From Waste Management to Resource Recovery: Vik Bansal’s Visionary Leadership Took Cleanaway From Trash to Treasure
As the saying goes, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and Vik Bansal took this literally when he took over the management and general manager of the waste disposal company Cleanaway in 2015. Bansal was heralded for him over the past five years as he worked on revitalizing the business, with shares rising 300 percent during his tenure as he focused on “enabling a sustainable future” through a major strategic overhaul. Thanks to the effective leadership of Bansal, Cleanaway not only survived the coronavirus pandemic that devastated economies around the world, but also continued to grow and implement positive changes. It was recently announced that Vik Bansal will be leaving Cleanaway in the first half of 2021, but the legacy he created during his time with the company is sure to continue after his death.
Bansal first joined Cleanway – then known as Transpacific – in 2015 and left a position as chief operating officer at Nebraska-based manufacturing company Valmont Industries to return to his adopted home. In his view, senior executives should stay in their positions for at least five years to truly own the changes they made. Having just completed this milestone with the company, he felt he had reached that point. For him, he had done his job of “making a great company out of a good company” and now it was time for a new leader to leverage the solid foundation he had built.
After six years of commuting between Melbourne and Sydney, Bansal said travel time was a major factor in his decision to leave the country due to the importance he attaches to family. However, during his time at Cleanaway, the company saw tremendous growth. The number of employees rose from 4,500 to over 6,000. Financially, the company’s sales rose 10 percent per year, net income rose 23.2 percent and return on investment from 3.7 percent to 5.5 percent. Bansal’s real legacy, however, will lie in his greenfield investments and strategic acquisitions of companies like Toxfree and SKM Recycling that moved the company from garbage haulage to resource recovery.
At the heart of Bansal’s vision for Cleanaway was the circular economy, which formed the basis for the roadmap he created shortly after joining the company, entitled Footprint 2025. As part of the plan, he looked for long-term and sustainable solutions that would enable recovery from more waste in addition to processing more recyclable materials to ensure that the least amount of residual waste has to be disposed of. With waste management countries around the world increasingly having to go inward under China’s national sword waste import policy and subsequent similar decisions by other countries, Bansal’s timely work in promoting the Australian circular economy ensured the country had the right infrastructure to handle the Growth to meet the need for waste management while improving resource recovery. Recent projects include the establishment of a waste energy project in Sydney that, in collaboration with Macquarie’s Captial’s Green Investment Group, will convert 500,000 tonnes of non-recyclable waste per year into energy that will power 79,000 households. He also successfully organized a joint venture between industrial packaging company Pact Group and beverage company Asahi to convert PET bottles into pellets.
One of Bansal’s initiatives was the establishment of Our Cleanaway Way, a one-way strategy that clearly defines the company’s values. For the first time, the guide gave the company a clear explanation of purpose and provided the company’s values and mission. He gave executives and employees alike a definitive operational toolkit to refer to when it came to prioritization, decision-making and what might be expected of each other. The four values include a commitment to operational safety, a team-minded mentality, integrity in all actions large and small, and improving employees, customers, communities and the world over as more than a dump truck company.
Before Bansal took the helm at Cleanaway, the company’s share price was 73 cents. It lacked strategic direction and found it difficult to recover from around $ 2.1 billion in debt. Shortly before the announcement of Bansal’s departure, the company was trading at an all-time high of around $ 2.55 and the company’s market value was $ 5.4 billion. The uncertainty created by the unexpected announcement resulted in the stock price falling 8.8 percent and reducing the company’s market value by approximately 8 percent, equivalent to $ 400 million. This is clear evidence of the widespread belief that Bansal is essential to the company’s success. When asked in the past why he took the job at Cleanaway when he offered to run companies in much better positions, Bansal said the company had managed to get through four chief executive officer changes in three years, and that, despite struggling with its core, was good. With a solid core and over five years of hard work by Bansal in building a base, it remains to be seen whether the next leader will build on that endeavor. In the case of Bansal, however, his future looks bright, despite no official announcement.
This article does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the editors or management of EconoTimes