Q&A with Rachel Thompson, MPB’s VP of Sustainability

The EPOTY team is a huge fan of the work that MPB does in the space of circularity and extending the lifespan of your camera kit. To learn a bit more about how that all works, we caught up with Rachel Thompson, VP of Sustainability.

What kind of work do you do in your role as VP of Sustainability?

MPB offers visual storytellers, at all levels, a platform through which they can buy, sell and trade used photography and videography kit – and we do so in a purposeful way that is good for both people and the planet. I work with colleagues across our business to coordinate initiatives and reporting on our sustainability themes of circularity, carbon, diversity, inclusion and ethics.

Can you clarify how deep the commitment to sustainability runs within MPB?

Creating a sustainable business was one of the key foundations on which MPB was built, so we have always incorporated green and inclusive principles in our operations and recruitment. Last year we formalised our approach which includes initiatives in zero waste, reusable packaging, working with suppliers that are investing seriously in net zero carbon, and promoting inclusion and diversity in our workplaces and through our own content, marketing and sponsorships.  We hold ourselves accountable and have recently published our first Impact Report which details how we are performing in relation to our sustainability approach and commitments.  

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

For me, it’s that lightbulb moment when a colleague has the realisation that what they or their team are already doing, or as a result of applying their expertise or an idea, can make a sustainable difference.  It’s rewarding to help inspire people and enable them to recognise the significant impact they can have through their work.

Are you a photographer yourself? If so, what type of photography do you tend to shoot?

Yes, although not much these days.  I loved analog film and cameras, in particular Kodachrome, Polaroid and an old Rolleiflex which I used on my travels. I also collect protest-themed photojournalism. Technology has undoubtedly opened up incredible possibilities, but I still really miss Kodak!

What do you see as the biggest challenges to sustainability in the world of photography?

Photography is ubiquitous with millions of participants from pros and content creators to students and amateurs using a wide range of kit and technology. This creates human, ethical and environmental impacts.  For instance, a lot of kit is durable and can be re-sold on the used market multiple times over a decade or more, but the vast majority of new kit is not re-sold – it sits gathering dust at the back of people’s cupboards.  And, like most, the photography industry certainly has much to do on inclusion and diversity.

Where can you see improvements and innovations happening to support sustainability in the photography sphere?

An area where I believe there is significant potential to reduce waste in our industry is through re-manufacturing – the process by which a product is rebuilt using a combination of reused, repaired and new parts.  Canon has begun doing this for its photocopying products, but I would love to see manufacturers of photographic kit offer consumers remanufactured products as part of their portfolio.  And of course, continuing to encourage photographers to sell or trade kit they don’t need so another photographer can reuse it.

How does MPB itself work to improve sustainability in photography?

A key focus for our sustainability efforts is inclusion and diversity in MPB’s own visual storytelling.  Through our partnerships, marketing and procurement, we promote inclusive visual storytelling and an inclusive circular economy. We have also made a commitment to address representation in visual storytelling through our marketing with a target that 60% of our marketing efforts feature visual storytellers from underrepresented groups. This applies to our marketing collaborations with visual storytellers and to MPB original content and advertising.

What type of photography are you hoping to see in the MPB Vision of the Future competition category?

Image-makers who can capture the determination and wide-ranging efforts being made to drive positive change for the future, would really catch my eye.  I hope that the category will give us a sense of hope and optimism, with global examples of ways that we can get more done using less resources.  I’m always particularly heartened to see different people coming together for a common cause and learning from one another.

You can find out more about MPB on their website.

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