One Planet Live Q&As: The Conscious Consumer
Apr. 8, 2021
In our first live Q&A, Roddy Clarke was joined by Anglepoise MD, Simon Terry; the founder of Graphenstone Paints, Patrick Folkes; and interior designer Katie Seidler to discuss the power of shopping with a conscious mindset, and how brands and consumers can work closer together in the fight for a sustainable future. Scroll down to read the highlights and find out more...
Interior stylist and design journalist, Roddy Clarke’s passion for furniture and antiques was ignited by his father, a well-known china and porcelain restorer. With a breadth of skills and hands-on experience, Roddy offers an exclusive interior styling and design service.
This year, Roddy co-founded a new platform, The Restoration Collection, which will be striving to revive the restoration industry from an educational and intergenerational standpoint. Over the next year, The Restoration Collection will launch and develop to open pathways for younger people to explore opportunities within the industry directly.
Shopping with a conscious mindset doesn’t mean you have to compromise on style
– Roddy Clarke
Serial entrepreneur since the ‘90s, Patrick Folkes was intrigued by the potential of Graphenstone, natural, highly-sustainable, air-purifying natural paints reinforced by graphene and introduced it to the UK in 2018. Launching the perfect product at a time of urgent need, Graphenstone is now one of the world’s most certified eco paints in the world with a list of UK clients.
Interior designer and co-founder of Hello Haus, Katie Seidler is an expert on how to create a timeless and less-wasteful home. Katie’s goal is for all homes to be somewhere her clients can retreat to and provide quiet from everyday noise and designing spaces with longevity in mind and avoiding trends that could be easily replaced after a few years.
Owner and joint managing director for renowned UK lighting manufacturer Anglepoise and the 5th generation of his family to be at the helm, Simon sees himself as custodian of the brand and its DNA. With a keen eye on the future and the legacy of Anglepoise, he’s focused on developing new meaningful collaborations as well as introducing new initiatives, reducing the use of single use plastics across the company and reinforcing the importance of designing a product that’s been built to last, not built to break.
What sets Graphenstone apart from other paint companies and why has it achieved such credibility?
Patrick:The paint industry is huge and it’s so ready and so much in need of change. And it starts with knowledge, the consumer knowing more about what they’re buying into, for example we need to inform people that with paint it’s not just about color. We should all demand where we can for evidence and certifications that support the claims brands make. And that’s what sets Graphenstone apart, our independent valuations and certifications, we have more than any other paint company.
We don’t want you to take our word for it – we want to be able to show you the evidence.
– Patrick Folkes
What encouraged you to make such a bold commitment with your lifetime guarantee?
Simon: Last year we started to really look at ourselves and we came up with a phrase, which is less of a tag line and more of a ‘movement line’ as it’s been designed to be something that will stay with us for years to come and those words are “abandon darkness”. In themselves, they’re bold words to use, especially for a lighting company, but really it allowed us to take stock of where we were at and draw a line in the sand as a business.
We’ve always been really focused on creating products that will last and that’s been true since the beginning, but what we’ve never really done is say “we make products that last and here’s a lifetime guarantee to support that,” this is us putting our money where our mouth is. The decision was never based on anything financial, and it felt like the right thing for us to do as a company. It wasn't just because our return rates are low, we did this as a statement of intent and in the hope that other brands would follow, and no products would end up in a landfill. I truly believe that if you genuinely can’t offer more than a two-year guarantee on a product, you shouldn’t be making it.
You have to change and evolve; you can’t just be a dusty design icon.
– Simon Terry
As a buyer of products for the home, how do you consciously make choices and selections that sit with your ethos of durability, timelessness, and sustainability?
Katie: The big things I always look for are the materials that I’m selecting and being mindful of how long it'll last, how durable it is and if it’ll need replacing. Wood for example is always a go-to for me, whether it’s furniture, tables, or chairs because it’s reusable, you can restore it and it can be recycled easily. However, when you’re shopping online or in store, it’s not that obvious where the materials have been sourced, so it's important for brands to share this information.
It’s about buying less, buying better, and buying with the second life in mind.
– Roddy Clarke
Where does the responsibility lie to make the right changes – is it with the consumers or the brands?
Patrick: Both parties. Brands should inform as well as offer great quality products so there’s no reason for people to go back to less ecological option. The consumer should have an interest and a conscience as their decisions have such an impact on ecological issues and on their own health.
Simon: The producers. I don’t think consumers want choices, they want the best option that’s good for them and good for the planet. For far too long, producers have been pushing the problem onto the consumers under the guise of consumer choice, it’s up to the company to step up and take responsibility. Once you realize that you’re part of the problem, you’re perfectly placed to solve it.
Katie: Both. As a consumer if my only choice is that it’s sustainable that’s an easy decision to make, but where we have so many options it’s on the consumer to make the right conclusion. Equally, consumers need to push on brands who aren’t doing enough and to say, “this is what we want” and we need to ask more questions.
There’s so many facets to sustainability and it’s important to pay attention to each one
– Roddy Clarke
How can we be sustainable with the growth of consumerism?
Patrick: Deliver the right products and the people will give you that growth.
Simon: By understanding how you can be less impactful. I do believe that you can be in a place where you can sell more but impact less because of the way you design, make, and support your products.
Do you feel optimistic about the future when it comes to sustainability?
Simon: I am hugely positive because I’m seeing a lot of changes. The things we’re talking about now would have fallen flat on it’s face five years ago; it wouldn’t have worked at all. Brands need to stop ‘green-cocking’ (which is green-washing on one side and the peacock ‘big display’ on the other) and just get on and do the right thing. People will always support you doing the right thing; you can’t buy culture, you can’t impose it on your business, culture is something you feel, you can’t fake it.
Patrick: I concur, there’s a huge growth of awareness about climate change issues, it’s lead to a compounding of interest in sustainability and upcycling. I think it’s a one-way street and I’m hugely optimistic that man and his incredible inventiveness is going to develop new technologies and come up with a rescue for all these problems.
From your point of view have you seen movement from brands and do you feel optimistic?
Katie: Very optimistic. I love lots of Danish brands that offer these new schemes where customers can give back their furniture, the brand will restore it and resell it on another platform so other people can enjoy that product at a pre-loved price. It gives everyone an opportunity to buy into that brand in different ways but keeping things moving in a cycle.
Is sustainability too generic a term?
Roddy: Yes – if you’re going to make these claims you must have the evidence to back it up.