SDG Pioneer for a Circular Economy

Alan Cuddihy, SDG Pioneer for a Circular Economy

VP, Sustainability

PCH, Ireland

As a university student in Ireland, Alan Cuddihy had summer jobs working in plants that were safe and treated him fairly.

When he first visited factories in Asia, he realized how many workers were not so fortunate.

“When I came to Asia, it was quickly evident that there were opportunities to overhaul how these supply chains worked, and this could have enormous benefits for the workers,” says Cuddihy, vice president of sustainability at PCH.

The Irish global product development and supply chain company manages the paths of products from conception to the out-of-box consumer stage.

Cuddihy was selected by the United Nations Global Compact as its 2021 SDG Pioneer  for a Circular Economy to champion sustainability and mobilize companies to become forces for good.

“Our project is really focused on developing and delivering the most sustainable product life cycle possible. We want to embed true sustainability across all phases of that life cycle in practice,” says Hong Kong-based Cuddihy.

PCH’s eye to sustainability encompasses SDG 8, on decent work and economic growth, where the company has worked for a decade to open dialogues and design programmes to benefit the migrant worker community. That included a partnership with a grassroots NGO on a program for migrant worker well-being in China in 2012 that showed a five-to-one return on investment, he said.

Addressing industry innovation and infrastructure under SDG 9, the business model at PCH provides access points along the product life cycle to allow for interventions in  engineering, manufacturing and logistics to drive strong sustainability. In 2016 PCH demonstrated the economic efficiency of upgraded equipment that was safer and less polluting at Chinese cable manufacturers, he said.

PCH also is working hard on SDG 12 regarding responsible consumption and production by moving away from capacity-led supply chains towards consumer-driven demand chains that entail less product being built for inventory and storage.

“The products we do build will be timeless, durable, repairable and fully traceable,” he says.

Finally, Cuddihy said PCH is promoting sustainable cities and communities under SDG 11. 

“We’re very interested in the emerging concept of the 15-minute city being adopted by major cities around the world, whereby communities have all their essential needs within a 15-minute journey of their home,” he says. “We're very interested in the company helping develop and build that infrastructure.”

The company is about to publish its ninth annual Sustainability Report and Performance Update, and it actively influences its stakeholders in sustainable product design and supply chains, he said.

“Our goal is to bring this message to the C-suite of our customers without ever mentioning the word sustainability. We want customers to choose this product life cycle because it delivers on speed, cost, quality and user experience,” he says. “It just so happens to also be the most sustainable.”

The private sector has a huge part to play in achieving SDGs on the 2030 agenda, he added.

 “As the saying goes, ‘it takes a village’, but in this case, it is on a global scale,” he says.

“All companies have a role to play. They must empower their customers. They must empower their employees,” he says. “Consumers will no longer tolerate companies that are not engaged in this process.”

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