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Ecolog International began operations at the beginning of the 2000s in both Kosovo and Afghanistan, and soon after in Iraq, to support international peacekeeping and security missions. Over the last two decades, Ecolog has evolved to become one of the largest global providers of integrated services and rapid response solutions in the world.
Its mission is one that deeply resonates with Juan Chaparro, spurring him to join the organization as Executive Chairman of the Board in January.
“With Ecolog, I discovered deeper ways to impact people and do something really meaningful for them, especially those in need,” he tells The CEO Magazine.
Despite his enthusiasm for his new role, he admits that it’s a career he never expected to embark on.
Over the course of the 30 years prior, he had forged a successful and fulfilling path in the world of fashion, working for companies such as Primark. But when the company’s Founder invited him to a friends and family weekend, he says he was inspired.
“I couldn’t tell the difference between family and employees,” he says. “The leadership and inspiration of the Founder is deeply embedded in the business and the growth opportunities are simply impressive.”
More than 20 years since Ecolog was founded, it was a poignant time for Chaparro to join the company as it continues to evolve and expand in line with increasing demand worldwide.
He believes the secret behind its exponential growth over the years is its emphasis on the human factor. “It sits at the vision and the permanent entrepreneurial behavior of our Founder and the smarter, extra-mile attitude of our team members, combined with a strong sense of belonging and an impressive talent retention capacity,” he expands.
“The core team that supported our Founder 20 years ago remain in touch today – no-one left the company. Imagine the accumulated value of that through the years.”
This wealth of experience is particularly valuable when dealing with the unusual situations that Ecolog regularly encounters.
“Challenge is our daily bread,” Chaparro says. “Business as usual for us is operational mode. We are a project-based organization.”
With no two crises the same, Ecolog needs to be ready to act at any time and in any place – an availability and nimbleness that again comes back to its people.
“People are the key factor of our success and the main asset of the company because we require agility, commitment and a hands-on mentality,” Chaparro stresses. “Failure here is not an option.”
The people who are at the heart of everything Ecolog does are both within its own ranks but also across its network of suppliers, which has proven increasingly important for the company as it has grown. So too has ensuring that network has access to the best training and support.
Ecolog’s ethos is built around two key questions: “What else can we do, and how we can do it better?”
“When you are dealing in crisis management permanently, you have to refine it. These permanent improvements are embedded in the operations and in the decision-making process,” he says.
“Many other companies sit every three months to think what else can they do or how they can do it better. But in this industry, those questions have to be answered every day or every week because of the complexity of the operations. That brings you to a ‘virtuous’ process of improvement.”
It’s a process that paves the way for growth – a path that Ecolog has certainly followed. The company has conducted around 1,100 projects in more than 40 countries, some of them among the most remote and challenging in the world.
It has also developed solutions in Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States and also has a large presence in Africa and parts of Europe. Ecolog has built up a workforce of more than 10,000 employees, and it recruits 90 percent of its workforce from the communities where it operates.
Another important element of Ecolog’s success is its high levels of customer retention. “We are trusted partners for many governments and leading international development organizations and some of those customers have been with us for 20 years, since day one,” Chaparro says.
As an integrated solution provider, Ecolog focuses on providing turnkey service to its clients. The service portfolio includes camp support services such as catering and facility management, supply chain management, engineering and construction, environmental services and health care.
Chaparro’s 30-year career in supply chain sourcing and his experience of the fast-paced nature of the fashion industry have equipped him with the necessary tools to take Ecolog forward.
“I grew up in fast fashion where you have to react in the same day to the demand. In this role, to some degree, you have to react in the same way,” he reflects.
“My time at Primark fits to support our strategy because at the end of the day, when you grow financially, you have to manage the complexity of the growth. You can have all the resources and all the possibilities. But exponential growth is complex, and I had the opportunity to lead this.”
Last, but not least, Chaparro’s B2C and retail expertise fit perfectly with Ecolog’s own strategic ambitions.
At present, the company’s core is its government business – an area he feels incredible passionate about. “The COVID-19 pandemic has unveiled the challenges and imbalances of healthcare systems around the world, be it in rich or developing countries,” he says.
“We developed innovative solutions to make primary care and preventive care accessible and available for more people.”
In Turkey, where earthquakes have wrought extreme devastation, Ecolog has sent in specialized mobile clinics equipped with the latest examination devices, mini-labs and access to online doctors. These can make a diagnosis possible in fewer than 12 minutes, Chaparro says.
Ecolog hopes to take these capabilities into the B2C market. With a growing focus on health and wellbeing in the pandemic’s aftermath, Ecolog is well-placed to cater to this demand. “During the pandemic, we all got used to self-testing and online services,” he explains. “That has created demand for other types of healthcare services.”
The company has already developed an enhanced telemedicine offering with smart examination devices, advanced home testing and the ability to create individual digital health profiles.
“It’s taking health care in a different direction, having a patient-centric approach instead of a doctor-centric approach,” Chaparro says.
“This is a fantastic blue ocean opportunity that the company has right now. Many of our best-in-class services can be implemented, serving consumers directly, too.”
Recent years have highlighted the growing importance of crisis response, with social and political unrest rife, natural disasters accelerating due to climate change and mass displacement hitting new highs. Furthermore, as the population continues to rise, more people will be in need of proper primary and preventative health care.
“The sobering reality is that there is no silver lining. The existing systems are inefficient,” Chaparro says. “We are mindful of these challenges and we are heavily investing in both personnel and resources to confront and overcome each one. It’s not just a matter of business here, we have to face the music.”
It’s a critical mission and one that he is incredibly proud to be a part of. “Honestly speaking, at this moment in my life and my career, to lead and drive the growth of such a special company as Ecolog end-to-end has been incredible,” he says.