Oricol Environmental Services’ chief executive Richard Sanders has announced his retirement from the company.
Mr Sanders, who is 65 years old, will officially step down from his position on June 30, 2022. He has been at the helm since the company’s official inception on 1 January 2002.
Oricol Environmental Services has named a successor to Mr Sanders. The role of CEO will be split between Graeme Smart, as CEO, who is the current chief financial officer, and Dirk De Wet, as COO (Chief Operating Officer) who will head up the company’s commercial operations, from 1 July this year.
“They will effectively be joined at the hip in terms of how they manage the business,” said Mr Sanders.
“Graeme has very strong financial and administrative capabilities, and he will carry on with these roles,” he said. “Dirk is extremely strong on the commercial side and will fulfil the commercial responsibilities relating to the business.”
Mr Sanders confirmed his retirement was extended by a year to incorporate a proper handover and mentorship for Mr Smart and Mr De Wet.
“Retirement wasn’t forced upon me, but there’s a time when one has to call it quits and get fresh blood into the organisation to carry it forward with new ideas,” he said.
Recognising a ‘great team’
While he will no longer be involved in the day to day running of the company, Mr Sanders will continue to support the company in the role of Executive Chairman.
“My role will be to merely guide the ship and ensure that we don’t drop any catches and that we are strategically focused in terms of what we set out to achieve,” he said.
Mr Sanders paid tribute to his staff, saying “we’ve got a great team that has been through hell and back and they will carry on the legacy going forward.”
He said the “great bunch” of people at the company helped it overcome many of the short-term problems it has faced in its 20 years as an environmental services and waste management company.
He proudly notes the business is now in a “good place” after going through some turbulent times to secure investors after its international holding company pulled out of the South African market in 2010.
“Within a short space of time we achieved and far exceeded what we’d set out to achieve with our investors. So, since 2010, it has been a wonderful partnership with them,” said Mr Sanders.
Company in a ‘good place’
From the outset, a strong focus of Mr Sanders was to create a company culture that promoted innovative, sustainable solutions to managing and treating waste as a secondary resource with the aim of ensuring maximum diversion of waste from landfills.
“Once that was achieved, it became very much easier for us to achieve our objective of turning waste into a resource. So the business was then almost subconsciously going according to our strategy of turning waste into a resource.
He said the company continues to develop some “really amazing” innovative machinery and plant and build on some great ideas to recover and recycle waste.
Mr Sanders credits the company’s continued growth to putting sound foundations in place from the outset. One example is SABS ISO certification.
Oricol Environmental Services is triple ISO certified, complying with ISO 9001 (quality management systems), ISO 14001 (environmental management systems) and ISO 45001 (health and safety) standards.
“By having these ISO certifications, we are able to demonstrate to our clients, potential clients and the market as a whole, that we are taking this very seriously. And that has enabled us to be good at what we do,” said Mr Sanders.
Given the nature of the hazardous materials the company handles, Mr Sanders says his greatest worry for the future is for the staff’s safety. “This is why it’s so important to do things correctly and maintain our ISO standards,” he said.
Mr Sanders said the company’s strong balance sheet and solid financial reserves had helped it weather the storm of the Covid-19 pandemic and last year’s unrest in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng.
“With each of these disasters, we were faced with a temporary setback. It was a speed bump,” he explained. “And we’ve been able to mitigate the risks associated with these disasters and come back stronger and leaner going forward.”
Being persistent, honest and humble have been crucial elements to running a successful operation for the past 20 years, said Mr Sanders.
He recalls one of the company’s key contracts taking 10 years to develop from conception to sign-off as an example.
“Running a business is extremely tough, especially in South Africa,” he said.
“But this has enabled us to have very well rounded management that is exportable anywhere in the world and that can perform extremely well because of the nature of the business and the environmental and the socio-economic climate we operate in. And that makes us very strong in terms of our business acumen.”
Mr Sanders said he is proud that the company has saved about 150 000 tons of CO₂ emissions over the past five years.
“This is a very good place to be in, in terms of where we are in the global picture with greenhouse gas and carbon emissions,” he said.
“There are not too many businesses that can turn around and say we have saved carbon. We’ve saved emissions into the atmosphere, we’ve recycled, recovered, we’ve made a difference and we are in a strong financial position.”
The company will be hosting a series of farewell events at its branches in Durban, Johannesburg and Gqeberha in the coming months to bid farewell to Mr Sanders.