Together we change the world! Paweł Jarski, CEO Elemental Group
What were your beginnings in business like? Why did you choose this particular industry?
As is often the case, coincidence played a huge role. During my studies, I was involved in IT support for businesses. In the meantime, I’ve been exposed to the scrap metal recycling industry through my father-in-law’s company, where I was able to observe how the business works. In 2003-04, while being abroad, I saw that there was such a thing as electronics recycling, which at that time in Poland no one was actually doing. All this led to a situation where, instead of assembling computers, I started to disassemble them and get an idea of what metals could be recovered from them. Step by step I came to the business we see today – urban mining. All this, of course, was favored by economic conditions and the growing expectation that instead of throwing away, we should start recovering wisely.
What is your vision for the company’s further development? What is still left to achieve?
An interesting and challenging year lies ahead. The Elemental Group is constantly growing. In early 2024, we will launch our investment in Zawiercie – the first lithium-ion battery and catalyst recycling plant in this part of Europe. This is a huge undertaking, requiring many years of preparation. We did it in just over a year and a half, although the process is not easy – environmental agreements or negotiations with the local community are really complicated. The plant is a response to our business needs. Currently we do so-called shallow recycling in the case of automotive catalysts. After opening our investment in Zawiercie we will enter metallurgy – i.e. in addition to mechanical processing, i.e. shredding and separation, we will melt catalysts and refine them to pure metal. The new plant will also provide us with dynamic development in the field of lithium-ion batteries, whose recycling processes are still not well understood. With our research and development facilities, we want to meet these challenges. Our investment is estimated at a total of €150 million. The project is part of the pan-European IPCEI program (Important Projects of Common European Interest). In the first months of 2024, we will also open a brand new hall for processing refrigerators and electronics as part of Terra Electrorecycling’s operations in Grodzisk Mazowiecki. This is certainly not the end of the story, as we are operating very dynamically, and the business appetite continues to grow.
What style of leadership do you prefer? How do you deal with the pressure that the prosperity of many people depends on you?
Currently, we can talk about the transformation that is taking place in front of our eyes – a company from Grodzisk Mazowiecki, is becoming an international holding company, a global leader in urban mining. This is a huge challenge, but also a huge satisfaction. All this would not have been possible if it were not for the team, in whose strength I deeply believe. From the beginning, I was fortunate that the people who came to the company at different stages of its development contributed a lot. As a result, we were constantly able to grow, on a great many different levels. I tried to attract people with vision to my business, who were not necessarily competent in the field we were dealing with. Their openness, willingness to learn and develop our business vision together brought what we have today. For behind a good boss, there is an even better team. Now I know that I want to build an international team that will be able to contribute a lot, both from the know-how side, but also from the cultural side, and thus reach the next stage of development of our organization.
They say that an entrepreneur works 24 hours a day. Is it possible to maintain a balance between work and private life when running a business?
For me, the perfect springboard has always been sports. In high school I did decathlon, and for some time I have been doing triathlon. Swimming, running and cycling help clear the mind and take my thoughts away from work. Swimming in the pool, training at the gym, or riding a bike allows you to turn off thinking for a while. Triathlon, from the psychological hygiene side, is a very cool sport. This sport interested me so much that I decided to get involved in it also from the business and organizational side. As an additional commitment, for the past 10 years I have been combining the role of Group President and President of the Polish Triathlon Association. On the other hand, Elemental is the title sponsor of the Elemental Tri Series triathlon competition series and supports talented athletes, including the first Pole to finish in the top ten in the Ironman World Championships – Robert “Wilku” Wilkowiecki, and Poland’s representative in backstroke swimming – Radek Kawęcki.
Can business be responsible, people-friendly and environmentally friendly at the same time? Does business have to compromise on its values?
