For the latest feature in our Get Back to Nature series, MiND caught up with, Sea to Summit, co-Founder Tim McCartney-Snape. Having learned in our previous interview with Tim that this is a brand with a knowledgeable and innovative approach to design, we were curious to find out what had sparked this tradition, from a green perspective.
Sea to Summit is not only a global name in the outdoor industry for its technical and functional range of products but equally for its investment and spread of good word within sustainable development. They are a brand that is constantly striving to respect and give back to the environment, by being openly honest and ambitious within a constantly evolving market.
In our exclusive interview with Tim McCartney-Snape, he reveals why using eco-friendly practices are not just beneficial to the success of your business, but also for your own health conscious.
What does being ethical mean to you?
Tim McCartney-Snape: Humans have a conscience, it is our pre-conscious, instinctive inbuilt sense of right and wrong, we all have it, yet at times we all struggle to live up to it and the universal ideals derived from it – that is the essence of the human condition. Our condition is the consequence of our unique fully conscious cortex developing over that, creating a struggle between the two that has left us unavoidably insecure and frustrated. ( see: www.worldtransformation.com) The point is we all try our best to live up to the ideals. So ‘being ethical’ to me is doing my best, despite all my insecurities, to live up those ideals – to stand for what is right and to look beyond myself to look after others and that which supports us all, the planet.
What do you believe to be the biggest issue within the ethical industry today that needs the most addressing?
Tim McCartney-Snape: With regard to being ethical within an industry, there is, of course, the tension between profitability and responsibility. The aim is to achieve both but it’s not always easy and it’s too easy to pay lip-service to being responsible without actually delivering on it. So-called ‘greenwash’ is very real.
At a deeper level, we need, to be honest with ourselves and admit that the source of all our problems relate back to our human condition, the insecurities it fosters and to not let them overwhelm us. We should admit, accept them, then put them aside in the knowledge that it’s not our fault but that of our unavoidable human condition. Doing that brings clarity and lets us more easily look beyond the need to make ourselves ‘feel good’ by adopting some superficial cause but genuinely get joy by working for the greater good.
Was your company born out of an Eco focus or did it have to evolve to become more ethical? Was this a challenging adjustment? How did you overcome these obstacles?
Tim McCartney-Snape: Sea to Summit was born out of a passion for the outdoors and the gear we use to make it more enjoyable. Of course, anyone who spends enough time in nature comes to respect and want to protect it. But starting a new business is never easy and so naturally all your energy and effort goes into making the business viable. Like most start-ups, we struggled to become viable and it was quite a few years before we started slowly becoming profitable. Only then did we have the ability to start thinking of supporting causes that help preserve natural places. Of course, in terms of our own in-house practices, we always recycled and did our best to minimize our impact. We made an informed decision about what materials to use in our packaging, choosing the best holistic option – polypropylene, over the then fashionable but more holistically damaging option of recycled paper.
Deciding to help start the Leave No Trace initiative in Australia wasn’t hard, it seemed a natural thing to do because the ethic of traveling through nature leaving the minimum of disturbance has always ben a goal of mine and one all outdoor enthusiasts should aspire to.
In terms of innovation, how have you incorporated ethical procedures into your business? Have you ever sacrificed sustainability over profitably to remain a competitor?
Tim McCartney-Snape: There is always a tension between sustainability and profitability. Of course, only a profitable business is economically sustainable, the practices you use to achieve that profitability and the long-term impact of the products you produce is the question that you always have to keep asking yourself. Every activity has a social and environmental impact and the challenge, just like when you go out in nature, is to do it in a way that leaves as little trace as possible! A businesses social impact is more tangible because you get positive feedback immediately if you treat people equally, fairly and positively no matter what their station in life.
At what moment did you realize/feel like your business was really making an impact? Do you feel like your implementations to go ethical are making a difference?
Tim McCartney-Snape: In terms of the businesses’ success, there was no one point where we stepped back and thought, ‘Wow we are making an impact and are successful!’ in fact we still think that in many ways we are still on the road to making the kind of impact that we would like. Being ethical in the way we do business will always be crucial in taking us towards a business with an impeccable reputation. But it is a process that continues to evolve and improve and as long as you are committed to that goal, there will be a positive impact on the business.
I think the greatest impact we could have is by making cool gear that influences people’s behavior by making it easier to influence them to travel in and enjoy nature. Nature is psychologically healing and the world is in increasing need of it. And only by experiencing nature can you really be inspired to protect it.
What are you future targets in terms of ethical responsibility? How are you moving forward with your objective to remain “sustainable”?
Tim McCartney-Snape: In a small way, we have just built a new office and warehouse – Sea to Summit’s new global ‘home’ in Perth, Western Australia with a roof covered in solar panels so that during a normal sunny day we make more electricity than needed for the building. Of course, all our cardboard and plastic wrapping is recycled. We will remain committed to making our packaging recyclable. We will continue to fund, support and promote Leave No Trace Australia and overseas. When funds permit we would like to also look at supporting grassroots movements dedicated to preserving wild places and promoting recreation in them.
Of course, we will continue striving to make cool gear that makes people just want to get out and use it!