About YES Full Circle (YFC) concept and its significance in today’s world
I started as an entrepreneur and then moved into a corporate environment, managing and growing businesses in various countries. Whilst it was interesting holding senior leadership roles in organisations, working in various countries, generating millions of dollars in profits while creating a positive environmental impact, there was still something missing. Starting around 2015, I began asking myself whether I could do more in terms of other social causes such as income inequality, exclusions and supporting humanitarian causes. Corny as it sounds, there is a quote from Optimus Prime that reflects what happened: “Fate rarely calls upon us at a moment of our choosing.”
The development of the UN SDG Goals which combined multiple objectives was a tipping point for me. It incorporated both social and environmental impacts. However, having been involved previously in social enterprises, I also realised the importance of recurring revenue to create stability and to fund the growth of a social enterprise. This is when I decided to leverage and combine our experiences in environmental, technology and social causes to launch YES Full Circle (@YFC) – a social enterprise company based on our core values of Doing Good to Do Good in February 2020.
HE Low Pit Chen, Consul General of Singapore at launch of YFC’s initial pilot facility in Dubai
Doing Good To Do Good
YFC is run as a for-profit business to ensure financial discipline. However, we are NOT solely driven by profits. We are committed to creating positive environmental and social impact, and have incorporated social good into the business. Doing Good To Do Good is about generating social and economic value from waste that is traditionally seen as having no value. Doing Good refers to avoiding landfill. Examples include waste minimisation, or reconversion back into a raw material to support the circular economy or to use bio-degradable materials that can degenerate back into their organic components quickly. To Do Good refers to what we as an organisation do with the profits we make. We invest a portion of the profits on social and environmental impact activities.
I am extremely proud of the positive impact my colleagues at YFC have made within the first year itself. For instance, we contributed to UNHCR programmes and other initiatives that help least advantaged groups, such as financing the set up of 10 libraries for underprivileged children. We also supported environmental initiatives, and are a founding sponsor for Ocean Story by the Into the Blue Foundation, a 2-year project studying 9 iconic and endangered marine species (e.g., blue whales, mantas, orcas) that are affected by 3 mega threats of overfishing, global warming, and plastic pollution.
Some of our commercial services that support our impact activities include providing integrated brand protection, secure destruction, and circular economy /zero landfill recycling solutions. YFC has harnessed its experience and technology to roll out unique, sustainable circular economy solutions across the regions we operate in. At the group level it offers solutions that are country specific. In the UAE, it provides ‘End Waste Now’ and ‘Brand Protection’ services. In India, YFC offers ‘End Waste Now’ and ‘Extended Producer Responsibility’ solutions, while in Singapore the company provides all the solutions.
Benefits of secure brand protection recycling services
Under brand protection, we accept various types of materials and products, and ensure that all materials are destroyed and recycled in a secure manner at the advanced facilities that are also equipped with 24/7 surveillance cameras for enhanced security. The innovative recycling facilities offer end of life product/inventory management for businesses and government entities across different sectors. We are pioneers in the sense that YFC is the only company in the UAE that has facilities with seven different customised systems that are designed to process a variety of materials ranging from consumer to industrial goods to counterfeit and confiscated goods. Even something like foam has its own unique shredder.
The recycling facilities use patented technology to provide full traceability to confirm and validate the entire destruction and recycling process. The audit trail is stored on Green Secure, a secure blockchain platform, enabling traceability from point of collection to the end point of material post destruction. We have a laboratory when it comes to counterfeit goods to assist us in ensuring they are managed in a safe manner. This is because not all counterfeit goods can be recycled as they may contain harmful or substandard materials.
The blockchain technology guarantees full security as the data cannot be manipulated. It maintains records of all material received and treated. It is a unique service with the capability to provide both onsite and offsite brand protection/destruction services, and is capable of same-day live stream destruction. In fact, we are pioneers in this area in the UAE. We are proud to promote an honest and transparent brand of recycling in the UAE that puts brand protection, combined with circular economy and zero landfill as its priority.
End Waste Now programme
As for the solutions provided as part of the End Waste Now division, I am pleased to say that we have been pioneering environmental programmes in UAE for many years now. Ramada Ajman is one such example that I started in 2012. It was the UAE’s first zero waste hotel programme. ‘End Waste Now’ is basically an extension of these zero waste programmes. Earlier they were smallscale projects, but now we are rolling them out on a larger scale.
In the second phase, we will use AI and other technologies to further improve the waste diversion and recycling process. The next phase of the facility involves the use of extended digitalisation, AI and robotics, resulting in further game changing innovation, both upstream and downstream. We are currently working with a large group that has a presence in about 15 countries to understand better the different waste streams, and to plan and rollout measures to divert as much of the waste as possible, with part of the proceeds being used to facilitate social impact activities.