For me, the answer to this question is very simple: we are responsible, people-friendly and eco-friendly. We have this written into the DNA of our business. The Elemental Group is in the business of recycling and green production of strategic metals for the economy. We are one of the world leaders in recycling platinum group metals and electronic equipment, so-called e-waste. We focus on the recovery of critical metals for which only limited natural resources are available worldwide. The technologies we develop and apply provide sustainable solutions for the emergence and further development of low-carbon industries and innovations, including e-mobility and recycling. We work closely with our partners to make sure that we all handle waste containing valuable metals in an environmentally and economically sustainable way. We share our know-how to promote the implementation of green metal substitutes in various technological value chains. Everything we do is part of the closed-loop economy, of which we are not only a part, but also a driving force. Our main environmental goals described in our 2022 ESG report include increasing the weight of waste recycled, reducing greenhouse gas emissions or energy consumption. In 2022, 16 out of 21 plants saw average electricity consumption decrease by about 15% year-on-year. In turn, 10 out of 21 plants have implemented measures to reduce thermal energy consumption. Processes to reduce water consumption are being systematically implemented across the Group.
Do you engage in charitable activities and help people who have encountered difficulties in life? What type of activities do you undertake in this area?
Conscious corporate social responsibility activities are part of our ESG business strategy. The pandemic period and then the humanitarian crisis caused by the war in Ukraine have made these activities even more important – they are expected by a wide range of stakeholders in every company. These are not easy times. What matters is responsibility and uniting people around good ideas. That’s why we consistently pursue not only our green business goals, but also our corporate social responsibility strategy. As I mentioned earlier, Elemental Group is heavily involved in the development of triathlon in Poland, but not only. We are also supporting the Ukrainian Triathlon Federation in these difficult times so that they have the opportunity to lead the preparations for the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. In addition to supporting athletes, which is undoubtedly a great source of pride for me, the entire Group is involved in many other activities. In February 2022, following the outbreak of war in Ukraine, Polish holding financially supported relief organizations such as Polish Humanitarian Action, the Polish Traditional Karate Federation and the Chocimska Foundation. The Group also donated funds to TRIAL International, which, among other things, conducts activities related to the prosecution of war crimes in Ukraine. As a company, we donated, also in 2022, funds to support the statutory activities of the Jan Karski Educational Foundation, which promotes humanitarian attitudes, the highest standards of public service, the defense of human rights and the building of social relations based on tolerance and openness. We listen to the voices of our local communities, which is why Elemental Strategic Metals, which is conducting an investment in the Zawiercie municipality, donated funds for the purchase of musical instruments for the benefit of a local music school, with intent on educating young people. Every year, employees of Polish companies get involved in the activities of the Noble Parcel by supporting the poorest. The campaign traditionally supports families from the cities in which the companies operate. This year, aid was given to four families from Grodzisk Mazowiecki, Bydgoszcz, Tomaszow Mazowiecki and Zawiercie.
About Paweł Jarski
Paweł Jarski graduated from Kozminski University with a specialty in Human Resource Management and finished a post-graduate program for Entrepreneurs at the Warsaw School of Economics. Pawel is also a scholarship holder at the Helsinki School of Economics (Finland) and Jonkoping Business School (Sweden). Between 2004 and 2009, as a founder/co-owner and CEO, he managed SYNERGIS Electrorecycling SA and Electro-System SA companies, which in its third year of operations became the leader in the e-waste market in Poland. They remained in the no. 1 position until sold to a strategic investor in 2009. In 2010 he founded Elemental Holding SA and became its CEO and Managing Director. In 2012 under his management, after three consecutive years of rapid growth, Elemental successfully conducted IPO on the Warsaw Stock Exchange and remained publicly listed till early 2021. Since 2011, Paweł became responsible for the development of directions and strategies. He has transformed Elemental from a Polish recycling champion to one of the global leaders in the urban mining sector. While doing so – in 10 years – Elemental successfully conducted 15 foreign acquisitions and has grown its numbers from 150 mln to 1,830 mln USD on the sale side, becoming present with its assets on more than 30 markets and 3 continents. In 2015, Pawel became a laureate of Parkiet magazine and received an award presented to ten best young managers of companies listed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. In the 2016 edition of Harvard Business Review, he became a laureate of best-managed companies on the WSE – presidents ranking. In 2017 – he became a laureate of a Polish edition of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year. In Elemental Holding SA, he is responsible for the development directions and strategies of Elemental Holding group, supervising directly the operating activity of subsidiaries’ management boards.
Last Updated on February 6, 2024 by Anastazja Lach