Published 3 weeks ago.
About a 5 minute read.
For the hordes of companies still struggling to make good on their net-zero
commitments, comply with impending climate-disclosure legislation and figure out
what ‘circularity’ even means, Pentatonic is here to help.
2024 will be a big year: Finally, it seems regulatory measures are catching up
with corporate ambition and communication when it comes to tackling the world’s
environmental and social problems — particularly in
— and evidence suggests that companies are finding the pace of change a real
challenge: According to
three-quarters of firms are not ready to have their ESG data audited in
preparation for new regulations; while a survey by the British Chambers of
Commerce shows that many companies still don’t
what 'net zero' means.
Enter Pentatonic — a London-based climate-tech
company that is using artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning and
materials science to help companies on their sustainability journey and toward
the adoption of circular business models. Originally launched as a circular
Pentatonic is now on a mission to “enable the planet’s largest brands to design,
manufacture and recapture circular materials at every step of the value chain”
using a blend of traditional consultancy and AI.
As co-founder Jamie Hall
has asserted, “There is no path
to net zero without circularity.”
Pentatonic’s platform helps bring theory and practice together, co-founder and
COO Philip Mossop told
Sustainable Brands®. He says companies' central focus should be on
through Material Lifecycle Management (MLM) — keeping materials in
useful circulation for as long as possible: “We use AI to help visualize, adapt
and engineer concepts before prototyping. This way, our industrial design team
can hardwire reuse — and maximum material-recovery potential — from the outset.”
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Rather than sifting through the thousands of options available when considering
which materials to use in products, and what might happen to them at end of
life, Pentatonic believes that AI-enabled tech can make the process that much
easier and more efficient. Customers can build out a sustainable-material
portfolio, using the tech to source from an integrated and verified supplier
network — essentially a database of options, searchable across several
categories, from post-consumer
“True circularity requires an efficient end-of-life phase. Our MLM module is
underpinned by AI-enabled, machine-learning sorting technology to separate,
quantify and categorize customer packaging, products and materials at the point
of recovery — via return, repair, reuse or recycling,” Mossop adds.
The module also includes a global end-of-life-services database — from logistics
and handling to returns and damaged goods.
Recently, Pentatonic worked with Burger King UK to create a circular
decommissioning initiative after it eliminated single-use plastic
toys with its kids’ meals. The
firm was charged with selecting and managing specialist recycling partners,
assessing the returned plastic for quality and reuse suitability, and then
coming up with new product-design concepts — including manufacturing schematics
and production options: “The whole project saw us create a fully recycled and
recyclable food tray from the returned
plastic, which diverted the equivalent of three million single-use toys from
landfill,” Mossop says.
Previously, it worked on a similar
for coffee giant Starbucks to reimagine its famous Bean Chair — a
well-known fixture in its UK stores: “We optimized the Bean Chair’s design and
manufacturing process for circularity — enabling the upholstery, cushioning,
frame and legs of the chairs to be crafted from what was once Starbucks plastic
bottles and cups.”
But Pentatonic's offering goes beyond design expertise: For the many companies
now faced with navigating the legislative minefield coming into play this year
in Europe and the US, Pentatonic’s AI Legislation
Tracker searches, gathers and serves up
information on what’s coming down the tracks. And while it doesn’t offer
specific legal guidance, the tracker provides horizon scanning and context to
help companies navigate the legal landscape and give people better information
“The AI-powered interface contextualizes impact and implications for our users.
But — like most other systems of this kind — without expert human
it would not be the same tool,” Mossop says. “Of course, the larger brands we
work with have significant legal resources to spend on compliance strategies;
but that’s not the case for everybody. So, one of the original aims of the
Legislation Tracker was to lower the barrier to legislative visibility and
enable more companies to act and comply with climate-focused regulations — to
theoretically scale its impact.”
While Pentatonic’s database might be powerful, is it really sufficient to
replace the expertise offered by sustainability consultants? Mossop admits that
solving circularity challenges still requires the human touch.
“Our approach is still very much human-led and expert-curated. But MLM, for
instance, requires sophisticated data management. It is analysing and testing
material characteristics, calculating the long-term lifespan and performance of
these materials in use, monitoring quantities in circulation, and then working
out the proportion recovered during end-of-life processes.
“All of this demands expert human setup and curation but generates significant
data volumes — which need dedicated, digital systems.”
It's clear AI-enabled technology brings huge productivity gains; but Mossop
stresses that it’s only as good as its human creators and the data
that it’s fed: “That’s not to say it lacks transformative potential — more that
it still has clear limitations.”
Published Feb 5, 2024 8am EST / 5am PST / 1pm GMT / 2pm CET
Tom is founder of storytelling strategy firm Narrative Matters — which helps organizations develop content that truly engages audiences around issues of global social, environmental and economic importance. He also provides strategic editorial insight and support to help organisations – from large corporates, to NGOs – build content strategies that focus on editorial that is accessible, shareable, intelligent and conversation-driving.