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Karen Coley, Chicago’s Local Hero: SBC Waste Solutions’ Impact on the Community

Karen Coley, Chicago’s Local Hero: SBC Waste Solutions’ Impact on the Community
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Karen Coley, CEO of SBC Waste Solutions, named her first two garbage trucks Unity and Humility five years ago. Coley says she has modeled her business practices on these principles, and her record shows it. Her company, where she’s the majority owner, was certified by the prestigious Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC), and Coley has shown her commitment to empowering other women entrepreneurs and supporting family-owned businesses throughout Chicago.

A great example comes from her observation of 20 companies clustered along a street in an industrial corridor in the suburb of Broadview. Coley realized that if all those businesses switched to solar power, the community, the industries, and the environment would all benefit from this sustainable solution. And so the Solar Initiative was born, the first in Illinois.

“Karen’s always had a passion for recycling and the environment,” says Shawn Flood of SBC Waste Systems. “In fact, we’re trying to go to solar energy with our company.”

Coley is also big into recycling, with half the company’s trucks hauling recyclables. SBC Waste Systems is looking to cut costs and provide more local jobs by moving deeper into the recycling business.

“We’re at a point now financially, that we’re actually looking to start developing our own automated recycling facility, which will be automated with robots and other cutting-edge technology,” Flood says. “Then we can start taking all our waste and recycling to our own facility for processing it ourselves, instead of paying someone else for that service.”

And speaking of service, SBC Waste Systems’ customer service center is staffed locally, not in some faraway state or country. Customers like that.

“The biggest complaint of other companies’ customers is ‘We call their Arizona call center, and they don’t give us a response. Or they call us back four hours later,’” Flood says. “Our call center has people who live here. You can’t find that type of service in this market anymore. We’re family owned, you know. Bigger isn’t always better.”

With a focus on sustainable and eco-friendly practices, SBC Waste Solutions aims to revolutionize the way waste is handled and keeping an eye on sustainable business practices and growth. Catering to the suburbs around Chicago, the company maintains a strong local presence while also exploring innovative solutions for the future of waste management, the community, and a clean planet.

Another customer service touch that Coley has added is video cameras on the front of the company’s garbage trucks.

“We’ve got a crime-fighting idea here, so that if there’s any type of crime in the neighborhoods, our cameras will capture that,” Flood says. “We give access to our cameras to the police, which is another big thing in the industry. Another way for us to help the community.”

Besides the commingled recycling facility, another project under serious consideration is a construction and demolition facility as part of upcoming expansion plans. Coley believes in continuous advancement and acknowledges that improvements and diversifications are not only good for her business, but also for the community. Careful, sustainable growth, Coley says, means more jobs, a better community, and a cleaner environment.

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