The Cable Entrepreneur Driving Change For The World’s Critical Infrastructure
It may not be the first sector that springs to mind when you think about the industry world. Yet, the cable sector is critical to connecting control systems, power systems, equipment and infrastructure, virtually every aspect of modern life as we know it. It’s also a sector badly in need of innovation and an area where Canadian entrepreneur Jean-Sébastien Pelland has made his mark.
Having graduated in 2000 with a degree in commerce, he qualified as a chartered accountant and chartered financial analyst before setting his sights on the U.K. In 2001 he arrived in London on a one-way ticket from Montreal with grand ideas but no firm plan, no long-term visa and no job. He quickly realized he had two options; succeed at the highest level or turn to family for a return ticket home.
After stints delivering pizza on minimum wage and living in a crowded house share, he eventually secured a junior role in corporate finance, initially with a small firm. He joined Ernst & Young and, in 2005, found himself advising electrical cable supply company Eland Cables in a management buy-out from an LSE-listed conglomerate.
Three years of hard work paid off, and in 2008 he joined the business as owner and director, beginning a journey of innovating and expanding what has become one of Europe’s fastest-growing cable suppliers to critical infrastructure.
“Hardly anyone thinks about cables or sets out to work in this industry, yet they’re the building blocks connecting modern technology,” says Pelland. “The world is undergoing a once-in-a-generation critical infrastructure overhaul as we transition to green energy solutions, and cables are at the heart of this process.”
One of his priorities was to tackle long-standing concerns that thousands of kilometers of sub-standard or non-compliant cable were circulating in the wider marketplace, an issue raised by the U.K. Health & Safety Executive over a decade ago. According to their estimates, around 5% of cables were affected, potentially putting critical infrastructure, equipment and services at risk of premature failure, unplanned maintenance, short circuit, or worse.
In response, Pelland became a driving force behind The Cable Lab, a cable testing center of excellence established in 2015. The multi-million-pound investment delivered over 40 different accredited tests that make quality and compliance the foundation of the company’s success. And with environmental sustainability now a top business priority, supplying cables of verified quality and compliance with longer, more efficient operational lifespans also enhances 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 the copper, aluminum and other materials in other products. Cable insulation material, for example, is used in playground matting, while paper, plastics and wood are all chipped, bailed, crushed or reused.
“It gives our customers a WEEE-compliant and environmentally-conscious means of disposing of legacy or waste cables and the cable drums after installation,” he says. “Even the floor sweepings from around the site are collected and transferred with other site waste to be separated and processed, with anything not suitable for recycling being made into biofuel pellets used to fuel industrial kilns.”
He sees sustainable operations as being about far more than just the environment. “It’s about looking after our people and their wellbeing, being active and supporting the communities we operate in, and ensuring both in practice and in governance we are an ethical and responsible business,” he says.
Having overseen Eland Cables’ revenue growth exceeding £200 million post-MBO and led projects in the U.K. to support Network Rail on their largest infrastructure upgrade to date, Pelland is now steering his firm towards helping to power new hyperscale data centers, often with renewable electricity generation and innovative cooling solutions, from the Nordics to South Africa.
Europe-wide, the eMobility and the EV charging network infrastructure is underpinned by cables, all of which are supplied by Eland Cables. The company is also working on battery storage energy solutions (BESS) projects for grid balancing to help regulate flow, avoid blackouts, and ensure power to connect and transmit.
He says: “We’re focused on making decisions that positively impact our wider ESG plans, be that supporting the industry with grants for electrical engineering apprenticeships and funding for mental health awareness training, providing private healthcare and wellbeing benefits to every single member of staff, or looking at ways to improve the environmental profile of our products such as zero-landfill waste and green energy sites.”
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’re doing regarding sustainability and ESG, it hopefully prompts people to look at what they’re doing. It has to be real and tangible – everyone can take action, and ‘greenwashing’ is just not good enough for anyone.”