2021 Sustainability Trends

Written by Nancy de Fays and Quentin Malgaud

Today’s Earth Day, and it’s a special day. As of today, LINEDOCK is officially Climate Neutral Certified. We're one of the 230 companies that measured their 2020 carbon footprint, offset it entirely by investing in climate change solutions, and implemented plans to reduce our future emissions. As sustainability is a topic dear to our hearts, we took the time to interview a few fellow tech companies making an impact.

Here are some key takeaways.

Listen to the full interviews on Spotify

Turning waste into Daily Products.
Discussion with Jeremy Lang (Pela Founder)

Timeless Design and Brands Impact.
Discussion with Lawrence Lander (Peak Design Creative Director)

From Charge Card to a Philanthropic Company.
Discussion with Brian Hahn (NOMAD Co-Founder)

Corporate Sustainability.
Discussion with Stefan Eriksson (Konftel Chief Marketing Officer)

Lesson #1: Materials and design

Sustainability starts early. One of the key takeaways that stood out from our interviews is that sustainability is already happening at the inception stage. In our interview with Lawrence Lander, Peak Design's Creative Director, we talked about the fundamentals of timelessness design.

"The first decision we make is at designing the product, even before we've gotten into the specifics of what does it look like. However good the materials are, if it's a thing that doesn't have a long life span and needs to be replaced before its time, that's bad." Lawrence Lander, Peak Design

According to Lawrence, what truly sets sustainable companies apart is their ability to build products meant to last long (we're talking 10-15 years) and when the whole organisation embraces sustainability: from material sourcing, to designing for serviceability, all the way down to afterlife. Building a product that lasts requires a lot of design thinking very early in the process, way before CMF (Color, Material and Fabric) process.

Timeless Design at Peak Design

Flax straw material (Flaxstic) developed by Pela

Timeless Design at Peak Design

We were also blown away by the insatiable curiosity towards materials. It almost seems like a prerequisite for any consumer product founder. This obsession naturally breaks down into better materials for the environment. Whether it is at the core of the business, or by meticulous materials evaluation in their product lines, companies pay an increasingly high attention to the raw material used in their product parts. This involves sourcing from new innovative suppliers, further nurturing an entire ecosystem of eco-responsible suppliers.

Flax straw material (Flaxstic) developed by Pela

"Our initiative this year is to try to find a legitimate plant-based leather solution." Brian Hahn, NOMAD

At NOMAD, the team is actively working on an alternative to leather for all their leather-based products.

At Pela, Founder Jeremy Lang developed a compostable plastic compound made out of flax and commercialises it in their iPhone cases and watch straps. "Traditional plastics were engineered to last a long time and be strong. Bio-polymers or bio-plastics can be made from renewable materials and have different chemistry so they can biodegrade in a compost environment and go back into the earth in months instead of hundreds of years." says Jeremy.

At Peak Design, the team developed their own nylon polyester blend using 100% post consumer recycled polyester and 100% post industrial recycled nylon, in collaboration with Repreve. 3 million water bottles of recycled plastic have been used so far.

Lesson #2: Greener Supply Chain

Since the early 80's, North American and European companies have been mainly focusing on building brands and services, while production and manufacturing activities were transferred to Asia. Today, the great majority of goods we use in our daily life is still made there. While cheaper labor used to be the #1 reason to relocate manufacturing overseas a few years ago, the story is different today. Asia, with China leading the way, has become the factory of the world and the industrial network there is concentrated, qualitative, and extremely skilled. Labour costs are no longer as competitive as they used to be, but the savoir-faire and the industrial fabric are real. Thus, every brand we've met and talked to had some degree of production happening in Asia. We are no exception.

At the Peak Design factory

“ Leading manufacturers know customers and businesses are demanding more sustainable manufacturing practices, and they see it as a competitive advantage, which is great to see.” Jeremy Lang, Pela

From a sustainability value-chain perspective, this means that a lot is happening far from our comfortable, pet-friendly offices, and startup design studios. It's right in the kitchen, not just in the storefront.

Incentivizing suppliers to improve their practices is thus an essential step towards sustainability. But how ?

At Pela, they've started working with manufacturing partners to help them purchase green energy.

"It might take some more time", says Jeremy. But on the path to sustainability, engaging the supply chain down to its roots is essential and worth it in the end.

Lesson #3: Packaging

Plastic packaging should (hopefully) be soon a thing of the past with most tech companies finally doing what it takes to eliminate any plastic or non-paper material from their packaging.
At LINE, our packaging is fully compostable since 2019.
At NOMAD, the team created a complex folded paper mechanism to replace magnets in their closure mechanisms and even found a way to replace the plastic hang tab with braided paper rope. Hang tabs are mandatory for anything going to retail and paper versions tend to rip out, leading to damaged packaging, which are taken off from the shelves and back to the factory (at best). Nomad has been working really hard on this issue for over 2 years and is rightfully proud of the solution they found. “It’s extremely durable and looks really cool and premium. I’d love to share that with people and even share the factory that’s doing that.” says Brian.
Beyond the innovation itself, what matters even more is the willingness of the inventors to share their technologies in an effort to make earth a better world for everyone. This resonates with Elon Musk making all Tesla patents public back in 2014, and with the analogy of earth being a sinking ship: “ It’d be foolish of us not to share that nice bucket design”.
Pela uses plain paper envelopes to ship their cases across the world, and Konftel also did the switch to a 100% paper-based packaging for their audioconferencing products in 2020.

