Your cart
Close Alternative Icon

Posts

Collaborate to Zero: Chantelle Nicholson

Collaborate to Zero: Chantelle Nicholson

How can we achieve net-zero carbon and halt the climate crisis? By working together to drive widescale, meaningful change.

To this end, our CEO Mark Jankovich meets fellow eco-business leaders to swap insights and inspiration. This week, we’re honoured to welcome Chantelle Nicholson, Michelin green star polymath Chef and owner of Tredwells and All's Well.

Mark Jankovich: Thank you so much for your time and joining us on Collaborate to Zero. As an introduction, Chantelle is a New Zealander, a qualified lawyer, an author, a business woman, a restaurant owner and a sustainability champion. And then also to mention an influential woman in hospitality and a Michelin Green Star chef.

MJ: Today’s conversation is about the restaurant world and how they can collaborate and move forward to net zero. From your personal journey and restaurant career is there a moment or situation you realised we needed to be more aware of sustainability and climate change?

Chantelle Nicolson: I would say I’m very privileged having grown up in New Zealand, surrounded by amazing produce and nature. That really set the tone for me.

MJ: I think for people like us, who grew up in nature, it really becomes a part of you.

MJ: Could you imagine the uptake in plant-based eating we are seeing even just a few years ago?  What’s causing it?

CN: We have got to the point where people are a lot more conscious now. Covid has taught us many things, and these conscious decisions are some of the good to come out of what has happened. I have this vision of us, pre-Covid being on a mouse wheel, constantly going and going and going. It was only when the wheel was stopped for us, we could hop off, sit back and see things in a more 360 approach.

MJ: I agree. It allowed us to stop and take stock. And think about how we want to build back better. If that drives better decisions, then that is the silver lining of a pretty dire situation.

MJ: Your book ‘Planted’ - love the name - is a book not for vegans, but about fantastically tasty food, just without meat. What was your inspiration behind it?

CN: It was two-fold. Firstly, from my perspective, growing up in New Zealand we had so much amazing produce. I love vegetables and enjoy eating them. For me, cooking with more vege was a natural progression. When I opened Tredwells, seven years ago, I wanted to make it really accessible, so to have everything clear on the menu for both allergens and dietary requirements, so guests didn’t have to ask too many questions and feel like it was an effort to find out more about what they could eat. This naturally led to more plant-based options, and thus an environment in which you wouldn’t be judged. Then secondly, as a chef, looking for plant-based recipes to use and inspire, I felt there wasn’t much around. So I wanted to create a resource for others.

MJ: Have you had to push local suppliers?

CN: The challenge is finding them and then getting the local product. It feels a bit harder than it should be and this is across front and back of house with food, beverage, and even cleaning products. We work to find the best things that work for the restaurant and from a wider perspective for the circular economy. If I can do it, then hopefully people will see it is possible and want to do it too.

MJ: Congratulations on your Michelin Green Star!  Do you think restaurants will soon see this as the top Michelin award?

CN: It is something that is needed and needs to be recognised in the industry. Traditionally, waste was recognised but only in terms of food cost. The circular economy never came into it. It needs to be something that affirms what restaurants are doing and give examples of what can be done for others to work towards. It is the beginning of it, so it is a great start.

MJ: Shockingly the supply of food is the worst Green House Gas offender (25%). Construction is only 10%. How do we change it?

CN: For me it is a journey. My team and I are out searching to find best practice. Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet. The way we change it is by people being more conscious. In terms of restaurants, I don’t believe in preaching to people, as this goes against the joy and pleasure of eating out. Instead, it is about the messaging and communicating that there is more information available if guests want it.  In terms of waste, supermarkets need to do more, from packaging waste and portion sizes. It needs to be a 360 approach, and changes need to be made swiftly. From the farms to retailers to the restaurant, people need to know where their food comes from to get to their plate.

CN: Also in New Zealand, we had to eat seasonally because we were so isolated. In the UK, it was a shock to the system to get asparagus and strawberries in winter when I first arrived. This is all driven by consumption and demand, so instead we need to learn how to make the most of what we currently have. Embracing the imperfect is also important.. We shouldn’t be aiming for constant consistency in looks alone, we should aim for flavour. The consumer demand for consistency and sameness needs to flip to be supply driven, to eat what is available.  

MJ: If you had a magic wand, what would you do or change in the restaurant world?

