When Sergio Castillo took over in 2009 as president and CEO of the company his father had founded 10 years earlier, he knew he had a lot to learn.
After his usual thorough research, he turned to the Duke Environmental Leadership Master of Environmental Management degree, the online master’s program at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, for the help he needed. He couldn’t be more pleased with what he gained in that program.
Castillo had spent nearly 20 years in executive positions at banks and multinational corporations including Imation and 3M. He already had an MBA and a degree in economics. He wasn’t worried about his business, financial and leadership skills. But at ECO BCG Corporation, Castillo wanted to do something different—he wanted to mold a new sort of business that would be good for the bottom line, of course, but also good for the environment.
“I was going into an area of environmental technology and business of which I knew very little,” he says. “I wanted to acquire the knowledge I was lacking in environmental policy and expand my network of individuals involved in this field. And I needed a program that would be flexible enough to allow me to continue working at a demanding job in balance with my family. The program exceeded my expectations.”
Castillo’s whole life has prepared him for the role he’s playing now as the leader of an innovative, international company that “bridges the gap between business and the environment.” Born in a village near the Caribbean coast in Panama, he came to the United States with his family when he was seven. He spent his childhood traveling the country and the globe as his father, a PhD in forestry economics, worked with the United Nations and other international organizations.
When Castillo joined ECO BCG, his father had been operating it for 10 years, primarily as an environmental consulting firm. The younger Castillo broadened its scope, eventually reshaping it into a complex model that offers project management and execution, covering such aspects as financing, design, engineering, sales, marketing and even lobbying with those who set environmental policy.
Today ECO BCG operates in the United States, Mexico, Central America, Chile, China and soon Indonesia, and is poised to move into Europe. Its specialties include environmentally friendly lighting, both indoors and streetlights; generation of renewable energy such as biomass and solar; water treatment, purification and desalination; and waste conversion.
Castillo is always looking for ways to accomplish two or three good things at once. Take old tires, a major problem in the United States. ECO BCG has co-developed a technology that pulverizes waste tires with a patented microblaster into a fine rubber powder, which is processed into compounds that can be used in PVC, automotive parts and other products.
Or take wastewater. ECO BCG uses a patented boiler to turn sewage into steam, and generate energy.
Whenever possible, the company also helps the community as well as the environment. In Mexico, for example, ECO BCG is transforming trash in some of the giant landfills into energy. Rather than using automated trash separators, it hires the desperately poor people who live in and around the landfills to separate the trash manually. Paid minimum wage, the people can then apply for credit and begin to move into the economic system. Elsewhere, ECO BCG hires local people with handicaps to assemble the energy-efficient lights for a project, training them in skills that will help them find jobs later.
One of the company’s most innovative approaches is the turnkey solutions it offers, meaning that it will do everything—developing the technology, executing the technology, arranging financing, conducting impact studies—that it takes to make a project ready to go. The financing can be an important element, helping municipalities, for example, implement greener technologies without incurring public debt.
In some cases, ECO BCG develops and patents technologies. In other cases, it partners with inventors who have developed green technologies but lack the money to turn them into a business. “We come in and say, ‘We’ll take over an ownership position in your technology and launch it internationally. Instead of having 100 percent of little, you’ll have a smaller percentage of a lot. It’s a win-win.”
“The beauty of it,” Castillo says, “is that they are all interesting technologies that make a difference. With us, the inventor
scan make a profit, without the need of government subsidies. We can make a profit with the technology as a business and still do a favor for the environment.”
The innovative business model is working well. “We have very little competition. We are growing extremely fast. Most of our competitors offer only one piece of the pie, but we offer it all.”
“I love what I do now, and I owe a lot to the Duke program. It was very helpful, very strong, very powerful. The faculty was fantastic I was able to acquire a wealth of knowledge I had never imagined. I was able to meet a great deal of professionals involved with government, nonprofits and the business in which I am involved. And I did all that while working to develop the business, and keeping my family a priority. I could not be more pleased.”
2013, DEL-MEM, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
1993, MBA, ITESM/ Glasgow Business School
1990, BA Economics, Instituto Technologico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey
2009-Present, President & CEO, ECO BCG Corporation
2011-Present, President of the Board, ECO BDT, LLC
2012-Present, Director of the Board, Reubi Environmental Science and Technology Corp, Ltd.
2013-Present, Co-Chair, Terra Foundation
1996-2009, Vice President & General Manager, Imation Corporation
1996, Regional Finance Manager, 3M
1993-1996, Assistant Treasurer, Leasing GM and Corporate Lending Officer, BankBoston (Bank of America).
1992-1993, Investment Banker, Banorte-