A former board member of one of the world’s biggest companies and White House climate change advisor has joined a Cambridge University start-up making plastic from peas.
Cambridge spin-out Xampla adds sustainability leader as Chair; earns B Corp status
As Unilever’s Chief Sustainability Officer Jeff Seabright is credited with turning the multi-national into a sustainability leader. His appointment takes him from heading the sustainability operations of a company with an annual turnover of £50 billion—across 155,000 staff in 190 countries and 400 household-name products—to one that so far has no sales, no products, and 10 staff.
Mr Seabright said: “We’ve known we’ve had a plastic crisis for a long time. The biggest problem with plastic is also its biggest strength. Its durability is great when you are protecting your product but a nightmare afterwards. The great conundrum has been to find a product that is cheap and durable without lasting forever on our planet.
“Xampla is the most exciting innovation I have worked on. It has the potential to have a positive impact on a global scale and is a ground-breaking solution for industries in desperate need of natural alternatives to plastic. I am very pleased to be joining as Chair at this critical time.”
Mr Seabright brings a wide range of environmental and commercial expertise from a two-decade long career in sustainability. Before joining Unilever he was Vice President of Environment & Water Resources at Coca Cola. He also led the Clinton White House Task Force on Climate Change.
Mr Seabright will champion Xampla’s sustainability efforts as it brings its natural plastic alternatives to market. In April, Cambridge Enterprise co-led a £2 million seed round for Xampla, which has created the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use, aiming to eradicate the need for single-use plastics. Its bio-based materials, some made from pea protein, decompose naturally and fully without harming the environment.
Based on research that was developed over 15 years at the University of Cambridge, Xampla’s mission is to replace everyday plastics including bags, sachets, flexible packaging films, edible labels, and microplastics used in homecare and personal products. Its first range of products will be launched in 2021.
Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said: “Jeff’s appointment has come at a pivotal point for the company. We are designing our products to meet the sustainability requirements of major companies like Unilever, and Jeff’s experience and leadership will ensure sustainability is our focus as we scale our business.
Dr Elaine Loukes, Investment Director, Cambridge Enterprise said: “We couldn’t be more pleased by the news of Xampla’s continued success. Xampla originated at the University, and we continue to work closely with the team.
“Impact is of the utmost importance to us, and Xampla is a prime example of a technology created at the University being developed through a commercial spin-out to make the world a better place. We are looking forward to seeing what the future holds for Xampla with Mr Seabright at the helm.”
Professor Andy Neely, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Enterprise and Business Relations, University of Cambridge, said: “The University of Cambridge is committed to seeking innovative solutions to the climate crisis. Companies like Xampla that apply cutting-edge University research to solving urgent environmental problems—and which have the potential to achieve impact at scale—have a vital role to play in global efforts to achieve a zero-carbon future.”
Kate Sandle, B Lab UK’s Director of Programmes and Engagement, said: “Xampla is a B Corp through and through, a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability to balance profit for purpose.
“It’s fantastic that a university spin-out has been able to achieve this. I’m sure with Jeff Seabright as Chair, Xampla will go on to do even more fantastic work helping people and planet.”
Image: microplastic pollution; image credit: Xampla
Cambridge Enterprise exists to help University of Cambridge inventors, innovators and entrepreneurs make their ideas and concepts more commercially successful for the benefit of society, the UK economy, the inventors and the University.