CN: There is a lot. Sustainability needs to be a 360 degree subject; made up of people, purpose, planet and profit. The hospitality industry has been through a harrowing 14 months. The challenges are real, and currently the biggest is with the staffing crisis. That is not sustainable. Probably one of the biggest things I would also change is to make the true cost of running a restaurant reflected in price to consumers. Everything that goes into it is often not reflected by the price. This would mean that farmers would be paid the true value of their work, and the teams paid for the skills that they have.

MJ: Are you going to COP26 in Glasgow, if yes what will you be doing, if not what should it be highlighting?

CN: TBC on the attending. But I would like action and implementation and not just ‘chat’ at COP.  It is always one thing I find challenging; a lot of talk around the ‘what’, and not enough about the ‘how’. For restaurants, there is no guide or best practice on how to reduce carbon footprint and become more sustainable. That is what I hope to contribute to. To make it easier for everyone else to implement. 

MJ: What are your favourite sustainability brands that are also leading the way?

CN: One is Chef Dan Barber and Blue Hill at Stone Barnes restaurant, where there is no menu as such. Instead, guests get to eat what is best at that time, most of it from local supply. There are a lot of great brands doing good things, such as Cauli Box, obviously what Delphis Eco is doing, and others like Toast Ale and Rubies in the Rubble.

MJ: Is there a podcast or book you would recommend?

CN: There is Silo by Douglas McMaster which is great for restaurants or anyone at home in terms of getting rid of single use plastic like cling film. Another great book is Sitopia by Carolyn Steel. She also wrote Hungry City – both are educational and interesting.  

MJ: The big takeaways are that we need a better platform, and part of this is the platform, we need action coming from Government with real things that we can aim at. Circularity is critical and the manufacturers of tomorrow need to think of circularity. The piece about staff is slightly overlooked but it is critical that we take everyone on the journey with us.

Thank you to Chantelle for adding valuable insight to the restaurant industry and how we can Collaborate to Zero. Chantelle uses Delphis Eco products in her restaurants in order to further reduce the businesses carbon footprint. To find out more about her book and restaurants please visit http://www.chantellenicholson.com/

Read more about one of Chantelle’s favourite sustainability brand Toast in our Collaborate to Zero interview with co-founder and COO Louisa Ziane here.

 

 

Continue reading

How to clean your barbecue like a pro this summer with planet friendly products

How to clean your barbecue like a pro this summer with planet friendly products

Switch to eco cleaning products that work and allow you to play a role in helping the environment

 

With lockdown restrictions lifted, and BBQ season in full swing, there’s a lot to celebrate. It's time to get those barbeques in tip top shape, so you’re ready to host family and friends all summer long.  

Delphis Eco is a plant-based cleaning range that is loved by professionals for its unparalleled performance and approved by the planet for the reduced impact it has on the environment. 

With an impressive list of professional fans in all areas of hospitality and catering,  we have pulled together some top eco-friendly tips and advice from professional chef, Calum Richardson on how to get your BBQ spring and summer fit, clean and safe.

How to get your BBQ sparkling clean in three simple steps using Delphis Eco products?

Getting the BBQ out of storage and ready to cook: Firstly, grab a bucket of water and add Delphis Eco Washing-Up Liquid, specially formulated with natural grease-busting action to remove dirt and grime. Wipe down the BBQ with a cloth or a sponge, then rinse with clean water and allow to dry.

Before cooking: Believe it or not a great BBQ hack is to use an onion. When the grill has started to heat up, attach half an onion to a fork and rub over the hot bars. The water in the onion steam cleans the grill plate / bars. Onions have natural antibacterial properties and if you're cooking with charcoal, you can throw the used onion right into the coals when you're finished to add flavour to whatever you're grilling. 

Cleaning your BBQ after cooking, while it’s cooling down: Lastly, using Delphis Eco Heavy Duty Degreaser on the grill will cut through grease, grime, oil, and fat from hard surfaces. It uses a combination of naturally derived vegetable extracts and powerful surfactants to leave surfaces clean and shiny.  What’s more, with no odour you can be sure that your BBQ fare is free from nasty harmful toxins and you can be confident you are serving up delicious food, tasting as great as it can.

