10 questions for ‘eco-entrepreneur’ Anthony Zolezzi
Fortune’s annual Brainstorm Green conference brings together individuals who strive to build a sustainable future across various industries. In this weekly feature, we shine a spotlight on an attendee to offer their personal insight on business, environmentalism, and entrepreneurship.
Anthony Zolezzi, who describes himself as “an eco-entrepreneur who views environmental problems as opportunities,” is a partner at Pegasus Capital Investors. He has spent his career building eco-friendly companies and has co-authored several books, including two on reducing the presence of chemicals at home (Chemical-Free Kids: How to Safeguard Your Child’s Diet and Environment and Chemical-Free Kids: the Organic Sequel). We asked Zolezzi about who he admires, his biggest failure, and life at home.
Fortune: What green business or person do you admire most? Why?
Zolezzi: Two: Lee Scott, former CEO of Wal-Mart (WMT), and Paul Polman, current CEO of Unilever (UL), because they are truly walking the walk as it relates to sustainability, and I can’t leave out Elon Musk [of Tesla Motors (TSLA)] who is showing us that energy efficiency can be sexy and profitable.
What other companies do you admire?
I love simple disruptive models — extreme examples on two ends of a spectrum would be Uber and Apple (AAPL) or Whole Foods (WFM) and Amway.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Always separate the institution from the personality.
What would you do if you weren’t working at your current job?
At Pegasus Capital, my current job is putting people and companies together with the resources, strategy, and insights to have a major impact on the health of individuals, communities, and the environment. I love what I do every day.
What is your greatest achievement?
Learning to be grateful for life and the opportunity to live every day. My two kids — and now two grandchildren — are by far my greatest accomplishments.
What has been your biggest failure?
Too many to answer here — but probably in my younger days as CEO of middle market companies [when I] was thinking that I could actually control people and outcomes.
What is one goal that you would like to accomplish during your lifetime?
Years ago, it was to be on the cover of Fortune. No kidding — in fact, I wrote my weekly to-do’s on a blank sheet of paper with the Fortune banner over the top saying that I would only work on things that big. Today it [will] be that my grandkids can learn something from me.
What was your biggest missed opportunity?
I should have married my first girlfriend, my high school sweetheart, who I am with now almost 40 years later.
Describe an ideal day.
Two hours in the gym, three hours of phone and emails, break for a walk and lunch, one hour of meditation, two hours of phone and emails, then coffee and “what if?” thinking and notes, then switch to wine and food with friends and family.
What was the last book you read?
Primal Fitness by Mark Sisson.