Zero Waste Citizen App
YFC has introduced the concept of ‘Zero Waste Citizen’, which has its own app, to formally pull back recyclables from individuals, communities and organisations to promote circular economy. The app integrates all the stakeholders of recycling, enabling people, organisations, industries and brand owners to participate in responsible waste management with just a click. The citizens can view their environmental savings for each activity on the spot.
Tailored CSR programmes
Several companies are now focusing on enhancing their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities to reflect their commitment to environmental protection. YFC can help achieve those objectives, in a cost-effective manner with clear outcomes, through its customised programme and established drop-off and pick-up infrastructure.
In the UAE, we have put in place our ‘Pink Bins’ collection programme, where we work with the clients to implement recycling programmes on their premises. While YFC’s focus is on the commercial and industrial sectors in the country, it is involved in the residential segment in India and will engage with all sectors in Singapore by the end of the year.
We have come a long way, especially considering we started our operations during Covid-19. We were less than a month old when the pandemic hit. It was a challenging time. But to quote H.H. Sheikh Mohammed, “Nothing is impossible where there is persistence. Nothing is impossible where there is belief.” We believed in our mission of doing good to do good, and persevered. What really helped us was (and still does) the fantastic efforts of the governments and local authorities during Covid-19, and the passion and commitment of our clients and colleagues.
We are addressing the societal awareness issues involving waste recycling. It is important for people to take active steps to know what happens to the material once the waste is disposed of or is sent for recycling. This is, however, becoming easier as people have begun to understand more and more the importance of proper recycling and landfill avoidance. On our part, we are providing support in processing a wide range of materials with our customised equipment. Can we recycle it all? The answer is no. We can recycle most of the material received, but cannot deal with certain materials like composites, etc. However, we are continually exploring new treatment options as they come online such as chemical recycling, and hope to, one day, be able to 100% recycle all kinds of materials.
As for clients, it is about working with them, to help them identify the best possible solutions for them. Everything depends on what the clients want and how committed they are to doing things in a scientific manner. Nevertheless, we must be practical, and recognise there is a price factor to be considered. In reality, it is about striking a balance. We have been fortunate, that many organisations who have been working with us from the beginning, have understood the importance of the various solutions proposed, and have come on board.
So, what sets YFC apart from other companies in the field?
First and foremost, YFC is not solely driven by profits considering our mission is “To Do Good” as mentioned above, together with some of examples of our impact activities.
Our experience curve is a huge differentiator. We have over 100 years combined experience and international practical knowledge in recycling, security, and technology so we can offer real, practical, and workable solutions on “how to recycle” successfully.
Our people are also huge differentiator. YFC is an equal opportunity employer and we are proud that women make up 50 percent of our workforce, leadership team and board members. We have embraced the benefits of a diverse workforce with our employees representing nine nationalities – all coming together for achieve a common core value of “Doing Good To Do Good”.
In terms of technology, for example, our USP is that our machines are custom built to suit our requirements. They are part and parcel of our operational practice, enabling us to recover all the valuable materials from various waste streams. We also have a strong internal R&D team to identify and develop solutions. One of the current pilot projects is to covert non-recyclable plastics into high quality, safe and eco-friendly modular structures for use in low cost housing developments.
YFC has also launched some engaging programmes, encouraging communities to participate in our campaigns. For instance, in December 2020, we joined hands with ACE Hardware to launch the first Christmas Tree Recycling Programme. Rather than convert it into firewood, we converted it into compost for reuse in gardens – a real life example of the circular economy in action. It was a successful programme and we were pleasantly surprised by the positive response. We received more than 400 trees for recycling. It is a good example of how we would like to engage with organisations and communities to encourage recycling practices.
At present YFC’s Singapore, UAE and India hubs act as regional bases for Southeast Asia, Middle East, and South Asia markets, respectively. In UAE, we have three strategically located circular economy facilities.
Our first regional YFC M.A.D. (Make A Difference) Hub, whose picture is on the cover page, is expected to be operational by Q4 2022/Q1 2023. It will serve as a launch pad from which more Doing Good to Do Good activities can be carried out. We are planning more launch pad Hubs across the operating regions with like-minded social enterprises so please continue to watch this space. #Doing Good To Do Good
Harbinder Singh has a LLB (Hons) from the University of Manchester, UK and a MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, US. He is also the President of the Singapore Business Council in the UAE. He can be contacted at email@example.com or harb@ yesfullcircle.com.
YFC’s website is www.yesfullcircle.com and the UAE’s call centre is +971 4 3466185. Follow their social media accounts on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @yesfullcircle.