Lyn Mayes is one of those rare personalities: ahead of the curve, albeit unconsciously. She set up her business, Mad World, in 2001, focusing on sustainability. And with its 20-year anniversary rolling around later this year, it is in the remarkable position of being one of the oldest, if not the oldest, ‘sustainability-focused’ companies in the country. By Mary Searle Bell.
A key contributor to Lyn’s success is that her career is not one of design but one of passion. She is doing what she loves. Her route to this point has been unplanned and unconventional. But that in itself is perhaps part of what makes Lyn who she is.
Growing up in Liverpool, she bucked the trend by joining the elite at Trinity College, Oxford, where she studied French and German. Then, after graduating, she did something which Oxford graduates rarely do, got a job in supply chain management.
“I was trying to work out my career and sort of stumbled into it.
“I began in distribution services for BOC, moved through warehousing, and later became warehouse manager at Cumbernauld, Scotland. It was my job to make sure deliveries of fresh food got to Marks & Spencer stores on time.”
Once again, Lyn challenged convention, becoming BOC’s first female shift manager and then warehouse manager.
When she had her daughter, Lyn chose to move into a business development role within the company. Her degree was finally put to use in the mergers and acquisitions department, where she worked in France and The Netherlands.
“In the end, I spent 13 years with BOC in a whole range of jobs, culminating in communications and marketing. It was in that last role that I first got into sustainability.
“At the time, BOC had articulated lorries fuelled by LNG, which was more sustainable and had a lower carbon footprint than other fuels. We lobbied government to get differential prices for environmentally-friendly fuels.”
Lyn was then head hunted by paper hygiene consumables giant Kimberley-Clark to be corporate communications director for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
“Here I got focused on sustainability. When you’re using lots of paper products it’s important to know they’re coming from sustainably managed forests.
“I found it really interesting and in 2000, or thereabouts, I wrote Kimberley-Clark Europe’s first environmental sustainability report.”
With this role came a lot of international travel. And with her husband also travelling a lot with his work, and three children under 11, the family decided it needed a lifestyle change and opted to emigrate.
“We looked at various options around the world. We had travelled to New Zealand before and liked it. We bought into the ‘clean, green’ image so chose to move here.
“We landed on September 11, 2001, the day the Twin Towers fell, which is the reason my business is called Mad World.
“I was actually planning on taking some time off when we got here, but with 9/11, my replacement at Kimberly-Clark couldn’t take over from me straight away, so I kept on doing the role from New Zealand, albeit at night.”
Mad World’s remit is to build networks and collaboration between the private sector, NGOs and local and central governments to improve our environmental performance.
“We provide commercially driven sustainability solutions, because caring for the environment and society is good business practice.”
Lyn soon found out that New Zealand is a great place to do business.
“If you want to talk to someone, you phone up and set a meeting. That doesn’t happen in other parts of the world.
“I started working with the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development and got to know businesses starting to immerse themselves in sustainable practices.
“It’s gratifying to see how businesses have moved in the past 20 years. What then was new and rare is now the norm.”
“All packaging is under the spotlight right now – what we do with it, how it’s collected and recycled, the international impacts on recycling, and so on.
“We will look at a company’s packaging range and work out what they can do to make it more sustainable or more easily recyclable. Sometimes a small tweak is all that’s needed.”
Mad World’s latest report, released in February, looks at another part of the process – the recommendations by WasteMINZ for the Ministry for the Environment on the standardisation of kerbside collections.
“While the objectives of the report are sound, we need to consider the broader implications of a number of the proposals if they were to be implemented. We risk ‘standardising down’ when we actually want to increase what is collected for recycling.”
Another growing area is preparing greenhouse gas emissions inventories for businesses and councils, with Lyn saying the one upside of Covid-19 lockdowns is that they highlighted how emissions could be reduced and spurred positive changes.
Looking forward, Lyn is expecting more of what we have.
“It’s going to be the same but amplified, with more companies becoming part of product stewardship schemes and developing products that can be reused or recycled.
“With Mad World being involved with voluntary stewardship schemes for over 10 years, it is likely we’ll be involved in mandated schemes in the future.
“We’re seeing a lot of companies want to be engaged now, which is great.
“I used to have to do a big sales job and explain the issues and what it is we can do to help, but now it’s the opposite. People call us. They want to be involved.”
Lyn has various board roles that complement her passion for sustainability and the environment – she’s chair of the Auckland Conservation Board and an external appointee to the board of the Association of Metal Recyclers.
Further proving that she’s not one to be restricted by convention or to shy away from a challenge, Lyn also serves as vice president of Olympic Weightlifting New Zealand, having competed and winning silver at the World Masters Games in Auckland in 2017 and taking bronze at the World Championships in Barcelona in 2019.