VERY MUCH REINFORCING its already well-established credentials as one of the greenest businesses around, towards the end of last year used kit specialist MPB created a brand-new dedicated role in the company to ensure that every step was being taken to reduce its environmental impact while also focusing on circularity, diversity and net zero carbon transition.

Ten months on from taking up her position as Head of Sustainability, we asked Rachel Thompson to fill us in on the things that have already changed, and the plans she has going forward to make MPB even more of a role model for companies looking to reduce their carbon footprint.

Q First off, can I ask what your role at MPB involves please?

MPB has always taken sustainability seriously, and has long incorporated green and inclusive principles in its operations and recruitment. My role is to formalise what we’re already doing and to further establish goals, actions and reporting mechanisms that will help to continually improve our sustainability performance.

Q I understand that you had that same role at Gatwick Airport, and that you’re the first person to take up this newly-created position at MPB. Why do you think there’s a growing need for people in roles such as yours?

What’s driving the sustainability agenda is the evident need for bolder and faster action to protect the climate and nature, and to improve inclusion and fairness. Business has a key role to play in these issues. I think all companies, and public sector bodies as well, need a sustainability action plan and senior people who are accountable for it. The bigger you are, the more you need to be doing.

Q We spoke to MPB’s founder and CEO Matt Barker for our green issue this time last year, and it was clear back then that the company takes its environmental responsibilities very seriously. What was your mandate when you took up your role?

We started with a review of what we were already doing and where the key gaps might be in terms of data, policies and initiatives. This fed into our action plan and goals for 2025. One of the first practical things I did was to work out MPB’s carbon footprint for 2021, which involved collecting business data and talking to colleagues about energy, water, waste and recycling, transport, IT, advertising and procurement. This gives you a baseline to improve, and it also shows where you might already be doing innovative things.

Q Obviously, the very ethos of galvanising the used camera market is itself environmentally sound, but what about such things as packaging and the disposal of waste electrical goods?

Our packaging is already plastic-free: we only use paper and cardboard that’s made from some recycled content and can be fully recycled. We recycle or donate electrical kit at the end of its life, and we’re making sure our furniture, warehouse equipment, IT and marketing merch is reusable.

Q I understand that, amongst the things you’re particularly looking at, are the areas of circularity, diversity and net zero carbon transition. Could you give some feedback on how you’re looking to address each of these areas please?

On circularity, it’s about extending re-use principles in our own operations, so things like buying used furniture, donating IT kit and finding ways to re-use or recycle camera bags is on the agenda. On diversity, it’s about helping to make visual storytelling accessible and inclusive to people from all backgrounds, and ensuring our workplaces are inclusive and diverse. The net zero transition is about choosing suppliers – landlords, energy companies, couriers, airlines – that are committed to investing in reducing and removing carbon.

Q Obviously all of these aims are really admirable, but I imagine some of them could be costly and, potentially, maybe even painful, to achieve. By appointing you, MPB clearly is willing to move in this direction, but might other less committed companies perhaps find some of the things they need to be doing too difficult to implement?

As more people and companies adopt green solutions, the cost falls through economies of scale. In my experience, the cost is not so much financial as one of time. You need to compare and check a product or service’s sustainability credentials which, in turn, is easier if you can source it closer to home. Obviously financial pressures are intense right now and value for money is essential. However, the climate crisis isn’t going to wait either, so products and services that save money and reduce carbon and waste are going to be in demand.

Q A lot of our readers are small one- or two-person photographic businesses, many of which are likewise committed to doing their bit for the environment. Obviously buying and selling used kit rather than new is one way they can contribute, but what other ways could you recommend that ordinary small businesses can cut down on their carbon footprint?

The main elements of the carbon footprint in a small photography business will be the fuel and energy used by the premises, along with the website, couriers and packaging. In the UK, both market leaders and green start-ups in these sectors are making a feature of working out their carbon footprints at business customer account level, and they should be able to do this, or at least estimate it, for SME customers. I’d start there and then ask what they are doing, or planning to do, to bring their carbon footprint – and thus yours – down.

Q inally, what plans do you have for the future that will enable MPB to get even closer to its environmental goals?

We’re talking to our landlords about energy efficiency and solar power, and also to our packaging suppliers about the timeline for 100% recycled content packaging. We are also working on our employee volunteering and charity partnership policy, which will support action for the natural environment, diversity and inclusion.

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MPB has been leading the way in terms of making the entire process of selling and buying used equipment easier and safer to negotiate.

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