Since 2005, Bantam Materials International has been dedicated to preventing plastic from reaching the world’s oceans and waterways and has paid for the recycling of over 10 billion bottles. A recycled materials supply business committed to sustainability, Bantam has spent over a decade working with coastal communities in developing countries by supporting bottle collectors, collection centers and local recyclers based there.
We recently sat down with UK director Raffi Schieir to learn more about how Bantam’s social entrepreneurship model led them to grow into a market leader, and how WorldFirst have been a key strategic partner helping the company ensure fundamental financial support is being driven into bottle collection communities.
How did Bantam get started?
With no major financial backing, we were motivated to show how a small group of people can have a significant impact in the ocean plastic space by creating a sustainable solution. Since starting out we have managed to pay for the recycling of over a billion bottles in a calendar year, and have continued to hit that milestone every year since. We take immense pride in the care and quality that goes into achieving these levels year on year, and are proud to have won the Sustainable Initiative of The Year award in 2020 at the Retail Industry Awards, as well the Business Intelligence Group’s Sustainability Award for Sustainable Product of the Year for our partner ZenWTR.
Where do WorldFirst come into your story?
As Bantam grew, we quickly identified a fundamental issue regarding sending large amounts of money to countries that typically lack a strong banking infrastructure. The speed and reliability of these payments is critical, especially with credit interest rates as high as 72% in some communities. By utilising WorldFirst, we’re able to facilitate a large volume of commerce and trade into developing countries at excellent rates, so that we can reliably provide the cashflow needed to pay the bottle collector communities we work with. Through WorldFirst, we send more than $100,000 USD a day to these communities; this allows for a huge amount of work to be carried out, contributing to the ultimate goal of reducing the amount of plastic that enters the ocean. By using the WorldFirst International Payments Account we’re able to pay our suppliers as well as the bottle communities we work with easily and at speed, at a competitive transfer rate.
Other than currency transfers, what other WorldFirst services do you use?
As a business that supplies to manufacturing companies we have to evaluate currency risk all the time. The main currency pairs we work with are USD, EUR and GBP, (although we do go outside of these currencies from time to time). Currency volatility is therefore a main driver as we sell for single digit markets, meaning we need an effective strategy in place – this is where WorldFirst play an integral part.
WorldFirst have helped us implement a robust risk management strategy that helps us secure supply chains with the funds we need, whilst ensuring our business remains profitable. One-third of our international business transfers are facilitated by forward contracts from WorldFirst, and another third are spot contracts. During the recent period of elevated risk due to Covid and Brexit, WorldFirst have been a key partner in helping us navigate these challenges by mitigating currency volatility and reducing our downside risk exposure.
How would you sum up your relationship with WorldFirst?
We have worked with WorldFirst for ten years because of payment integrity, and more than 80% of our international business transfers are executed by them. Without a reliable partner such as WorldFirst, we wouldn’t be able to carry out our currency transfers in a way which would allow us to be able to look factories and collection centers in the eye and wholeheartedly guarantee we can be there for them to receive payments when they need them.
It’s this reputation of quality and integrity that allows us to maintain strong relationships with both our suppliers and the communities we work with. When someone collects bottles from an at-risk coastline it’s really important that the collector receives a fair and clear price and is paid on time. By using WorldFirst’s services we feel safe knowing that our responsibility to the communities we work with is honoured as we make a significant number of advance payments to ensure our bottle collectors and suppliers are paid securely and on time.
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