A green approach is quickly transitioning away something that is ‘nice to have’ to an essential component of a company’s strategy.
To Jolyon Bennett, who heads up UK tech accessories manufacturer Juice, being environmentally friendly is non-negotiable. Bennett has transformed the mobile phone accessories sector, having consistently introduced a series of quality, vibrant and consumer-focused products to market, ranging from portable power banks through to super-fast chargers.
He takes us under the bonnet of his firm’s sustainability drive.
You have recently removed all single-use plastic from your entire product range – why?
Jolyon Bennett (JB): “Why wouldn’t you? Single-use plastic is one of the biggest polluters in manufacturing – it uses 3% of the entire planet’s oil consumption. This year, it’s forecast that there will be 50kg of plastic waste for every single one of the eight billion human beings on planet earth – that’s a lot! Consumers, manufacturers and brand owners like myself all need to get on board with the fact that we’re going to need to use and re-use plastic packaging to make different things.
“Why have we done it? Because it’s totally the right thing to do. We need to stop making so much plastic and we need start reusing what we’ve already got. We need to stop cutting down trees in order to make paper and cardboard – let the trees grow and re-use what we’ve got. It just makes sense on a planetary level to stop consuming quite so much and start being just a bit more content with what we’ve got. Why do we need to make ‘new new new’ all the time?”
What have you used instead of virgin plastic?
JB: “We’re reusing, reusing, reusing. Did you know that recycled plastic – depending on its quality and density – can be recycled and re-used between seven and 200 times. Isn’t that unbelievable? It’s such an amazing material. Plastic is a vibe, and we should be re-using it. Juice is using post-consumer waste such as Evian bottles to make speakers, old milk cartons to make power banks and so much more!”
Why do you love plastic?
JB: “I just think we’ve got a lot of it so why not reuse it? I admire the material because it’s so durable – it’s an incredible scientific breakthrough to be able to make something that’s not only waterproof and heatproof but lasts for up to 3,000 years. There are so many different elements that make plastic a great material. I would prefer it if we didn’t have any, but that’s not going to solve the current (and ever-growing) problem of plastic waste finding its way into our oceans, and burying it isn’t the answer either. The problem is with us humans is that we just shy away from the truth – l don’t want to shy away, I want to face these problems head on and meet the challenge.”
Has Juice taken a financial hit to make this happen?
JB: “As an example, we sell around three million cables a year (based on last year’s figures) and each piece of packaging that we are making using post-consumer waste costs us between $0.15 and $0.25 more, so as a minimum, our increased cost for doing this is almost half a million dollars. But I still think it’s the right thing to do. Money is made up – the world could end and money would no longer matter, so let’s stop making decisions based purely on money and let’s start making decisions based on the right thing to do.”
How do you rate the overall quality of the ‘Eco’ products compared to the ones they have superseded?
JB: “There is absolutely no difference whatsoever, so I rate them just as highly.”
Do customers really want these eco products or is this more for your own conscience?
JB: “I don’t suffer from guilt so in that respect I don’t feel driven by my conscience to do this – doing the right thing has its own gravity and its own way of whisking you forward. Generally, I believe that people and businesses that do the right things will prosper. I’m a firm believer in the philosophy of ‘do the right thing and good things will happen’ so it’s a strategic choice to do something that has a positive impact because positive things attract positive things. While not every consumer or every retailer is especially interested in our sustainability drive, I do think this is shifting slightly. Maybe I do have a conscience, but the reality is that it’s the right thing to do, and the right thing gets rewarded in the end.”
Are retailers keen to stock them?
JB: “We haven’t given them a choice! We changed all of our products because we wanted to and we are adamant that even though the materials we are using are different, our products still perform just as well, if not better.”
Should other tech brands follow suit?
JB: “Of course they should, and we would happily help them do so. We’re willing to introduce other tech brands to our suppliers and guide them through the same process we’ve taken, sharing our knowledge – including the hurdles we’ve overcome – because it’s the right thing to do. I don’t understand why any brand would want to continue producing virgin plastic when they don’t have to, it just doesn’t make any sense to me.”
What advice would you give to other brands wanting to embark on this process of removing single-use plastic from their products?
JB: “Do it. Stop messing about – get on with it and do it. Although it may cost you a bit more in the short term, we’ve proven that consumers do generally buy more of your products if you are making the right decisions towards the environment, so you will reap this extra cost back whilst also doing the right thing.”
What is next for Juice?
JB: “I want Juice to be a brand that limits its impact. We’re currently doing this with our manufacturing and through our supply chain and the way that we conduct ourselves in general. I want to start releasing products that have a positive impact on humans as well as the planet – I’m a firm believer that everyone can win. There will always be a demand for technology, so I don’t believe that we should be fighting against it, however, I would very much like to see people taking their technology off grid.
“My dream is to be able to take every mobile phone on planet earth off grid and start generating our own personal electricity. I want to create products that link to your activity – imagine if you could run 5k and the kinetic activity could generate enough energy to a charge a device such as a phone or a laptop while you do it? I’m interested in organic solutions to current chemical problems such as organic battery cells using salt water and algae as a storage method of electricity – so much so that we’re currently in discussions with a photosynthesis harvesting electronics brand about using photosynthesis as a charging capability!
“I want to get more connected with nature and I think you can have it all – I think we can still enjoy modern technology as well as the beautiful world around us. If we can utilise our intelligence in the right way, we can all live in a perfectly harmonious symbiotic relationship with amazing technology products and a sustainable environment for all wildlife.”