Mochi and Terradex’s Long Term Stewardship Mission

Bob Wenzlau January 29, 2021

What can we learn from a small business in Japan selling mochi? The New York Times introduced Ichiwa, a mochi business that has endured for over one thousand years. The article asked what are the attributes that was common to this category of Japan where businesses have persisted across multiple generations? Given that contaminant residuals in soils and water can persist for a thousand years, and potentially impact future stakeholders, there may be some lessons learned from this small mochi business as we seek to protect remedies and stakeholders across a millennium.

As CEO, I have been pondering about the perpetual duty Terradex has assumed. We seek to assume the role of a “smoke alarm” sitting above an area of environmental contamination, monitoring and alerting to breaches and threats. This duty is perpetual. We ask how might Terradex persist like the mochi business into the future. Ichiwa may provide lessons to the enterprise of long term stewardship.

Ichiwa is a business that has sold mochi to pilgrims arriving at the rambling ancient Imamiya Shrine. As long as the shine exists, there has been Ichiwa’s mochi to nourish the pilgrims. “To survive for a millennium, Ms. Hasegawa said, a business cannot just chase profits. It has to have a higher purpose. In the case of Ichiwa, that was a religious calling: serving the shrines pilgrims.” Their testimonial offers several attributes:

  • A simple business objective.
  • Low operating cost.
  • Relevance over time.
  • A passion for the business mission.

While the arena of long term stewardship is complex with multiple stakeholders, the role of Terradex is simple: to monitor and alert to residual environmental contamination. Our business objective remains the protection of the remedy and the protection of health of potentially impacted stakeholders.

Like the mochi maker, Terradex has not been burdened by high operating costs. Our small high impact team monitors close to 25,000 contaminated sites in the United States and across several countries issuing over 200,000 safe use advisories to unknowing parties at work. We have leveraged the emergence of web-based data systems associated with land development, satellite imagery and associated change detection algorithms, and a multitude of messaging systems to transmit alerts and advisories to stakeholders as well as enterprise systems. Once the algorithms are built, the monitoring and notification is efficient and scalable.

As we look back at the ancient age shrine the Ichiwa, that sense of time can be rotated forward to give a sense of the obligation of long term stewardship. Many of the chemical residuals will persist into the future as long as the shrine has existed. The duty of stewardship should endure as long as the hazard of residuals persists. It is a multigenerational duty.

Having a focus toward safe stewardship is Terradex’s passion and mission. When risk-based corrective action was accepted as a remedy component in the 1990s, and residual contamination was allowed to remain as part of a completed remedy, the environmental professionals part of crafting these methodologies also made an agreement with future stakeholders: future stakeholders should be protected consistent with site management plans. However, at the time the mechanisms to assure stewardship were haphazard even though the rewards of risk-based corrective action were enjoyed. Terradex began in early 2000 to address the weakness in stewardship in risk-based remedies. We began with passion and altruism, rather than a strong economic value proposition. That passion has kept the focus while slowly the economic value proposition for stewardship has emerged.

In closing, applying the metaphor of the shrine, as the multiple stakeholders walk toward the “shrine” of effective long term stewardship, Terradex seeks to be an important auxiliary service. Like Ichiwa provides mochi, Terradex strives to be always present serving these stakeholders with timely and focused awareness toward protecting environmental remedies. We see some consistency between the attributes of Ichiwa and Terradex: maintaining a simple objective – to protect cleanup remedies and public health, implementing a business with modest capital requirements, maintaining relevance across time knowing the environmental health is a constant, and holding a passion – that passion being centered on a duty to protect the cleanup remedies that have been constructed and the stakeholder that could be impacted. We of course are humbled to this challenge.

AboutBob Wenzlau
Bob is the CEO and Founder of Terradex. An environmental engineer by training, he has deep expertise in the long-term care of contaminated sites. Nearly 20 years ago, Bob founded Terradex with the original concept of an independent business that would monitor the effectiveness of institutional controls by screening land activity and use. Bob developed the LandWatch, DigClean, and WhatsDown products to address the varying use cases of any stakeholder of land contamination. He contemplated and created the Terradex Toolbox that allows customizations within each of the products to meet specific customer needs.
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