With the rapid growth of the global manufacturing industry, the need to prioritise environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments is essential for the sustainable future of the industry, and in turn, the planet.
Dedicated initiatives such as Plastic Free July hold significant importance for businesses in today’s environmentally conscious world. The global movement serves as a reminder for businesses to evaluate their plastic consumption and take the necessary steps towards reducing their impact on the environment.
Cutting down on plastic use is not only good for the environment, but it also helps businesses operate more efficiently. Although introducing alternative materials and plastic-free measures may increase costs in the short-term, businesses will experience the economic benefits over time, when they reap the rewards of ‘doing the right thing’.
Proud to be regarded as a trailblazer in this field, Jolyon Bennett, founder and CEO of Juice – a leading mobile phone accessories manufacturer known for its unwavering commitment to environmental responsibility – shares insight into the importance of sustainability within business, including how and why all organisations should be embracing ESG commitments.
Is sustainability losing relevance amid current social and economic events?
It’s no secret that sustainability isn’t front and centre of everyone’s mind currently – especially with the ongoing cost of living crisis and the instability that the world feels post-COVID. However, I don’t believe that consumers’ sustainability consciousness is ever going to fade away.
Over the last 10 years, the typical consumer has been indoctrinated to consider their impact. From recycling, to making more environmentally conscious decisions about what we eat, and how we live; people are doing it. And we will continue doing it – irrespective of what’s going on in the world. Living more consciously is something that’s embedded in us and will only become more prevalent when making buying decisions in the future.
Organisations globally have signed up to ESG commitments, but are they acting on them?
One of the main problems with the global business community is that the biggest, most powerful organisations are owned by stock markets that do not value sustainability as highly as they do profits.
Although we’re seeing a change in environmental policy from governments all over the world with the hope of encouraging more sustainable behaviour, I don’t believe that this alone will result in real ESG commitments. Businesses are adhering to these policies so they don’t get fined, not necessarily out of choice. When businesses that are more sustainable start to overtake those businesses that aren’t, this will drive change – and change for good.
What can leadership teams do to inspire action and maintain momentum?
We need to see more authenticity from leadership teams – they need to be brave enough to do the right thing. Over the last 18 months, I myself have had to make some risky decisions, including investing hundreds of thousands of pounds on more expensive packaging that was better for the planet – not knowing whether our customers were going to care. Ultimately, leadership teams need to be brave and focus on trying to do the right thing. I think that’s the best thing that all business leaders can do.
How can the technology industry contribute to achieving global sustainability goals such as reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change?
I believe the technology industry will be responsible for making the biggest difference in changing the impact that modern business has on the environment. There are already changes happening within manufacturing, where we are considering what we use and how we use it.
Technology has a much wider role to play in terms of developing machinery and investigating sciences which could remove carbon from our environment. There are new discoveries and experiments taking place daily, which use technology to remove carbon from our planet. On one hand, technology has been one of the major creators of the climate crisis, however, I strongly believe that when used for good, technology will be key to solving the climate crisis.
Can you give any practical examples of how Juice is successfully balancing its priorities?
Statistically, every one of the 8 billion people on planet Earth will generate 50kg of waste/plastic waste in 2023 – and we want to reuse that.
At Juice, we have totally revitalised our consumer proposition based on manufacturing every single one of our products from post-consumer waste that is fully recyclable. One of our priorities was to create a product range that that was going to re-use all the plastic waste that we’re constantly creating.
We have also observed and listened to the market and released a load of products that are focused on consumers and how they are using their tech products. Just because we are doing things that are sustainably minded, it doesn’t mean that we can’t make really cool, fun products as well. Modern sustainability means that you can have all the fun in the world. You can consciously use your electronic accessories whilst knowing that they are sourced from post-consumer waste, and that the distributor sending them to you is using electric vans powered by local wind farms. It’s all about balance.
What role do consumers play in driving sustainability in the technology industry?
Consumers have and will continue to play a major role in the growth of the sustainability market, including sustainable technology. They have helped drive forward the movement towards sustainability by basing their buying decisions on more than just the look, feel and features of a product – they’ve created an extra ‘tick box’ in the form of sustainability.
Consumers are now asking questions such as: How is this product affecting our environment? How was it sourced and how was it made? Over the past 3-5 years, it’s become a reality that consumers are now making their purchasing decisions based on these questions. Juice has experienced this first-hand, when our market share significantly grew after we took a stand to remove all single-use plastic from our supply chain.
In terms of our UK retailers, they are already ahead of the game and supporting and helping us. It’s really heartening to see the seriousness that they place on sustainability. The rise of the green tech industry is going to continue, but I think we need to stop calling it ‘green tech’ and rebrand it as just a sensible way of doing business. I am an optimist and I strongly believe that those who are doing the right things will find success and those doing the wrong things, won’t.