Meet the Ecosurety Exploration Fund panel – interview with Mike Barry

The Ecosurety Exploration Fund has been launched to help tackle the negative effects of packaging, batteries and e-waste on the environment.

The fund was launched at the end of November and has committed to providing £1million of funding over the next three years. The maximum grant application is £150k and the deadline for submissions is 10 March 2020.  

In order to ensure the fairest selection process possible, Ecosurety have pulled together a panel of independent judges who will work together to identify projects that can tackle some of the most pressing environmental issues around packaging, batteries and e-waste at the moment.

Over the course of the next three months, Ecosurety will publish interviews with a selection of the judges. We hope to find out what the inspiration, motivations, dreams and demands of our judges will be - and what it is they think needs to be prioritised in order to help the UK transition towards a more circular economy.


Mike Barry - Sustainable change maker, former Director of Sustainable Business at M&S and co-chair of the Sustainability CGF

Mike is a charismatic and highly respected sustainability leader who devised the ground-breaking Marks & Spencer Plan A sustainable strategy, resulting in M&S becoming the first carbon-neutral major retailer in the world.

He is a passionate believer that we need to develop a fundamentally different way to doing business; one that's good for customers, colleagues, citizens, communities, society and planet alike. Mike is equally passionate that this change won't just take place because we want it to - we must make it happen.

In the first of our interviews, Mike gives some insights into what inspires him, what he thinks a future circular economy should look like and what kind of projects he is hoping to see coming through the Ecosurety Exploration Fund.


How did you get to where you are today?

Serendipity! M&S’ CFO Alison Reed recruited me in 2000 to put in place an ISO14001 system for our stores.

With Alison’s support and my partner in crime Rowland Hill we seized the opportunity to create a much more expansive, bold and comprehensive approach which culminated in M&S’ ground-breaking 100 point sustainability plan, Plan A. The lesson being Carp Diem!

Name a person or project that has inspired you in your work and explain why?

Adam Elman. Lots of people come up with visions for a sustainable future but few have the skills, drive and energy to land them across a big, busy business. Adam was an amazing Head of Plan A Delivery who made 100 commitments on paper a reality on the ground.

What do you consider to be the biggest challenge facing the UK resources and waste sector at the moment?

A lack of joined up thinking. There’s oodles of innovation but it's struggling because Government and big business has not yet set out the big picture. With carbon we have a bold long term goal – Net Zero by 2050 – with supporting, independent 5 year carbon budgets. Resources/waste doesn’t have this, yet it needs it!

What solutions do you think need to be developed in the resources and waste economy? 

I won’t pull out one specific innovation, rather point to a more systemic challenge - not enough of the innovation is customer-centric enough. Too many shiny, technical baubles but what’s going to make a busy, hard-pressed person change their engrained behaviour of the last couple of decades?


Circular packaging, electronics and fashion has got lots of ideas but we’ve got to make them feel as beneficial to the user as the planet.


What role must brands and producers play in a transition to a more circular economy?

First they must inspire, as noted above, with convenient, exciting and cost effective solutions but they also need to work together better to make the whole system tick more smoothly. WRAP’s UK Plastics Pact is a great example of this concerted, joined up approach that offers a common playing field but leaves scope for individual innovation and winners.

Describe what a resources and waste economy of the future looks like to you?

One that doesn’t talk about waste and resources! The focus is on solutions that people want, access to an infinite wardrobe not ‘circular fashion’.

Is the transition to a more circular resources and waste economy led by Government or by business?

Of course the answer is both. Interestingly on the parallel issue of deforestation the new Global Resources Initiative (GRI) is seeing Government, Civil Society and Business co-create the long term framework of laws, enforcement, transparency, R&D and global partnerships that are needed to create sustainable supply chains. Something similar is emerging on resources/waste but we need to move faster and be bolder!

What sort of projects would you like to see coming through the Ecosurety Exploration Fund?

Recurring theme, customer centric. Of course they have to be credible in terms of science and stakeholder support but above all I want to see better solutions for real lives.


What do you think will be the main challenges when selecting the winning projects?

I’m expecting loads of good entries, really tough to separate the merely good, from the great!

What would be your one piece of advice to Ecosurety Exploration Fund applicants?

Customer, customer, customer – sorry that’s three! Good luck.


About the Ecosurety Exploration Fund

Exploration Fund


Over three years the Ecosurety Exploration Fund will invest £1million in projects that can reduce the environmental impact of packaging, batteries or WEEE through innovation or research in the UK. We are looking to support ideas up to £150,000 that will go on to make a bigger impact beyond the initially funded project - especially those that may ordinarily struggle to get off the ground.

Applications to the Ecosurety Exploration Fund can be made via the Ecosurety website by clicking here, where full details on eligibility and how to apply can be found.

The deadline for submissions is 11.59pm, 10 March 2020. Judging will take place on 21 April 2020 and the winners will be announced at a special event in May 2020.

If you have any questions regarding the Ecosurety Exploration Fund, please contact us by emailing explorationfund@ecosurety.com or by calling 0333 4330 370

Ben Luger

Marketing projects specialist

Ben joined the team at the beginning of 2015 and helps drive marketing communications and projects for Ecosurety, including project managing the launch of the Ecosurety Exploration Fund and website content development.

Written by Ben Luger Published 13/12/2019 Topics Ecosurety
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