John Shegerian: Recycling Lives as Well as Waste
By Kelly Givens
John Shegerian, Chairman and CEO of Electronic Recyclers, Inc., (ERI) has overcome many odds to become the entrepreneur and businessman he is today. As a child, John remembers “[w]e were the first family in our neighborhood to be on welfare, the first family to have a divorce. I was also the first kid in the neighborhood to get a job,” Shegerian recounted on The Big Idea, a CNBC talk show hosted by Donny Deutsch. “Everyone kept telling me I would never make it. All I kept telling myself was, ‘Yes I can, yes I can, yes I can.’” It was this determination, coupled with his entrepreneurial talents, that enabled Shegerian to found multiple successful enterprises and companies.
God has used the trials Shegerian experienced as a young boy to help found Homeboy Tortillas, a bakery in a run-down warehouse in East Los Angeles that hires ex-cons and gang members to make the corn tortillas. He enlisted the help of a local pastor, Father Gregory Boyle, who had already started helping gang youth with his “Jobs for a Future” program. Homeboy Tortillas eventually became Homeboy Industries, the largest gang intervention and re-entry program in the country and now a national model. The organization was awarded the New York Stock Exchange “Building for the Future” award for creating new jobs and opportunities for gang-impacted youth in post-riot Los Angeles.
Shegerian continued hiring ex-cons and gang members when he started ERI in 2002. According to the ERI website, the company “collects and recycles electronic waste, specializing in the sustainable dismantling of consumer electronic items.” Through Shegerian’s leadership, ERI is now recognized as the number one electronic waste recycler in the state of California and one of the largest in North America. Annually, ERI processes more than 120 million pounds of electronic waste.
It is obvious that Shegerian’s heart is closely aligned with the Lord’s when it comes to environmental stewardship. Besides creating a business that helps cut down on harmful electronic waste, Shegerian also co-hosts the nation’s #1 rated environmentally themed radio program, Clear Channel’s Green is Good. Additionally, he publishes regular columns on sustainability in the Environmental Leader, and frequently gives talks on running green business that have been heard everywhere from China, India and Europe to the World Bank, United Nations and the White House.