One Penn alumna connects businesses to the power of recycling
“I get to do work that makes the world a better place just by working at TerraCycle,” shares Maame Mensah (Master of Environmental Studies ’11), the US Account Director of Brand Partnerships at TerraCycle. Maame’s organization is the world leader in the collection and recycling of waste that is generally considered non-recyclable.
In her role, Maame builds relationships with consumer product companies who sponsor free national recycling programs for consumers. She also works with businesses who help fund initiatives that educate and encourage consumers to recycle. She adds, “Most businesses have to integrate sustainability into their corporate social responsibility platform to keep up with their industry’s standards. Our partners leverage their TerraCycle relationship to raise awareness around their brand, see a return on investment and do their part to make a positive impact on the environment and local neighborhoods.”
One of Maame’s favorite brand engagement projects was a recycling contest held at ShopRite stores and sponsored by Colgate. She explains, “For every oral care product that a school group recycled, and for every vote their community cast on their behalf, the school earned playground credits. At the end of the promotional period, the school with the most credits won a playground made from recycled oral care waste.”
To make this successful from a financial standpoint, Maame adds, “A brand partner, as a result of a promotion, can earn incremental display space in the store to promote their products, and they see an increase in sales and revenue. As a further incentive, retailers have a rise in shoppers and sales. All partners involved can build community engagement, teach kids about recycling and give them a tangible reward that everyone can be proud of. It’s a great program that gives back.”
Before joining TerraCycle, Maame worked at the Wharton Small Business Development Center where she helped people who were interested in starting or growing a small business connect to resources at Penn and around the city. She used her tuition benefits as a Penn employee to complete her Master of Environmental Studies (MES) degree. “What I liked most about MES was it allowed me to work full time. I wanted the flexibility to go to school and have a career that supported my education.” While studying at Penn, Maame took advantage of the MES program’s interdisciplinary nature and enrolled in classes across the University—including in Wharton and the School of Engineering.
Maame hopes to apply her MES education and Wharton experience to create an eco-conscious fashion business someday while continuing her current career trajectory. As a designer, she aims to hire women in Ghana to sew her designs and keep track of environmental impact every step of the way—from fabric choices to global shipping. She shares, “Not only do I want to make beautiful clothes, but I also want to employ women who wouldn’t have the opportunity otherwise. And hopefully, future customers can know that they are positively impacting someone’s life.”
Looking back on her experience in Penn’s Master of Environmental Studies, Maame notes, “Having a strong, broad knowledge of environmental policy and sustainability helps me in my job every single day. The MES program also taught me what a plan for a social responsibility project should look like, and that helps me better advise my clients and help communities.”