The more we grow, the more sustainable we are — it’s a win-win business’: a Q&A with SOS Accessoire’s CFO Cédric Van Der Borght
Tell us about yourself and how you joined SOS Accessoire
Prior to joining SOS Accessoire, I spent five years as an audit manager at Deloitte and worked in a variety of roles for global companies like Conforama. I moved on to become a financial controller for Buffet-Crampon, a global brand that manufactures wind instruments. I joined Buffet-Crampon because it had an exciting worldwide presence with €100 million yearly turnover and was launching new products constantly. I had been employed there for five years when the Covid crisis hit. Being an airborne disease, wind instruments really suffered during the pandemic and my job soon turned into a cost-cutting one, which had not been my original goal.
During the pandemic, we all became more aware of our environmental impact and once I left Buffet Crampon, I wanted to join another company with a climate-focussed mission. I have been at SOS Accessoire for seven months now and my role has turned the Covid crisis into an opportunity, encouraging people to make the most of their belongings and implement sustainability into their everyday lives by repairing household appliances, rather than to replace them.
What is your company’s mission?
The mission of our business is to bring sustainability to every home and to ensure that people can participate in addressing climate change in their own way by repairing rather than replacing household items. Around 80% of home appliances get replaced instead of repaired, creating an enormous environmental problem, and at the same time, the spare parts market is worth €4.1bn in the European Union alone. It makes perfect business sense to harness this need for home repairs with an eco-conscious focus.
The problem we have identified at SOS Accessoire is that often the spare parts market is only accessible to professionals, rather than DIY amateurs. We therefore provide an ecommerce market to source the spare parts that you need, along with video tutorials, chatbots and written content to help you repair your items easily. We allow people to get far longer lives out of their familiar appliances and it is a climate-friendly, as well as cost-effective solution, since our average sale is €25 — meaning for that sum you could repair a washing machine that would be €500 to replace.
What was a lesson you learned as you built the business throughout the pandemic?
The pandemic has had lasting effects on the ways that we live. Spending so much more time at home meant we used our appliances far more and we had a chance to focus in more detail on other systemic issues, such as climate change. Our mission has always been the same — to allow people to repair every appliance that can be repaired — but the pandemic changed the context of our business, since we really noticed how the public became far more concerned with sustainability in their everyday lives.
As we continue to work at home, people are paying more attention to their purchases and their impacts on the planet. At SOS Accessoire, we are perfectly placed to address the new consumer mindset and we have grown because of it. In 2020 alone, we saved half a million appliances, which is equivalent to 20,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions, or the annual CO2 emissions of almost 4500 French people. We also grew our staff rapidly, building from only around 15 employees two years ago to 70 now, harnessing the talent that is attracted by our focused mission.
What is one milestone you wish to reach in 2022?
As of today, 99% of our sales comes from providing spare parts and accessories in ecommerce. But we want to expand to cover all situations where people might buy a new appliance when it’s possible to repair it instead. In 2022, therefore, we have already launched a video conference repair service, where you can call a technician to help with your repair as it happens. We are also planning to launch an in-person home repair service, as well as a facility where people can bring their appliances directly for repairs. We are simply taking further steps to reach a more sustainable and efficient world. It is a smart solution and a win-win business. I love that.
How is sustainability core to your business and its trajectory?
Sustainability is intrinsic to the purpose, growth and success of SOS Accessoire. Each repair we facilitate stops someone from buying a new appliance or machine, ultimately reducing their carbon emissions. The more appliances we repair and the more money we gross, the more we are being sustainable.
We also want to be sustainable and equitable in every aspect of our business. That means that we are currently recovering and recycling as much packaging as we can and we have recently hired someone to take charge of the social and sustainability strategy of SOS Accessoire. This role also includes brand management, tying our brand to our social and sustainability missions. Finally, we are committed to implementing diversity in all levels of the business, including top management. We want to be consistent with our mission and in a sustainable world, we need to think about the impact that all of our actions have.
How has ETF Partners’ support helped to shape the business?
Over the past two years, we have grown at a rapid pace and the support of ETF Partners has been key to our success and its ongoing maintenance. It is crucial that our partners in the business share our focus on sustainability and we could not have asked for more commitment than ETF Partners have provided. Much more than just financial support, ETF Partners provide invaluable advice and guidance as we continue to expand. They are an essential part of the team.