Here’s what Calum Richardson, chef director, The Bay Fish & Chips had to say about Delphis Eco products:

“What’s key with Delphis Eco is, not only is it environmentally friendly, but actually, it is a great product that works on heavy duty grease and grime. If you use bleach for example and it leaves a smell, that smell transfers directly to what you’re cooking, shifting onto food. Delphis Eco provides effective plant-based cleaning in my restaurant and is a great way for you to clean at home and get your BBQ sparkling for spring.”

An eco-friendly way to clean your barbecue

Delphis Eco’s range is the first in the UK to be packaged in recycled plastic bottles made entirely from UK recycled plastic milk bottles. By using Delphis Eco products you will be supporting a circular economy, taking plastic waste out of landfill, incineration and the ocean, and reducing your carbon footprint.      

These products are safe to use on paint, aluminium, metal, and glass, so your barbecue will be clean and ready to be used. Plus, take a look at the EU Ecolabel accredited Delphis Eco Masonry and Stone Cleaner and try it out on your porch, you won’t be disappointed. It removes deep stains, moss, algae, oil, grease, traffic film, soot, limescale, rust, charcoal and efflorescence (white, fluffy salt deposits also called salt-petering) from masonry and stone, including granite, concrete and porcelain.

Click here for our BBQ Hero Bundle

Continue reading

#Ask Mark: 100 Days to COP26

#Ask Mark: 100 Days to COP26

As the excitement and anticipation is building for COP26 which is exactly 100 days away, I feel there is renewed enthusiasm and momentum around international climate action and what this significant event can potentially deliver. There is an appetite for progress, we as a nation are more invested in the environment, we are far more aware of the seriousness of climate change and the impact we as individuals have on the planet.

Efforts to set us all back on the right path will be in the spotlight this November, when Glasgow hosts COP 26, the UN’s Climate Change conference. It will be the most significant inter-governmental meeting about climate change since Paris in 2015, and the largest-ever conference held in the UK, with over 30,000 attendees. This giant undertaking is all very impressive, and demonstrates a global willingness to engage with the subject. However, we need more than empty words.  The truth is we have to half carbon emissions by 2030, and then hit zero net emissions by 2050. There can be no doubt about the huge scale of this challenge and the enormous structural change that is required.  In the history of humanity, we’ve never innovated at the speed we now need to.

As I see it, saving the planet requires a mix of education, collaboration and encouragement, three core pillars that we as a brand stand by .

Pillar 1: Education

Firstly, it’s about education, the kids of today are our future and the planet’s future. The role of education is crucial to help people understand and address the impact of climate change.  The youth is becoming increasingly committed to the fight against global warming and education is a key step to addressing these issues. I believe the education system needs to change; make climate change issues more visible and understandable. Immersing kids from an early age in nature is a crucial part of sustainability education, it helps them to develop an appreciation for the Earth. For older groups, it’s integrating climate change into as many subjects as possible. Our education system should highlight and talk about natural resources, circular economy, natural capital, all of which can help overcome the environmental challenges we are currently experiencing.  Make watching Breaking Boundaries by Sir David Attenborough and Johan Rockstrom compulsory for every teacher and then make them watch it again with their students.

Pillar 2: Collaboration

The second step is collaboration, we are in THE ‘Climate Decade’. The most important decade humanity has ever faced and we need to effect serious change on a large scale from Governments right down to local communities. This has to be a collaborative effort; we all have to play our part in cutting carbon emissions and promote a green recovery. With our initiative Collaborate-to-Zero which is a series of live podcast interviews with sustainable leaders and inspirers from key sectors. Our aim is to create a book with their top tips to share with delegates ahead of COP26 to encourage other disruptive entrepreneurial individuals, businesses, organisations to ultimately transform at an unprecedented scale and speed. We have a unique opportunity to build back a better, fairer ‘Net Zero’ economy. Every business must be ready to meet that challenge to give us a shot at a better future. 

Pillar 3: Encouragement

And lastly, encouragement; how do we encourage on a large scale? We need to invest more from a research and development perspective; governments, private equity and financial institutions must move away from their current focus on making short-term investments in favour of longer-term sustainable ones. Take for instance Zac Goldsmith's urge for change, he is calling for the government to introduce a range of incentives such as stamp duty rebates for homes participating in the green deal, and reduced VAT on materials used to retrofit homes. It’s these innovative ideas and incentives that will give people the encouragement to do the right thing.

