Planting the seeds of change to grow a circular economy – share, lease, reuse, repair, refurbish, and recycle.
As founder of YoungPlanet and valued non-executive director here at Aiimi, eco-conscious Jason Ash wears more than one hat. Helen Patenall chats to Jason about his views on reducing waste.
Hi Jason. What’s your role, why did you join, and what do you most like about Aiimi?
Hi Helen! Officially, I’m a non-executive director, but I enjoy getting involved in all things commercial on top of my more governance-focused role for the board. It’s rare to find such unique combinations of talent, purpose, and client delivery in one place – Aiimi oozes these! I feel extremely lucky to be welcomed into such a dynamic team, and I’m excited to play a small part in this journey we’re on together. I most like the biscuits in the kitchen! More seriously, the supportive and collegiate atmosphere. And that meeting customer needs is front and centre of everything everyone does, internally and externally. It’s in the DNA of everyone, and that’s inspiring.
Of Aiimi’s values – be brave, expert, caring, and have integrity – which do you most identify?
The Aiimi team lives by these four core values each and every day. I identify most with ‘Be Brave’ – not because I’m particularly brave, but because it’s central to Aiimi’s culture. Being brave is central to raising the bar in all walks of life, and Aiimi encourages this, supports it, and accepts that it doesn’t always come off – but encourages everyone on the team to get up, get on, and try again. As individuals within our communities and businesses, we’re all facing environmental challenges. We must all be brave, right here, right now – and this calls for a concerted effort to make greener decisions.
In my professional and personal life, the closest I get to having regrets is for those things I almost do, but don’t quite get to do. This is how YoungPlanet came about – there were so many reasons for us not to do it, but we overcame the inertia and just went for it! It got to the point where we just had to do it. And yes, it was scary and risky, but we simply knew it was the right thing to do. So, we did it. I guess that’s brave.
Are companies like Aiimi obligated to take a stance on environmental impacts?
In terms of a problem, it doesn’t get any bigger than overconsumption of the world’s resources to the point of its destruction – which, let’s be very clear, is the path we’re on as a cohort of seven billion people. We can’t afford to be anything but sustainable at bare minimum, and being corrective would be even better for sure. And yes, absolutely, businesses are obliged – and it’s far more than taking a stance. It’s in our business interests. It’s not a ‘do good’ thing, it’s a ‘must do’ thing for future success.
So, how’s Aiimi supporting greener initiatives?
In 2020, Aiimi certified Carbon Neutral Plus, offsetting its annual emissions through a clean water project in Uganda. Aiimi’s now on a journey to offset all its emissions, right back to 2013 when it was founded. There’s plenty more in the pipeline, so watch this space!
I’ve heard about your sustainable app, YoungPlanet. What’s it all about?
I created the YoungPlanet app with my wife, Emma, with the aim of empowering a more sustainable world, free from unnecessary waste. It begins this greener cycle by addressing the current high-waste, high-cost environment of parenting and raising a family. Giving pre-loved objects a completely new lease of life is a concept we’re all familiar with, but by using technology for good our free-to-use platform digitises and scales up this hand-me-down process and magnifies its positive impact. YoungPlanet helps meet the ever-changing needs of growing families, while reducing the costs of raising a family. It declutters homes and limits our landfill. An all-round win-win.
What got you started on this eco (ad)venture?
From a personal perspective, having three children who constantly grow and move on from things! And professionally, I’m constantly fascinated by the ‘why’ behind people’s behaviour because of my finance, strategy, brands, and marketing background. Coupled with living and working in several countries and communities, Emma and I have had big inflection points along the way. Tactically, when moving, there’s been limits to what we could put in a shipping container, so we’ve had to take stock of what we have, what we really need, and what we use. It’s a lot less than we thought.
From our research, it’s clear that our environmental impact is complicated and oversimplified. If it were just about not eating meat or not getting on a plane, we’d have solved it by now. For households, it’s about several relatively small (and sometimes advantageous) behavioural changes that add up to something much bigger. YoungPlanet came about as an output of that journey.
What’s your overall hope and goals for YoungPlanet?
A world without unnecessary waste – and a generation growing up to see second-hand as their first choice, without detriment to the experience. Plus, the bonus of a positive effect on the world. Currently, we’ve got more than 10 per cent household penetration across London, and in 2022 we’re launching internationally in several markets – there’s no reason why we can’t have the breadth and depth of eBay. We enable people to declutter, give joy, and help save the planet... the more people who do this, the merrier we’re all be!
What’s this I hear about YoungPlanet making it to the top 20 of Accenture’s Blue Tulip Awards?
We scored high for Scaleability, Impact, and Responsible Innovation within the Responsible Consumption & Production section. We’re super chuffed to sit alongside some brilliantly impactful businesses at this penultimate stage. Who knows where it might head next! We’re also proud to feature in TechRound’s Tech for Good movement as a Top 10 company for 2021 for our use of digital tech to drive positive impacts on our environment and communities.
What more can families do to reduce their carbon footprint, make greener choices, and support the circular economy?
Stuff that already exists can be used again, with the added benefit that, via the app, you don’t have to spend any money on it. Plastics used in children’s objects have a half-life of over 300 years, so there’s a great deal of life left in what’s sat dormant in our cupboards and lofts.
It’s best to reduce waste, fix things, reuse things, grow your own, and try to avoid single-use items. Buy biodegradable wet wipes and reusable nappies. If you must buy toys, buy quality with longevity in mind (obviously look on YoungPlanet first 😊). Reduce your meat intake, be curious – ask about animal welfare and sourcing; for most people, this will naturally reduce reliance on meat. Walk or cycle whenever and wherever you can.
The convergence of nostalgia with modernity in the current environment is interesting. After WW2, resources were incredibly scarce, creating a ‘make do and mend’ culture with scant waste. Today, this pressure is environmental rather than financial, but the principles stay the same – it’s within our gift as households to significantly reduce our footprints with many small and well-informed choices; earlier generations have risen to the challenge, so with the aid of technology, we will too.
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