Republic Services Pricing Spineometer: 5 of 5 Vertebrae


Tim J. Smith, PhD
Founder and CEO, Wiglaf Pricing

Published April 11, 2023

Republic Services, a waste removal and recycling services company, had a banner FY 2022.  Revenue increased 20% to $13.5 billion while earnings before interest and taxes increased 15% to $2.4 billion over year prior.

Their 15 February earnings call revealed the importance of pricing on performance at Republic Services.

Jon Vander Ark, CEO, opening comments included: “This is the highest level of pricing in company history. Organic volume growth was 1.5%.”  With revenue growth of 20%, these statements imply growth at Republic Services was driven primarily by price and secondarily by volume.

Jon Vander Ark clearly understands pricing.

In 2014 when he was CMO at Republic Services, he worked to complete a digital transformation in pricing centered on a “capture price tool”.

During the 2023 earning call, in response to an inquiry about raising prices on customers, Jon Vander Ark spoke to the individual transaction nature of price management required to capture a strong price, and the relatively minor role of their services to their customer’s spending thus the potential pricing power of Republic Services.  He stated “We’ll look at every dollar of revenue on every customer … We look at pricing with two lens(es). One is, from a customer and an insight standpoint, right, what does the market bear? What does our offer have from a value standpoint versus our competitors? And then we also want to look on the internal side and say, what is our cost? … we’re going to go systematically through every customer and every dollar of revenue. And I think the encouraging thing is we put out some double-digit price increases, and we’re seeing it stick, right? Customers are really valuing the integrated offering. And keep in mind, whatever they spend with us is a very small percentage of their cost structure.”

Later, Jon Vander Ark addressed the issue of selecting customers rather than chasing every deal.  He stated: “Customer mix is a hidden element or hidden factor in being able to get price. And we went through some intentional shedding, right, which has negative drag on our volume for a few quarters when you look a few years back. The quality of our revenue is much higher than it was historically, and we feel good about that. And that’s all the way across from national accounts to small container to getting out the last remain broker work out of the system to municipal and getting a fair escalator into those contracts. So, I think the overall health of our pricing across the portfolio, well, not perfect, of course, but it’s much, much better than it was a few years ago.”

In their presentation, Republic Services management indicated that they were transitioning customer contracts from being indexed to CPI (U.S. Consumer Price Index I suspect) to an alternative index or a fixed rate of 4% to better reflect costs.  Deloitte recommends using index-based pricing to enable companies to make volume commitments in advance of knowing costs.  As waste removal and recycling contracts are often multi-year contracts when made at the municipal level, indexing is a best practice for pricing Republic Services offerings.

With new long-term service contracts, individual customer negotiations, and the need to reprice or integrate newly acquired services and offerings, we expect to see a strong pricing team.

Research into the quality of Republic Service’s pricing team indicated a positive state of affairs.  Pricing professionals were identified with titles of analyst, manager, director, and vice president.  Pricing professionals worked on pricing execution, operations, analytics, field pricing, and proposal pricing.  Pricing supported specific lines of business such as recycling.  With a strictly North American service territory, we didn’t expect to find large geographical dispersion in pricing talent.

The review of pricing at Republic Services opened one new line of inquiry: Jon Vander Ark indicated an expectation of further improvements in pricing at Republic Services. Considering the Value-Based Pricing Framework, which area does he intend to invest in next?

Given the importance and capability of pricing at Republic Services as indicated in financial reports, management comments, and our pricing team research, and given their performance, we have come to the following conclusion as of April ‘23.

Republic Services Pricing Spineometer:  5 out of 5 Vertebrae.

RSG (Republic Services Inc.) rose from 124 on the day prior to their earnings call to 129 one week later. 2022 revenue of $13.5 B with an 18% operating margin and P/E ratio near 29.

Currently, a 1% improvement in price would yield a 5.6% improvement in EBIT holding all else constant for Republic Services.

Chart your path to 5 of 5 vertebrae Pricing Spineometer(TM) score and improve your profit resiliency with Wiglaf Pricing. Includes competitive benchmarks, a 67-point corporate inspection, and a three-year pricing improvement roadmap.

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About The Author

Tim J. Smith, PhD, is the founder and CEO of Wiglaf Pricing, an Adjunct Professor of Marketing and Economics at DePaul University, and the author of Pricing Done Right (Wiley 2016) and Pricing Strategy (Cengage 2012). At Wiglaf Pricing, Tim leads client engagements. Smith’s popular business book, Pricing Done Right: The Pricing Framework Proven Successful by the World’s Most Profitable Companies, was noted by Dennis Stone, CEO of Overhead Door Corp, as "Essential reading… While many books cover the concepts of pricing, Pricing Done Right goes the additional step of applying the concepts in the real world." Tim’s textbook, Pricing Strategy: Setting Price Levels, Managing Price Discounts, & Establishing Price Structures, has been described by independent reviewers as “the most comprehensive pricing strategy book” on the market. As well as serving as the Academic Advisor to the Professional Pricing Society’s Certified Pricing Professional program, Tim is a member of the American Marketing Association and American Physical Society. He holds a BS in Physics and Chemistry from Southern Methodist University, a BA in Mathematics from Southern Methodist University, a PhD in Physical Chemistry from the University of Chicago, and an MBA with high honors in Strategy and Marketing from the University of Chicago GSB.