Encouraging a different approach is what we have tried to do at Delphis Eco, taking decisions about our business and how it operates to create genuine structural change in our industry. For example, our perseverance with developing a 100% recycled and recyclable plastic bottle has been the right thing to do, though it has cost us financially. Over time, we hope to make it impossible for competitors to not do the same, since consumers will not tolerate it, and as a result innovation and scale will bring down the cost of such products. And finally, SME’s employ over 80% of the UK’s workforce, yet it is these smaller firms that often find it impossible to access the lending they need to invest in the new equipment and processes that would power more efficient and cleaner production. These SMEs are the lifeblood of the economy, so allowing each to work in a greener way would have a huge culminative effect for good.

We are so excited to see what the next 100 days brings and to be in Glasgow for COP26. 

Continue reading

Collaborate to zero: Harmony Project

Collaborate to zero: Harmony Project

The Collaborate to Zero series is all about how we can help each other get to a net zero position, a goal that Delphis Eco has set for itself by 2040, 10 years before the Paris accord. Our CEO, Mark Jankovich is interviewing business leaders to get their sector insight, tips and learnings.  By working together, we have a better chance of reversing the damage to our planet. It's all about collaboration to drive positive change!

In this fifth interview, Mark interviews Richard Dunne an inspirational educator, from The Harmony Project, to tell us about the importance of education on climate change.

Mark Jankovich: Richard is an absolute Rockstar when it comes to pushing sustainability. He captures the hearts and minds of the next generation and our future leaders. I first met Richard in 2010, when I got a phone call from his office. The year fours at his school had requested that I come in and answer some questions. I was fascinated to sit down and listen to them, and to share with them my vision for the company, a vision that has lasted to this day.

I'm delighted to have Richard join the Collaborate to Zero project. When I spoke to the headmistress of my girl’s school, I said “All around us education is changing by the second. What do you think?”, and she looked at me blankly. What do you think about that Richard, and please tell me a little bit about The Harmony Project and all the work that you are doing?

Richard Dunne: Well, I think that response is quite common. I was just talking to someone overseas last week who was concerned that his education system hadn't really changed since he was a child, 40 years ago. Of course, there are also a lot of parents now who are saying we need a different model of doing things. I believe we need to be much more relevant, meaningful and holistic in our thinking. Education needs to be addressing the issues of our time and there is a movement to try and change that.

I think the biggest challenge, and what we see in The Harmony Project, is that you've got a juggernaut of education going in one direction, and you are trying to jump on board and say: “Actually, we need to be steering this in a different direction.”  At The Harmony Project we are trying to say: “Let's look at what you're doing already, and let's rethink it and rework it.”  That way, we can start to better address the challenges of our time.

If we link climate change to, for example, the ice melting in the Arctic or the Antarctic, then we encourage people to think about the way our climate is changing. By then moving the conversation on to what they can do about it, we can develop a more positive outlook.

It's all about working alongside schools to instil a stronger sense of sustainability into their education system. That is how we help them make it better.

MJ: So, inspiring with a positive message and kind of a feel-good factor, which makes sense. It is where we need to be because there is a lot of positivity that we can get out of this, and we just need to showcase that.

RD: I think the best way to do that is by shifting the focus away from the potential eco-anxiety around climate change and moving towards something that they can do, themselves. If you look at that in the context of energy management, and monitoring in your school, students suddenly feel like they have a role to play if they are given a chance to lead it. Then they take that message home, and they start to ask their parents about where they use energy and how they can change that. By flipping it on its head in quite a simple way, it starts to have an impact.

MJ: Are you seeing a shift? Is there more urgency? Are more schools, waking up to this? Do you see the curriculum changing? Is the government on board?

RD: I think we have obviously been through a hugely challenging time over the last year to 18 months, and on one side that has made people rethink what education is about. A lot of parents have seen how schools are working, because they have seen much more of it in their own homes. It has opened up a conversation about the future of education, and how we want our children's education to be. Alongside that, a lot of people have been much more connected to nature. So, there is a very strong nature element to it. The other side, of course, is managing all of the challenges of COVID and lockdown. That has been really difficult. We have to be careful not to push our agenda too hard at the moment, when everyone is on their knees, just trying to get through to the end of the year.

In a more positive light, it has given us a chance to do things in a different way. My hope is that we start thinking about how we do things in the context of what its impact will be on the natural world. Take the Dasgupta Report and Review, for example, and how it urged us to put nature at the heart of all economic practices. It’s the same for education. If that’s a big message coming through in the economy, then education needs to align with that.

