Tuesday, 20 April 2021
All businesses can take action to reduce their carbon emissions. No matter what the size of the company or type of product or service, there are some key changes and culture shifts that can ensure your business is doing its part to create a healthier, more sustainable world.
In November 2021, the UK plays host to the G7 Summit and the UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 in Glasgow, the goal of which is to foster world-wide cooperation to tackle climate change. This follows the launch of the Government’s plans for a green industrial revolution, which aim to significantly cut carbon emissions in the UK, paving the way for the global Race to Net Zero.
As part of this initiative, the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy is encouraging small businesses to up their green credentials. So, how can brands make their business more environmentally friendly? These four brand founders offer their insights into how you can take your green goals to the next level.
Build ‘green’ into your culture
Former BBC Apprentice star Susie Ma is building her company Tropic from the ‘green’ up, with the south London-based firm making its skincare and beauty products fresh from natural ingredients every day. ‘Tropic is inspired by our natural world and our product formulations are powered by some of its most effective botanicals, but they are very susceptible to the consequences of climate change,’ she notes. For her, protecting the planet is literally her bottom line, and Tropic has gone beyond Net Zero in terms of emissions since 2018, double offsetting to remove twice the amount of greenhouse gases that it emits. In addition, the company swapped to renewable energy at its HQ in 2019 and has been certified landfill free for two years. The important thing is for green initiatives to be part of a business culture, not an ‘add-on’, notes Ma, and crucially to involve everyone in the company. This could be anything from recycling initiatives in the office to monthly competitions to suggest greater green wins for the business. For Ma, it even extends to the way her team gets to work: ‘We’ve implemented eco-friendly schemes our employees can benefit from, such as our cycle initiative. Employees can borrow free Tropic bicycles to commute to and from our HQ to reduce individual carbon footprints.’ www.tropicskincare.com
Tropic’s sustainability step:
* Never see environmental initiatives as a burden; instead see how they can benefit company morale. Even if it's a simple energy supplier change, each switch is a win for your conscience and the planet.
Make it circular
Stay Wild, a premium fashion brand set up in 2019 by Natalie Glaze and Zanna Van Dijk, has sustainability at its core. The entrepreneurs’ goal was to build a brand with a purpose, and ‘a slower, more conscious ethos’ which would reduce the company’s carbon footprint to Net Zero. ‘We have made conscious choices at every step of our business to be able to help contribute towards the UK’s goal of Net Zero by 2050,’ says Natalie. Part of this, included the creation of ‘The Circularity Project’ encouraging customers to send back their old swimwear for recycling to build more sustainable circular economy and keep textiles out of landfill, something especially important in the fashion industry – one of the world’s biggest polluters. Challenging traditional fashion norms has also allowed the company to reimagine its approach: Swim Wild doesn’t do ‘seasons’ but takes a slow fashion capsule collection model approach, launching just one collection in the first two years compared to an average of 52 per year in the industry. Around that, the entrepreneurs have looked throughout their supply chain to mitigate impact. Natalie says, ‘We take pre-orders to minimise wastage, and make high quality pieces that last longer to encourage buying less. We produce our items at a small zero waste factory in London and use a small independent distribution centre with carbon neutral shipping.’ www.staywildswim.com
Stay Wild’s sustainability step:
* Make it easy for the consumer to be able to recycle your product, either by creating a circular economy and send-back scheme, making it refillable or mendable, or by making the product itself easily recyclable by conventional means. Another great place to start reducing your carbon footprint is in packaging, says Zanna. ‘Switch to reusable, recyclable or compostable options and look at offsetting your shipping.’
Be part of a chain reaction
Sara Roberts set up Healthy Nibbles in 2015, after visiting her father in hospital and noticed that all she could find in the corridor vending machine were crisps, chocolate and fizzy drinks. Her Edinburgh-based firm now creates healthy snack boxes that include Creative Nature and I Love Snacks, and along with improving the health of our diets she is committed to building a more balanced lifestyle on a wider, greener scale.
‘We are committed to continuous improvement and sustainability is a key part of what we do. Last year we changed our packaging to be plastic free. It is now produced using 100 per cent recycled materials, which are in turn recyclable, and we only use water-based inks and biodegradable labelling and tape,’ says Sara. Fundamental to its green policy is the move towards net zero goals, as well as looking carefully at its supply chain and working with many small producers as a result. For Sara, sustainability is a chain reaction, and she recommends assessing a suppliers' impact through what they are doing in terms of the environment and sustainability, as part of your own business strategy. The pandemic has also created an opportunity for companies to look again at the viability of business travel, she notes, and with online solutions becoming more acceptable, changing her business’s actions around this has been a relatively easy and quick win – and a mindful change she plans to incorporate more, even after restrictions lift. www.healthynibbles.co.uk
Healthy Nibbles’ sustainability step:
* Make small changes with big impacts including putting sustainability at the forefront of the planning process, identifying quick wins and then reviewing and scaling up. Be open to guidance, education and support, including looking at what other successfully sustainable businesses are doing and learning from them along the way.
Refill, reuse, repurpose
For Andrew and Zoe Arnold-Bennett, husband and wife founders of Shed 1 Gin, recycling is key to their innovative Cumbria-based small batch distilling business.
‘From the beginning, it was important to us to be as sustainable as we possibly could be. When we first designed our packaging, we made sure to pick material which is recycled, recyclable, reusable or compostable,’ says Zoe. ‘We invested in a cardboard shredder, which shreds cardboard into nets which we then wrap our bottles in. The cardboard comes in from goods ordered, and we reuse it by shredding it and using it to package the goods we send out. When needed, we supplement with green, compostable bubble wrap which, if it ends up in landfill, degrades and adds nutrients to the soil. Our corks are also recyclable as are our paper labels.’
The business also encourages its customers to be greener too – and for Andrew, getting buy-in from customers is key to the success of their sustainability goals. As such, the couple has worked hard to create initiatives to make it easy and appealing to participate in recycling. ‘It is important that recycling doesn’t just stop with us. We encourage our customers to bring in their old corks, and we send them off to be recycled. We also offer a refill service for those living locally, as well as a bottle return initiative. For every bottle returned to us we donate to our Marmalade Fund charity.’ www.shed1distillery.com
Shed 1’s sustainability step:
* Remember recycling is not just about the product or the packaging, but the method of production too. ‘Beyond packing we also looked at making sure we were putting the planet first during production. We use a closed cooling system, which means we can recycle the cooling water used in the distilling process, saving thousands of litres of water every year,’ says Zoe.
Find out how to ‘green your business’ at the Race to Zero SME Climate Hub website and pledge to Net-Zero targets.
For more information on business recycling visit www.globalrecyclingfoundation.org