Konftel 100% paper-based packaging and supplies in Sweden

Lesson #4: Shipping

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been more awareness around shipping, an area somewhat overlooked until companies started hiring real environmental consultants. Boat shipping and last-mile air shipping (from the warehouse to the end customer) being large CO2 emission contributors, some brands start innovating by reorganising the number of warehouses around the globe.

We are making sure that we have distribution centres in Europe to reach our European customers and in the US to reach our North American customers. We are shortening our shipping routes so it doesn’t have to go from China to the United States, and then shipped to Europe." Jeremy Lang, Pela

Shipping is also one of the reasons that motivated the relocation of the LINEDOCK 13" and LINEDOCK 16" final assembly from Asia to Europe, as spare parts can be shipped in much smaller boxes than the final products.

Lesson #5: The Afterlife

A first step towards more responsible products has been to upgrade quality as a broken product means buying the exact same one over and over. Recently, a bigger emphasis has been brought to the product afterlife, with companies innovating in different directions. Peak Design is launching “The PD marketplace” where Peak Design gear owners can resell their goods second hand. At LINE, thanks to our European factory location and the serviceability of the LINEDOCK 13", we launched Re/Furb, a program allowing customers to purchase factory refurbished products at a discounted price.
Pela is literally burying their cases in compost piles to verify their compostability and comparing with other cases manufacturers.
NOMAD launched a different program called "Cable for the planet" where they encourage end-users to donate to NGOs in exchange for placing an order. This last initiative is slightly outside of the afterlife scope but nonetheless interesting as it tackles the problem of “ageing inventory”, a business reality often overlooked or hidden by companies.
Nomad addresses this with great transparency: “Instead of taking ageing inventory and throwing it away (which is what does happen in the industry, it’s quite terrible) we just said we would give it for free but you have to donate a certain amount. That turned bad inventory, which all brands have, into positive social good." says Brian.

 

Lesson #6: Lead By Example

A common trait found across all interviews was a deep will to lead by example. While most of the interviewed companies operate in very competitive industries, they all seem to be moved by a greater good and are not afraid to take extraordinary measures that could be seen as detrimental from a pure economical standpoint, in order to reach their environmental objectives. Konftel decided to convert its fleet of company cars to EV's, and implemented a travel policy forbidding employees to travel by airplane to any destination located less than 600km /372 miles.

Nomad has been actively involved in the distribution of medical equipments throughout the pandemic.

At Line we recently unveiled a battery recycling program, in collaboration with BeBat while Peak Design co-founded the Climate Neutral initiative.

" It’s not the government, it’s the company’s responsibility. So it’s our responsibility as a US company to do something about it."
Brian Hahn, NOMAD

NOMAD supplied millions of masks to hospitals when Covid-19 virus paralysed the US.

Lesson #7: Climate Neutrality

Carbon neutrality means having a balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. As a brand, it's about offsetting all of the emissions it takes to run a business, produce products or services, and deliver them to customers. Is that enough ? Of course not. But it's a good start.

" We looked at the cost to offset a ton of carbon dioxide and it really blew us away how affordable it was. That caught us off guard. Our CEO Peter Dering was blown away at the sum total of money it took to offset our entire, not only that years’ carbon footprint, but our historic carbon footprint."
Lawrence Lander, Peak Design

Climate Neutral was founded by Peak Design Founder Peter Dering and Jonathan Cedar of BioLite in 2018.
As founders and CEOs of carbon neutral companies, Peter and Jonathan shared the same burning question:
Why isn’t every company not going carbon neutral ? The answer: measuring a company’s carbon footprint can take a long time and requires a ton of capital, and these barriers prevent companies from measuring their carbon footprints. Moreover, carbon offsetting is widely misunderstood, misrepresented, and poorly marketed, both to brands and to consumers. Peter and Jonathan decided to fund the launch of Climate Neutral as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit in early 2019. Source : climateneutral.org.

Climate Neutral certified 230 brands this Earth Day 2021, offsetting more than 700,000 tonnes of carbon.

Our Climate Neutral Engagement

At LINE, we've offset 204 tonnes of carbon by supporting three projects focused on conserving forest ecosystems in Indonesia, Brazil, and the US. We are also actively working on reducing our 2021 footprint and using more sustainable materials in our supply chain. More about our sustainability commitment can be found here.