During my interview with Paul Polizzotto, the president and founder of EcoMedia CBS and a renowned social entrepreneur, I was most impressed by his humble demeanor and the fact that he does not claim to have reinvented the wheel. Rather, he believes he has successfully tweaked existing solutions ever so slightly: His business model makes both commercial sense and serves a social purpose. 

In our video interview below, Paul explained how surfing in the Santa Monica Bay led him to create the first successful industrial cleaning company that provided zero discharge services. After selling his company, Paul shared how he turned EcoMedia into an award-winning for-profit company that was acquired by CBS to function as a social enterprise and serve communities across the USA.

Paul describe 4 steps to making a social enterprise work: 

1. Find problem and understand the reality of it: legal obligations, regulations, needs, costs, etc
2. Find a motivation in a social problem because it will get you over all hurdles, particularly the financial ones.
3. Educate your target market: people don't do harm purposefully. Most often they cause harm because that's how it's done in their industry, it's considered normal and they didn't really think about the negative consequences. 
4. Develop a business model that makes it an affordable solution. If it's too expensive or doesn't deliver the quality of service expected, people won't use your solution. 

Paul created an award-winning advertising model that uses ad dollars to fund tangible, social change. A portion of an advertiser's spend is allocated to fund much-needed wellness, environment, and education projects across the nation. Learn more about Paul in this interview.

Follow Paul on Twitter: @PaulPolizzotto

Click here to watch more interviews of the Hidden Heroes series


Paul Polizzotto’s career in social enterprise began in 1989 with his first venture, the industrial/environmental cleaning company Property Prep. A lifelong surfer, Paul melded his passion for the ocean with his talent for entrepreneurship and pioneered Urban Watershed Cleaning and Zero Discharge — two technologies which scrub toxins from parking lots and industrial sites, thus preventing run-off from entering storm drain systems and polluting the waters into which they feed.

In 2002, looking to make a broader environmental impact, Paul launched “Adopt-A-Waterway,” a public-private partnership program that continues to channel corporate ad dollars into environmental awareness campaigns and technologies that mitigate storm drain and urban run-off pollution.

Over the next decade, Paul expanded his business plan in service to his expanding vision: to tackle the most urgent social issues of our time by funding, with advertising dollars, the most effective non-profit organizations in the nation.

Paul recognized that — like him — consumers are concerned with the state of the environment, with the quality of their local schools, with improving their communities. Advertisers who address these issues, he reasoned, will capture and hold consumers’ attention. EcoMedia, the company Paul founded in 2002, is based on this premise; the ground-breaking EcoAd, WellnessAd, and EducationAd programs, launched by EcoMedia in 2011 and 2012, transformed Paul’s theory into reality.

Paul is the recipient of numerous awards and accolades, including the Environmental Protection Agency’s “Environmental Hero” recognition (1999), the Santa Monica Baykeeper’s and the Waterkeeper Alliance’s prestigious “Keeper Award” (2002), and Coastal Living Magazine’s  Leadership Award (2003). In 2006, Paul was named a Public/Private Visionary by Vanity Fair Magazine.  In 2009, EcoMedia received the United States Conference of Mayors’ Excellence in Public/Private Partnerships Award and in 2012, the EcoAd program was an Edison Award winner in the area of social innovation.

Paul serves on the Board of Advisors of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s Waterkeeper Alliance and is a Grades of Green Board Member. In addition, his groundbreaking work in the areas of entrepreneurship and social enterprise have made him a sought-after speaker. He has represented the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Embassy in the UK, Sweden, Turkey, and Greece, where he shared his expertise with government, business, and policy leaders. He is a frequent guest lecturer at business schools throughout the country, including at USC’s Marshall School of Business, where he is a Senior Fellow as well as an inaugural member of the Board of Advisors for the Society and Business Lab.



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