Case | HBS Case Collection | February 2011 (Revised September 2013)

Sound Group China: Urban Waste Entrepreneurs

by John D. Macomber, Chad M. Carr and Fan Zhao

Abstract

Private sector entrepreneur in China with advanced solid waste management capability competes with state owned enterprises and also government policies supporting a rival technology. Wen Yibo has used engineering expertise and political savvy to build a major privately held company providing the entire supply chain of water treatment, waste water, and integrated municipal solid waste capabilities. The company's services include engineering, manufacturing, consulting, "engineer, procure construct," "build operate transfer," and other forms of public-private partnership. The handling of municipal solid waste takes up to 50% of the annual budget of many urban areas in the developing world. The ability to use private sector funds and expertise could be critical to urban development. However, state owned enterprises can observe the success of private business and can enter and compete using their own skills, contacts, and inexpensive capital. The government may also be interested in subsidizing incineration over composting as a part of "waste to energy" strategy, even though this is less efficient than generating electricity from a coal or gas plant. The company has to decide whether to stick to its waste management roots or expand into an opportunistic incineration technology with minimal and nominal waste-to-energy benefits.

Keywords: Private Sector; Public Sector; Service Delivery; Business and Government Relations; Environmental Sustainability; Wastes and Waste Processing; Urban Development; Utilities Industry; China;

Citation:

Macomber, John D., Chad M. Carr, and Fan Zhao. "Sound Group China: Urban Waste Entrepreneurs." Harvard Business School Case 211-086, February 2011. (Revised September 2013.)