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#Ask Mark: 100 Days to COP26

#Ask Mark: 100 Days to COP26

As the excitement and anticipation is building for COP26 which is exactly 100 days away, I feel there is renewed enthusiasm and momentum around international climate action and what this significant event can potentially deliver. There is an appetite for progress, we as a nation are more invested in the environment, we are far more aware of the seriousness of climate change and the impact we as individuals have on the planet.

Efforts to set us all back on the right path will be in the spotlight this November, when Glasgow hosts COP 26, the UN’s Climate Change conference. It will be the most significant inter-governmental meeting about climate change since Paris in 2015, and the largest-ever conference held in the UK, with over 30,000 attendees. This giant undertaking is all very impressive, and demonstrates a global willingness to engage with the subject. However, we need more than empty words.  The truth is we have to half carbon emissions by 2030, and then hit zero net emissions by 2050. There can be no doubt about the huge scale of this challenge and the enormous structural change that is required.  In the history of humanity, we’ve never innovated at the speed we now need to.

As I see it, saving the planet requires a mix of education, collaboration and encouragement, three core pillars that we as a brand stand by .

Pillar 1: Education

Firstly, it’s about education, the kids of today are our future and the planet’s future. The role of education is crucial to help people understand and address the impact of climate change.  The youth is becoming increasingly committed to the fight against global warming and education is a key step to addressing these issues. I believe the education system needs to change; make climate change issues more visible and understandable. Immersing kids from an early age in nature is a crucial part of sustainability education, it helps them to develop an appreciation for the Earth. For older groups, it’s integrating climate change into as many subjects as possible. Our education system should highlight and talk about natural resources, circular economy, natural capital, all of which can help overcome the environmental challenges we are currently experiencing.  Make watching Breaking Boundaries by Sir David Attenborough and Johan Rockstrom compulsory for every teacher and then make them watch it again with their students.

Pillar 2: Collaboration

The second step is collaboration, we are in THE ‘Climate Decade’. The most important decade humanity has ever faced and we need to effect serious change on a large scale from Governments right down to local communities. This has to be a collaborative effort; we all have to play our part in cutting carbon emissions and promote a green recovery. With our initiative Collaborate-to-Zero which is a series of live podcast interviews with sustainable leaders and inspirers from key sectors. Our aim is to create a book with their top tips to share with delegates ahead of COP26 to encourage other disruptive entrepreneurial individuals, businesses, organisations to ultimately transform at an unprecedented scale and speed. We have a unique opportunity to build back a better, fairer ‘Net Zero’ economy. Every business must be ready to meet that challenge to give us a shot at a better future. 

Pillar 3: Encouragement

And lastly, encouragement; how do we encourage on a large scale? We need to invest more from a research and development perspective; governments, private equity and financial institutions must move away from their current focus on making short-term investments in favour of longer-term sustainable ones. Take for instance Zac Goldsmith's urge for change, he is calling for the government to introduce a range of incentives such as stamp duty rebates for homes participating in the green deal, and reduced VAT on materials used to retrofit homes. It’s these innovative ideas and incentives that will give people the encouragement to do the right thing.

Encouraging a different approach is what we have tried to do at Delphis Eco, taking decisions about our business and how it operates to create genuine structural change in our industry. For example, our perseverance with developing a 100% recycled and recyclable plastic bottle has been the right thing to do, though it has cost us financially. Over time, we hope to make it impossible for competitors to not do the same, since consumers will not tolerate it, and as a result innovation and scale will bring down the cost of such products. And finally, SME’s employ over 80% of the UK’s workforce, yet it is these smaller firms that often find it impossible to access the lending they need to invest in the new equipment and processes that would power more efficient and cleaner production. These SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy, so allowing each to work in a greener way would have a huge culminative effect for good.

We are so excited to see what the next 100 days brings and to be in Glasgow for COP26. 

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#AskMark – Made in Britain for the planet

#AskMark – Made in Britain for the planet

Summer’s here and the sun is out. Once again, it’s time to dig out my cricket whites and get back to the crease with a bunch of old mates.

While playing ‘dad’s cricket’, a pal of mine – a ship broker by trade – had some grim news that he wanted to share. “Things are going mad in the market and it’s going to be bad for everyone.”

Shipping prices are a pretty good early indicator of inflation and national prosperity, it turns out. And container shipping, especially from Asia, seems to have lost its mind. Where forward rates for ship hire were recently around $8,000 a day, they are now hitting a staggering $146,000. And these are prices that are locked in… for at least five years.

As someone who runs a growing SME, the intricacies of the container market had passed me by. But pandemic imports like PPE and medicines, a growth in online shopping demand and low ship availability have created a perfect storm. Or as my mate said, it means everything imported is going to get way more expensive. “The government should watch out – inflation is coming like a bullet train.”

