Chris “Chip” Ernst ’91

Clean Living

By Maureen Harmon

Chris Ernst

Chris Ernest, a native of Dover, Massachusetts, has enjoyed a highly successful 13-year career in the Netherlands. But it wasn’t a good job that took him there. It was romance.

Ernst was working in Hartford, Connecticut when he met a Dutch law student who had come to the U.S. on an exchange program. The pair started dating, and when she had to move back home to finish her degree, they traded stacks and stacks of letters and a couple of visits. Within a year, Ernst had sold his car, packed up, and started job searching in the Netherlands. Before long, he landed a job with an information technology distribution company called Access Graphics (which was later bought by General Electric). Ernst traveled through Europe selling high-end IT products like Sun Microsystems servers to large commercial corporations— utilizing the sales and marketing skills he perfected while selling household products for a direct marketing company during his Rollins years and after graduation.

By 2004, Europe was tightening restrictions on electrical waste and G.E. had to take a close look at its practices. “It was flipped on to my plate to clean up,” said Ernst, who was then working in marketing and business development at the company. The “cleanup” was complicated. “It may have been a European directive,” he said, “but every country has its own twists.” So not only did Ernst have to figure out the regulations, restrictions, and legalese that went into electrical waste management in the Netherlands, he had to figure out how it applied in Italy. And France. And Belgium. In fact, nearly all European countries.

The process proved to be a little daunting for Ernst—even at a company with the resources of G.E.— but it also gave him an idea for his own business. In 2005, he launched Accerio, a Netherlands-based company specializing in environmental compliance regulations for IT manufacturers and importers. Since regulations vary from country to country and since those regulations are always evolving, Ernst and his company of seven employees have to keep up with the latest in IT waste management. It’s challenging, but Ernst said he has definitely found a niche. Plenty of well-known companies, like Avaya, Brocade, Nortel, and Trend Micro, have taken advantage of his consulting firm to deal with the twists and turns of Europe’s electrical waste management regulations, from the markings on packaging to what Ernst refers to as “end-of-life treatment” for products. And Accerio takes care of reporting all the data—including the amount of materials recycled and the amount discarded—to the respective countries within the E.U.

Ernst recalls the advice of fellow Rollins alum Robert Fish ’87, a successful real estate businessman: “He said, ‘Find something simple that you can repeat, and do it over and over again,’” Ernst said. “Well, I definitely didn’t do that.” But what he’s done has worked out just fine, and Europe is cleaner for it. As for that Dutch law student who lured Ernst to Europe in the first place, she’s now his wife, and Ernst is looking forward to one day showing her and their two children what life in the United States is like: Accerio recently opened an office in Colorado and Ernst would like to bring his green entrepreneurial spirit to the States.