Having grown up in poverty in Appalachia, John Rush learned early on the vital role employment plays in addressing key social issues like drug addiction. After a stint in the Marines, Rush volunteered at a Chicago homeless shelter, where he noticed that many of the residents wanted jobs but, due to drug-related prison records, couldn’t get hired. So he enrolled in the MBA program at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Business — with the goal, Rush says, of “thinking more strategically about how business could provide supportive, fair-chance employment.”
Rush is president and CEO of CleanTurn, a Columbus, Ohio, cleaning service for homes, businesses, and construction sites. He launched the company in 2012, with funding from a group of private investors who agreed with him that hiring people with troubled pasts could help turn their lives around.
The results have been impressive. CleanTurn currently employs about 900 people. “More than 70% of those we’ve hired have fought an opioid addiction,” says Rush. Over the past seven years, he adds, 40% of the company’s employees have either stayed at CleanTurn or used their experience there as a stepping stone to other jobs.
Each year, CleanTurn calculates what Rush calls its SROI (social return on investment) that includes things like increased payroll tax revenues and decreased jail recidivism. He estimates the total annual economic impact of his company on Ohio to be about $20 million. In addition, CleanTurn donates a big chunk of its profits to employee training and coaching—and to community anti-opioid campaigns.