Jesper Jonsson, Director of Medical Devices at Owen Mumford, has been instrumental in establishing the company’s ESG agenda and helped to secure its recent B Corp accreditation. Responsible for Group medical device sales and marketing, he is shaping the business’ journey towards the future.
Here, he shares his thoughts on last year’s key sustainability topics and outlines how Owen Mumford is developing its own sustainability commitments
What were your top three sustainability takeaways in 2021?
The US’s return to the COP26 summit and its commitments caught my attention last year. President Biden announced an ambitious goal to create a carbon pollution-free power sector by 2035. As the second-biggest carbon dioxide emitter in the world and a nation heavily reliant on fossil fuels to power its vast industries, this is a huge commitment and a step-change in the country’s sustainability dialogue which can only be positive.
Beyond that, the US and China announced that they will work together to cut greenhouse gas emissions in the next decade. These are the world’s two biggest emitters and economies, so this roadmap feels significant.
Another important outcome last year was that countries will now revise sustainability plans each year, rather than every five years. This shows a new level of accountability and commitment to climate action that I hope will help effect change.
Have the learnings from last year’s COP26 summit resonated strongly enough to change Owen Mumford’s approach to reaching its Science-Based Targets?
Our commitment to sustainability is already well-established and we believe we are at the forefront of our industry. This year, we announced our emissions reduction targets in conjunction with the Science-Based Targets initiative (SBTi), with the goal of achieving net-zero by 2045 to mirror the UK National Health Service target.
The industry has a huge part to play in reaching sustainability goals and the ideology around climate action is growing at an exponential rate – it’s becoming a big decision factor. The truth is that those who don’t have a sustainability policy will be left behind in the next decade. Our intention is to lead by example and make clear commitments to supporting climate action – last year’s summit only reaffirmed the action we have already taken to do this.
Greenwashing was a big topic last year. How can companies ensure messaging around sustainability and climate action is authentic/conveys that there is real action being taken and not just words?
You can’t rush sustainability policies. It must connect with all parts of your business and each division needs to be working towards the same goals. At Owen Mumford, we invested a lot of time in structuring our policy to ensure we were all aligned on why it is so important to our business.
Another way to ensure policies and goals are met is to bring in a third party and thereby get an external view of your processes and activities.
Owen Mumford obtained B Corp certification in 2021. The process was strict and consisted of rigorous assessments across multiple categories. Along with evaluating compliance to the requirements of the certification, it allowed us to review our commitments and how we communicated these both internally and externally. These evaluations – which are publicly available – help to hold companies accountable for their actions and ensure their policies and messaging are authentic.
Other ways of including third-party resources could be in setting up life cycle assessments for your products, or an audit of your operations to identify areas of development.
For the manufacturing industry, certifications will likely become essential in the next few years, allowing us all to compare sustainable performance on a case-by-case basis and thereby create a fair playing field.
The COP 26 summit included announcements showing the private sector’s progress on climate action, ranging from investments on energy transition to commitments around electric vehicles. What can governments do to help companies like Owen Mumford stay accountable and handle the transition in an equitable way?
It’s essential that governments, on both a local and national scale, support businesses as they transition to more sustainable practices. Take commuting for example. Many business premises, such as Owen Mumford’s UK locations, are in rural areas which means people do travel by car. We can incentivize our workforce to switch to electric cars by improving the infrastructure and making it as smooth and easy as possible.
Government subsidies on EV charging stations and EV financing, the continued transition to a smart energy grid, and further investment in renewable energy sources will help galvanize our national sustainability offering and support businesses and individuals along the way. Ultimately, we must make the transition operationally, financially, and emotionally achievable for everyone. I mention the latter because there is still hesitation around sustainable practices, and the government has a responsibility to help educate everyone on why these kinds of changes must take precedence.
OM has recently announced B Corp certification and a commitment to the UN Global Compact’s science-based targets, what is the company doing now and planning to do to progress these initiatives?
We’re constantly reviewing and improving our infrastructure to make it more sustainable. For example, we have transitioned to 100% renewable energy sources across our UK sites, and will be expanding our EV charger units to make it easier for our team to use electric vehicles.
Another exciting initiative that we are rolling out relates to our product development. All Owen Mumford products will be designed with sustainability in mind. Of course, as producers of medical devices, there are limitations to the kinds of materials we can use and recycle, but the goal is to design products with an emissions footprint that is much smaller than that of our previous ranges. This will be crucial to us achieving our goal of 50% reduced emissions by 2030.
This is where being a smaller, nimbler, independent company is an advantage. Our agility as a company means we can commit to action much faster than a larger company with multiple stakeholders and keep pace with sustainable transformation.
Are there any other areas you’ll be focusing on in the coming years?
One thing we have spent a lot of time analyzing at Owen Mumford is where a company’s responsibility regarding sustainability ends. Businesses can encourage their workforce to engage in more sustainable practices and provide tools to help, but there is real value in a holistic approach to sustainability. I think this will become an area of focus for a lot of companies as they develop their sustainability policies and endeavor to bring their workforce on the journey with them.