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Xanita: James Beattie

An innovative eco-friendly board hits the big time in the sustainable business market.

Juliet Pitman

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James Beattie of Xanita

As global pressure mounts on corporates andindustry to reduce their carbon footprint in the face of global warmingconcerns, companies across the world are going to have to start findingalternative, sustainable and eco-friendly solutions to the way they conductbusiness across a range of different spheres. The suppliers who can provide themwith such solutions will be the ones bringing home the future bacon. Just askJames Beattie, CEO of Xanita, a local company with global clout, thanks to thedevelopment of a highly versatile, completely recyclable eco-friendly type ofboard.

The principal product, known as X-Board, isa kraft-based composite board sandwiched between two outer layers of laminate.In cross-section, the value added product mirrors the inside of a beehive.Although X-Board is available in various thicknesses, it is exceptionallylight, yet strong – giving it outstanding marketing edge over conventionalproducts such as particle or plasterboard. And most importantly, it’s eco-friendly.”Kraft board is essentially made from 98% recycled paper that, in our case,Mondi Recycling collects and repulps. It contains no plastics or PVCs,”explains Beattie. Similar products use polyethylene which repulpers rejectbecause it contaminates their paper stream. “We’ve stayed away frompolyethylene and this has given us a huge advantage.”

While South African companies (with a fewnotable exceptions such as Woolworths) have been slower to recognise theimportance of such eco-friendly products, Beattie and his team believe that thelocal market will eventually get there. In the meantime, they have bigger fishto fry. “We’ve just got a really big break in the UK. CBS Outdoor, whichhandles advertising on the famous London busses, the London Underground,Docklands’ Light Railway and the Tram, are moving away from PVC and plasticadvertising signage to our paper-based Mondi Xtreme board,” he says. A Dutchand a French company made the shortlist of three for the contract, which wasawarded to Xanita on the strength of its eco-friendly offering. Getting such an innovative product tomarket was not all plain sailing. “The biggest challenge was building amanufacturing process that had never been built before. There was no textbookor trade show we could go to and buy something off the shelf. We had toengineer everything ourselves and the engineers kept reminding us that therewas no guarantee it would work. It took nine months longer than expected to getright, but we now have a world-class product.”

The set-up process for such a globaloperation has also been far from cheap, but Beattie is proud of the fact thatthe business is still private and management-owned. “We intend to stay thatway. There were two initial rounds of seed capital, 81% of which was providedby company managers and 19% of which came from angel investors who liked theidea.” As the business has grown, demand forXanita’s products has come from unexpected quarters. “We’re sending manycontainers a month to Australia where the product is used in the furnitureindustry and boat-builders in Cape Town use our core in the manufacture of catamarans.We didn’t see either of these markets initially but the product is soversatile. There is also a massive opportunity in the construction industry,”says Beattie. “We don’t really know where the end-game is right now but we’reextremely happy to be playing!” Contact: +27 21 852 0606; www.xanita.com

Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.

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