through at the start of the pandemic. And noted that, “A big part of going public is that we saw two larger opportunities that fit well with our business, and we were able to successfully do those transactions. Even through Covid, we were able to get it done.” Once those go through final approval, the company will focus on integration and “going back to doing what we’ve always done well, which is getting as much value as we can out of those assets.
In looking at matters of diversity and integrating more voices into the waste industry, Dovigi noted that GFL had already been promoting women in waste for many years and is now retooling the way it hires to create new opportunities across the board. He also emphasized the importance of training programs because, “grooming from within is always where your best dollars are spent and some of our drivers become our best managers, and our best managers become our best executives; and if you can create that kind of dynamic, you’ll have a successful result. Diversity is top of mind for us and we will continue to develop these programs going forward.”
Smith wrapped up the discussion by asking Dovigi’s opinion on what policy issues are on the horizon that could help the industry. Dovigi said that, “It’s really trying to get consistency across various regions and geographies. If we could move toward one platform or one set of rules and regulations, it will yield great results and help everybody. It will help us to make investments where we need to based on policies – allowing us to see where things are going and make decisions around that.”
Dovigi also talked about the impact of COVID-19 on Canada, GFL’s growth potential in the U.S. and more.
Want to see this session on demand? You can still register at WasteExpo.com.