Saturday Essay: How COVID Has Led Us To Make Changes That Will Help The Environment
Mark Jankovich is a man who knows how to take risks in pursuit of the greater good. After realising the environment was under serious threat, Mark left his job in banking with a desire to make a positive difference and the ambition to build a business that could have a net-positive impact.
Struck by the huge number of harmful cleaning products used in every household and business setting daily, Mark established his own alternative company, Delphis Eco.
With cleaning products manufactured in Goole, Delphis Eco works as well, if not better, than those containing nasty toxins. Unlike traditional cleaning products, Delphis Eco focussed on the environment, stopping millions of litres of polluting cleaning chemicals from going into the air and water system every day. With the creation of Delphis Eco, it is clear Mark is a firm believer that businesses and consumers can and should make changes to help protect the environment.
Over the last 10 years, Mark achieved his dream, expanding his product range to over 100 different products – all providing plant-based cleaning power. Made from renewable resources, Delphis Eco products are readily biodegradable, containing no phosphates or volatile organic compounds (fumes) and as a result, do not contribute to water or air pollution. They were also designed to be kind to aquatic organisms and have never been tested on animals.
For its commitment to the environment, Delphis Eco became the first UK manufacturer to receive the EU Eco Label (Defra) accreditation, becoming the UK’s largest range to have this certification.
Spending seven years developing the first 100% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic bottle, the entire range of Delphis Eco is produced from recycled single-use plastic milk bottles – many of which have come from Yorkshire. It is clear that we all need to reduce our carbon footprint and by using PCR, carbon is reduced by 70 per cent compared to virgin plastic – even the labels are printed with vegetable ink, reducing the amount of water needed in the printing process.
Over time, Delphis Eco became the professionals’ choice to tackle the toughest cleaning challenges in top restaurants, esteemed hotels, schools and even palaces with the company proud to be B Corp certified and honoured to hold Royal Warrants from HM The Queen and HRH The Prince of Wales. Notable professionals who also use the range include property expert, businesswoman, TV presenter and writer, Sarah Beeny, Marketing Director at Bartlett Mitchell catering company, Lin Dickens, and Roslin Rathouse, founder of Cookery School at Little Portland Street.
After a decade of the range being used in the harshest and toughest professional cleaning environments, Delphis Eco launched its ‘home care’ range in summer 2019. The brand chose its top 10-products to launch including best-sellers Delphis Eco Glass & Stainless-Steel Cleaner, Delphis Eco Bathroom Cleaner, and Delphis Eco Anti-Bacterial Kitchen Sanitiser and Cleaner. All was going well, then Covid struck. Mark comments: ‘A massive 85% of our traditional business fell off a cliff on 23rd March last year when we went into lockdown one. With schools, restaurants, hotels closing overnight, orders were cancelled across the board and we had customers asking if they could give stock back.’
However, Mark believes the definition of luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
The Delphis Eco phones started to ring and they didn’t stop: ‘On the second day of lockdown one, we took orders to the value of the entire previous week. On the third day, it was the equivalent of orders from the whole of the previous month and on the fourth day, the orders were equivalent to our entire previous year’s turnover. On the fifth day, we turned off Amazon and just wrote everyone’s interest in a book.
I hadn’t had this much frantic activity since broking dot com stocks at Merrill Lynch in 1999. The team in the office and on the factory floor were on fire and did a fabulous job dealing with customers, signing up new clients, processing orders like they’d never seen before and dealing with the logistical challenges that come with a surge in demand. On my way to work, I was stopped by a policeman asking me where I was going, and I said I made hand sanitiser and he said, ‘please crack right on’.’
Mark continues: ‘Everybody realised that they were going to be stuck at home, plus it was spring so they immediately looked for cleaning products that they could trust, as well as a one that were as eco-friendly as possible. Thankfully, we’d taken our top 20 household-friendly products and launched them into the consumer market at Robert Dyas and Ocado a few months earlier. By making 100% of our products in the UK town of Goole, we had full control of our production needs as we weren’t reliant on imports – this was also great for British jobs in Yorkshire. We were incredibly lucky to be one of the success stories that came out of a very tough 2020.’
The unique combination of having eco-friendly products like hand sanitisers and anti-bac sprays, which were in particularly high demand at this time with the impact of Covid, meant that instead of probable financial ruin, Delphis Eco revenue surged by 175% from lockdown 1 to March 2021. Sales at Robert Dyas and Ocado were up 974% and 1300% respectively in 2020 compared to 2019. Through the power of the internet, Delphis Eco had calls from all over the world and its export revenue increase was in the thousands of per cent, supplying its cleaning products to some of the world’s most famous brands.
However, high product demands were not enough to challenge Mark and the Delphis Eco team, especially when lockdown measures begun to lift. With the Government announcing the reopening of outdoor sports, Mark and his team wanted to act, especially as they understood lockdown had been difficult for children.
So, with the help of Mark’s connections as a former London Scottish RFC and Barnes RFC player, Delphis Eco became the official sponsor for 25 mini rugby clubs, providing surface cleaner and hand sanitiser to keep youngsters safe and protected from the virus and allowing them to finally enjoy playing rugby matches alongside their teammates after months of hiatus.
A year on and several lockdowns later, the Delphis Eco business has gone from strength to strength, recently launching its home range of kitchen and bathroom cleaners in more than 260 stores of Waitrose, Waitrose.com, as well as being available at Ocado, Robert Dyas, Farmdrop and Partridges of London, and online: Delphis Eco Household Cleaning Products. Mark comments: ‘Waitrose was the perfect partner to launch the Delphis Eco home range nationally and we are really excited about our products being on shelves nationwide. We bring a decade of professional cleaning provenance so households can have total confidence that they are cleaning with products less harmful to themselves and the planet but also work.’
Aside from the market stimulus from Covid, Mark also believes that demand for deeply sustainable products has passed a tipping point with consumers now putting pressure on their favourite stores to supply more environmentally friendly products.
Consumers are realising that they can make simple changes in the way they shop and the products they use daily, with many recognising that their choices will have a lasting impact on the environment and future generations.
And Mark encourages this – he calls on shoppers to demand change: ‘13 billion single-use plastic bottles are sold globally every year and it’s anticipated that only between 3% and 9% are recycled. If you think of the impact of plastic, there are probably around 5.25 trillion macro and microplastic pieces floating in the open ocean, weighing up to 269,000 tonnes. In fact, there are 500 times more bits of plastic in the ocean than there are stars in the galaxy.
There’s a toxic ecosystem of plastic-filled oceans, animal ingestion with human consumption at the top of the food chain, which could be potentially catastrophic for the planet. We can’t wait for governments to act, we must speak up and tell shops to have free water fountains, to get supermarkets to relinquish fruit and vegetable packaging and to tell schools to reduce waste in kitchens. Systemic change is essential to create movements.’
Mark continues: ‘Our entire business model is based on being as environmentally friendly as possible. I need our suppliers to understand and live our beliefs or they will lose our business. I’m very proud that our main factory has installed a massive rainwater capture system to use in the manufacturing of our products and that our box suppliers have worked really hard to not only provide a 100% recycled cardboard box but to also ensure that the inner liner, which is normally virgin paper for rigidity, is also 100% recycled.
"We’re doing our bit as a business to help the planet and give consumers fantastic cleaning products that work without compromising the environment. Consumers can now have confidence that green products have moved on from the early days – they really do work and don’t have to cost a fortune.’