Recently, Luna added 14 more stops to CERO’s routes, all of them from one of CERO’s newest big clients — Boston University, which recently awarded the co-op its campus-wide organic waste management contract. Some Boston University stops have just one 64-gallon collection bin, others have ten or more that might need daily pickups. And that was on the heels of adding new stops at Northeastern University, which expanded an earlier smaller contract with CERO to a campus-wide contract with 10 stops. These aren’t the only higher-ed clients CERO has, but they’re the most prominent, and the news is already generating more interest from other interested potential new clients than any other previous new contracts.
CERO’s growth hasn’t always been very smooth. It’s taken longer than expected to get to where it is today. And it’s still a small company, with just seven employees, but it’s growing and it’s gaining momentum. At one level, it’s validation for a vision of a new society that produces less organic waste.
But look deeper, and it’s also validation for a way of allocating labor and investment capital that is more democratic, and more rooted in disinvested communities and racial justice movements. CERO was the first business to receive an investment from the Boston Ujima Project, an effort by Boston’s working-class communities of color to direct investments into projects and businesses through an open, democratic process. That investment envisioned CERO could win contracts like these, which it is starting to do.