It may not be the first sector that comes to mind when you think of the industrial world. Yet the cable industry is critical to connecting control systems, power systems, equipment and infrastructure, virtually every aspect of modern life as we know it. It is also a sector in dire need of innovation and an area in which Canadian entrepreneur Jean-Sébastien Pelland has made his mark.
After graduating with a degree in commerce in 2000, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant and Financial Analyst before setting his sights on the UK. long-term visa and no job. He soon realized he had two options; pass at the highest level or turn to family for a return ticket home.
After briefly delivering pizza for minimum wage and living in a crowded house, he eventually landed a junior role in corporate finance, initially at a small company. He joined Ernst & Young and became a consultant to an electricity company in 2005 Elk cables in a management buyout of an LSE-listed conglomerate.
Three years of hard work paid off and in 2008 he joined the company as owner and director, embarking on a journey of innovation and expansion of what has become one of Europe’s fastest growing critical infrastructure cable providers.
“Almost no one thinks about cables or gets to work in this industry, yet they are the building blocks that connect modern technology,” says Pelland. “The world is undergoing a one-off overhaul of critical infrastructure as we transition to green energy solutions, and cables are at the heart of this process.”
One of his priorities was to address long-standing concerns that there were thousands of miles of sub-standard or non-compliant cable circulating in the wider market, an issue raised by the UK Health Service over a decade ago. & Safety Executive was raised. According to their estimates, about 5% of the cables were compromised, potentially putting critical infrastructure, equipment and services at risk of premature failure, unplanned maintenance, short circuits or worse.
In response, Pelland became a driving force behind The Cable Lab, a cable testing center established in 2015. The multi-million pound investment has yielded more than 40 different accredited tests that make quality and compliance the foundation of the company’s success. And with environmental sustainability now a top priority, providing cables of controlled quality and compliance with a longer, more efficient operational lifespan also improves a company’s ESG credentials.
Earlier this year, Pelland announced the opening of a large cable recycling plant to process end-of-life products, recycling and reusing copper, aluminum and other materials into other products. For example, cable insulation material is used in play mats, while paper, plastic and wood are all shredded, pulverized, crushed or reused.
“It offers our customers a WEEE-compliant and environmentally conscious way to dispose of old or discarded cables and the cable drums after installation,” he says. “Even site-wide floor sweeping is collected and transferred with other site waste to be separated and processed, with anything not suitable for recycling made into biofuel pellets used to fuel industrial furnaces.”
According to him, sustainable business is about much more than just the environment. “It’s about looking after our people and their well-being, being active and supporting the communities in which we operate, and ensuring that we are an ethical and responsible company both in practice and in governance,” he says.
Having overseen Eland Cables revenue growth of over £200m post-MBO and led projects across the UK to support Network Rail on their largest infrastructure upgrade to date, Pelland is now steering his company to develop new hyperscale power data centers, often with renewable electricity generation and innovative cooling solutions, from Scandinavia to South Africa.
Across Europe, the eMobility and EV charging network infrastructure is supported by cables, all supplied by Eland Cables. The company is also working on battery storage energy solutions (BESS) grid balancing projects to help regulate flow, prevent blackouts, and ensure power is connected and transmitted.
He says: “We are focused on making decisions that positively impact our broader ESG plans, whether supporting the industry with electrical engineering apprenticeship grants and funding for mental health awareness training, providing private healthcare and wellness benefits to every member of staff, or looking at ways to improve the environmental profile of our products, such as zero-waste landfill and green energy locations.”
Pelland also believes that many of the company’s actions will eventually become mandatory in international regulatory frameworks. “If we can be open about what we do in terms of sustainability and ESG, hopefully that will encourage people to look at what they are doing. It has to be real and tangible – anyone can take action, and greenwashing is not good enough for anyone.”