The topic of sustainability has never been as well known as it is today. Businesses and individuals around the world are facing how their activities are affecting the environment and how they can mitigate its impact – including the wireless industry.
The volume of eWaste generated by cell phones and other electronic products will reach 15.4 million tons by 2020 and 27.22 million tons by 2030 – an annual growth rate of ten percent.
It is estimated that there are 40 million unused devices in the UK alone. Unless more than a fraction of it is responsibly recycled, the impact of the wireless industry on the environment will only increase.
Every newly manufactured device creates carbon emissions throughout the supply chain and requires the mining of precious metals. If old mobile parts are disposed of in an unsafe manner, hazardous substances can be released into the environment.
The situation is improving, and remarkable efforts have been made to switch to renewable energy sources, promote more responsible production methods and increase recycling levels. But our industry can do even more.
Christian McBride initially viewed the wireless industry as a way to make a better life. The oldest of four children in a working-class family – his father was a mechanic and his mother a nurse – he left school at the age of 16.
“There was no silver spoon when it came to education,” he says TechRadar Pro. “I left school at the age of 16 and had a range of experiences, from working as an assistant butcher to working for a florist. I realized pretty early on that I had sales in my DNA and that I had a desire to serve people well.
“I then started my career in the wireless industry and made a name for myself in the traditional distribution sector by supplying cell phone accessories. It was all new to me, but still it was clear that these products were becoming mainstream needs. “
It was the early 2000s, and while cell phones were a common technology, they still had to evolve into handheld computers that could rule every aspect of our personal and professional lives. The first iPhone was two years away from launch and the first Android device was even further away.
By moving to a smaller company in East London, McBride was able to gain a broader range of experience and develop his entrepreneurial skills to the point where he felt confident enough to start his own mobile sales company with his brother and friend.
The origins of Genuine Solutions couldn’t be further from the startups backed by venture capital funding starting in shared workspaces in Shoreditch with foosball and beanbag chairs.
“There were three men in their twenties, in suits and ties with open laptops, gathered around my mother’s dining table!” he says TechRadar Pro. “My mother would suck around the table and tell us to go home!”
The team initially had day jobs and worked for Genuine Solutions in the evenings. They started with a storage unit for inventory and were eventually able to move from Christian’s mother’s living room to new premises.
Sustainability in the heart
Success in the early years laid the foundation and enabled Genuine Solutions to become the socially responsible company it is today. Unlike entrepreneurs who ponder how their vision will change the world from day one, McBride is honest about how the focus on sustainability went down in company history for a few years as the team pondered its purpose.
“When we launched Genuine Solutions, we were pretty selfish about it to improve the quality of life. But after we did that, we said, “So now what?” In 2009 we saw what the evolution of mobile communications would mean for our environment and we saw an opportunity to give back and add value [to the industry]. We restarted as GSUK and that gave us the opportunity to establish a brand in the market. “
The shift in focus has been phenomenally successful, both economically and environmentally. GSUK has distributed more than 60 million product units and recovered 30 million units that would otherwise have been sent to landfill. The company processes massive amounts of cell phones and accessories every day.
In the past decade, there have been nominations and wins in industry and environmental awards – including the Mobile Industry Awards. GSUK also received the prestigious Queens Award for Enterprise.
One of the awards he’s particularly proud of was being named one of the 100 best companies The Sunday Times worked for in 2017: “You can’t manipulate that.”
McBride said he was calmly confident that GSUK would be a success: “[Sustainability] is a big problem that we face. We have more than 1,000 customers in 50 countries … I know we are not trendy, but we are trendy. I don’t want to sound like I deserve anything, but we stand shoulder to shoulder with some of the biggest brands in the world. Was an SMB that did business with and worked with Samsung, O2 and Dixons Carphone. “
There are other ways GSUK is socially aware. It has donated more than £ half a million to charity – a significant number for a small business – with McBride himself completing the Three Peaks Challenge.
“We reached the top of Ben Nevis with sleet sideways!” he says.
Personal adversity has influenced McBride’s views, and he seeks to support a number of causes such as medical research, homelessness, and unemployment. GSUK has also set up a service called Recyclewise, which enables charities to generate income by recycling cell phones.
In recent years, the technology industry has made numerous commitments to become more sustainable. Mobile network operators, manufacturers and service providers have committed to lowering emissions and reducing waste. Not only is it good exercise, it’s also good PR.
McBride isn’t upset at the prospect of other, possibly larger, companies stepping on the toes of GSUK – far from it. He says that not enough is being done to address the issues at the industry level and welcomes any commitment.
“Of course we are a company and we are interested [in growth] as much as possible, but anyone who joins us on the journey to sustainability is a good thing, ”he says.
“We’ve seen other companies follow similar strategies and it’s fantastic to see bigger companies take a stand as they can make a bigger impact.
“But has our industry done enough? Not yet, but it is becoming a reality. There are some good initiatives out there, like Carbon Net Zero, but People, Profit and Planet have to be the way forward.
“I don’t think the industry was like that [environmentally] conscious enough because we are so technically hungry. These devices add so much value to our lives that it is all about finding a balance. “
“That means the world to me”
GSUK is a successful company, but McBride knows that there is more to life than the constant pursuit of profit. When he’s not at work, he can be seen cycling or his kids playing rugby. He has managed to combine his business acumen with a commitment to do the right thing and earn credit for the organization.
Now he was recognized himself.
Colleagues and partners were delighted to hear that he had won this year’s outstanding contribution to the industry award and spoke warmly about McBride and his successes. But what was the man himself thinking?
“It’s incredibly difficult to sum up,” he says. “The last 15 years have been full of ups and downs, just like with so many people. It is extremely humbling to be recognized alongside so many great people and companies.
“As an individual or as a CEO, sometimes you don’t get particularly grateful for being a leader for everyone else. It’s incredibly rewarding.
“This award means the world to me.”
Neil Robinson, Environmental and Health Security Manager, Genuine Solutions
“Chris is an inspiring leader whose main priority is the wellbeing of his team.
“I’ve been with Genuine Solutions for a while and for me there is no other company on my mind that has the Genuine Solutions team spirit that was evident when I first started at Genuine Solutions and has continued to improve over the company Years led by Chris always looking at how we can get better and better.
“I believe that Chris is undoubtedly a worthy winner of this year’s Outstanding Contribution to the Industry and would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Chris.”
“When I heard that Chris McBride was going to receive the award for outstanding contribution to the wireless communications industry, I was relieved after the initial joy that my very good friend had received this recognition had passed. Relief because so many people had finally realized the depth and breadth of the talent that Chris McBride is.
“I’ve known Chris for almost a decade. I’ve seen him work up close and have been able to remotely monitor the impact he has had on the people around him, as well as the industry he represents.
“As someone who in over 30 years has been an executive in a number of companies that have employed thousands of people and hundreds of millions of pounds in sales just never met anyone like Chris.”
NOTE THE DATE! The Mobile Industry Awards, which have been presented for more than a decade, represent the gold standard for excellence in the industry. From the boardroom to the base, attendees represent the best and smartest offerings in the UK and European wireless industry. For the 19th time we are celebrating the best manufacturers, retailers, networks, distributors and distributors June 24, 2021.