Of course, inflation is bad for business because it forces up interest rates, hurting investment and hitting jobs. However, that wasn’t the issue that got me thinking.

At Delphis Eco we have been passionately pro-British since the off. Not in a creepy jingoistic way, but more to do with wanting to do the right thing to deliver on our environmental promise. For me, supporting local businesses supports local communities, it also means we can share our eco-vision and standards with suppliers and cut the ‘carbon miles’ of our products.

Sadly, over time Britain has become a manufacturing wasteland. There is no doubt that we have some of the brightest and best minds in this country, yet successive governments have seemingly given up on the idea of supporting companies that make ‘stuff’. The attitude seems to be that third world countries will produce cheap goods and we should just leave them to it, no matter that it means products have to come halfway round the world to us.

Recently there has been plenty of bluster about how the post-pandemic world will be a chance to ‘build back better’. A ‘green revolution’ is going to take place, with Britain at the forefront, apparently.

For our business, the lack of homegrown manufacturing capability has been a real bind. Trying to find a UK firm making lotion pumps and spray triggers for our bottles (we want them made of 100% recycled plastic, of course) has proved totally impossible. Look around your house and you’ll find virtually every one of those trigger sprays on domestic products was made in China.

It’s the same for washing powders. We’d love to get into that market and have a great recipe ready and waiting but I’d have to go to France to get it made (a 30-second phone call would do it), so still our search goes on to find a British partner.

Plastic as a raw material costs the same here as anywhere else in the world, and machine-made mass-produced items have virtually no cost of production. My big gripe is how – as a nation – we’ve got ourselves into such a state. All the small, simple consumables that we import from the Far East could easily be made here if only there was concerted political will to give SMEs a break. As a solution, why not make stuff here and do away with the crazy global supply chains on items that do not require specialist know-how?

Instead, Politicians go for headlines rather than having a joined-up approach. SMB’s make up 99% of UK companies and employ 61% of the workforce, accounting for 52% of the UK’s turnover. They love this kind of stuff and are happy to take risks but unless you are a huge company with a massive lobby budget, you’re invisible to politicians.

For example, on the green front, the recent announcements of Nissan’s decision to base future battery production for new electric models in Sunderland is undoubtably great news. But the 1,600 direct jobs it secures – plus 4,500 more in the firm’s supply chain – is just a drop in the ocean compared to what the wider business community could offer.

From an environmental perspective, people have to see the bigger picture. As a nation we’re signed up to a legal pledge to cut emissions drastically, yet the issue of carbon miles is overlooked and rarely articulated.

Offering SMEs tax incentives to invest in the UK would bring back huge amounts of manufacturing to these shores and create millions of worthwhile jobs, while simultaneously doing away with the need for wasteful, high-emissions imports. I can’t help wonder that if the government gave some kind of incentive to SMEs to invest in machine manufactured goods, we would see a huge lift in locally made products, creating jobs, supporting local communities and cutting C02 units.

It would also spark innovation, meaning businesses like ours could find someone here to make our new washing detergent and triggers for our bottles.

Unfortunately, calls such as this can often be viewed through a distorted Brexit lens. This isn’t about being ‘Little Englanders’, but more about understanding that global commerce in its current form definitely doesn’t work for the planet.

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Giving a Second Life to Single-Use Plastic

Giving a Second Life to Single-Use Plastic

There are 500 times more bits of plastic in the ocean than there are stars in the galaxy.

The fact that 8 million tons of plastic waste is dumped in the ocean each year begs the question, why are our recycling rates so bad and how can I fix this? I am a huge buyer of plastic for all of our products which are packaged in plastic and in reality this isn’t going to change.  So being a totally focused eco business, I demanded from my supply chain that the plastic we use be only from post-consumer used recycled content (PCR). My belief is that if I can think it, it must therefore be possible.

13 billion single-use plastic bottles are sold globally every year and it’s anticipated that only between 3% and 9% are recycled. This needs to change.

In 2013, Coke and Unilever committed to using 15% recycled content in their packaging by 2025. Unsurprisingly when I said I wanted 100% PCR content I was told it was impossible.  Supplier after supplier, trade body after trade body and numerous Government officials all said no chance.  So not only demanding that it be 100% PCR, it also had to be Food Grade quality and 100% sourced and reprocessed in the UK – NOT going via China. They all laughed.

Eventually my belligerence paid off and a supplier said they would give it a go.  Yes it failed and then failed again. Getting a 100% PCR plus Food Safe grade was hard but third time lucky and 18 months after our first 100% sample had been attempted, we cracked it.

In December 2018 we switched all of our packaging from virgin plastic to 100% post-use recycled bottles. My little, London based SME had thrashed the global giants in creating a totally circular model, giving single-use plastic a second life. This proves that millions of tons can and must be redirected from going into landfill, incineration or the ocean and there’s a 70% carbon saving as well.

- Mark Jankovich, CEO

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