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20 October, 2020 - 10:21 By Tony Quested

Former White House climate change adviser becomes chair at Cambridge University spin-out

Xampla chair Jeff Seabright

A former board member of one of the world’s biggest companies and White House climate change adviser has become chair of Xampla – a Cambridge University spin-out making plastic from peas.  

As Unilever’s chief sustainability officer, Jeff Seabright is credited with turning one of the world’s largest multi-nationals into a leader in implementing ‘green’ business credentials. 

Now he has gone from leading the sustainability operations of a company with an annual turnover of £50 billion across 155,000 staff in 190 countries and 400 household name products to a Cambridge technology startup with no sales, no products and 10 staff –  a major coup for Xampla!  

Climate change evangelist Seabright said: “We’ve known we’ve had a plastic crisis for a long time. But the biggest problem with plastic is also its biggest strength. 

“Its durability is great when you are protecting your product and a nightmare afterwards. The great conundrum has been to find a product that is cheap and durable without lasting forever on our planet.  

“Xampla is the most exciting innovation I have worked on. It has potential to have a positive impact on a global scale and is a ground breaking solution for industries in desperate need of natural alternatives to plastic. I am very pleased to be joining as chair at this critical time.” 

Seabright brings Xampla a raft of environmental and commercial expertise from a two-decades long career in sustainability.  

Before joining Unilever he was vice-president of Environment & Water Resources at Coca-Cola. He also led the Clinton White House Task Force on climate change. Seabright will champion Xampla’s sustainability efforts as it brings its natural plastic alternatives to market.  

Xampla has created the world’s first plant protein material for commercial use, aiming to eradicate the need for single-use plastics. Its bio-based materials, some made from pea protein, decompose naturally and fully without harming the environment. 
At the same time Xampla has become the UK’s first university spin-out to be accredited B Corp status.  

Developed over 15 years at the University of Cambridge, Xampla’s mission is to replace everyday plastics including bags, sachets, flexible packaging films, edible labels and microplastics used in homecare and personal products. Its first range of products will be launched in 2021.  

Xampla CEO Simon Hombersley said: “Jeff’s appointment has come at a pivotal point for the company. We are designing our products to meet the sustainability requirements of major companies like Unilever, and Jeff’s experience and leadership will ensure sustainability is our focus as we scale our business.”  

Dr Elaine Loukes, investment director at Cambridge Enterprise, the university’s commercialisation arm, added: “We couldn’t be more pleased by the news of Xampla’s continued success. Xampla originated at Cambridge University and we continue to work closely with the team. 

“Impact is of the utmost importance to us and Xampla is a prime example of a technology created at the University being developed through a commercial spin-out to make the world a better place.”

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