By learning about nature, we are increasingly seeing its value. I would say we need to go further and learn from nature itself.

What I call Principles of Harmony, are an educational context that we can learn from. For example, the things that you are applying to your business cycles: recycling, producing bottles out of 100% recycled materials, etc. It helps young people to think that way.

MJ: I love the Harmony Principles. You very kindly gave me a copy of the Harmony book, written by The Prince of Wales. How can we get those principles embedded into education and what do you think the barriers are to getting those core principles embedded?

RD: I think we have to push for change at all levels. Let me give you an example, I’m currently working with the Forest School Association to ensure that all young people have access to nature-based outdoor learning on a regular basis. Some schools will do it anyway, but in other schools, it will be a big change. They need to have funding to shift beyond the idea that you can only learn in a classroom. The funding will support the change, the training of staff and the running of sessions outside in nature.

So how do we get a better balance between classroom based learning and outdoor learning? That's a policy change. That is something that we are pushing at a government level. We are trying to say, “You've done it for sport, so now let's do it for nature!” My ideal would be that these Principles of Harmony run through the national curriculum, in fact, I am even starting to call it the ‘natural curriculum’.  We need to move away from a national curriculum to a natural curriculum.

MJ: I shudder to think what the percentage of time is that kids spend outside and outdoor learning, I suspect it is woefully low. One of the things that we talked about, all those years ago was how younger generations would lose a sense of urgency as they went off to secondary school and other stuff would become cooler. Are you seeing that the interest in the environment and the surroundings is extending into secondary school and into university?

RD: Less so. I think it tends to be more holistic and more joined up as a way of seeing learning at primary level. At that stage, children are generally very keen to engage with projects that address those kinds of issues. Secondary school, of course, is a different format. You are mainly working in subject-specific areas, with different teachers, departments and styles of learning. I think that the more siloed approach does make it very difficult. It's not a criticism, it's just a reality of what is happening. So really, if we are going to make it work more at secondary, we have to try and reframe the learning to be more project focused. That would need some creative thinking and buy-in from teachers.

My sense is that a lot of young people, and organisations like Teach the Future, are very keen to push an interdisciplinary way of learning around projects. The more that young people demand it, the more it will need to be acknowledged. It might not be the whole time, but there might be more focus around themed weeks, or certain elements within the curriculum that are much more flexible to this kind of approach.

MJ: I'm interested to learn about the Sustainable Food Trust. Can you tell me more about them?

RD: The Sustainable Food Trust is looking to transition food and farming to a more sustainable way of working. They have created what is called a harmonised sustainability metric, which is a tool to enable farmers and people growing food to measure their impact in terms of both environmental and social measures, and to see how they can improve their work.

What's good about it is that it puts your footprint on a spectrum. So, you may start by looking at, for example, soil health, and you may not be in a very good place there. But there are steps that can guide you to creating healthier soil or improving your biodiversity. You can even track the social elements of the wellbeing of your staff, for example. There are lots of different strands to the work, and each strand takes you on a journey. It’s not like you are either onboard or not. It is a constant evaluative process of moving towards a more sustainable, regenerative way of working and there are a lot of people who are really interested in it.

The Prince of Wales is talking about it and highlighting the benefits of this approach. You have got supermarkets, banks, and people involved in the food and farming world who are saying, “Yeah, this is a really helpful way of seeing how we can move to a better place”. You have also got the rewilding elements and the land sharing versus land sparing. But ultimately, we need to be looking at ways of growing food that is both good for us and good for the planet.

MJ: I am a massive fan of rewilding; I think it is great. Under the umbrella of the Sustainable Food Trust, do you think that the government should be supporting farmers and landowners to rewild more land?

RD: I think the government needs to be incentivising practices that are helping to regenerate land, and rewilding as a part of that. If you look at the land sparing approach, you could have a field that is industrially farmed, but has a lot of chemicals, nitrogen, and fertilizer sprays on it. The land at the side might be a little bit wider and as a result, spared of that. It may even have a certain amount of biodiversity.

My sense of it and from what I understand from the Sustainable Food Trust is that we should also be looking at the farmland itself. The technologies that can help us to do that more will be key to not just seeing it as the bit on the side, but seeing how we can ensure that the farmland itself is healthy and good for wildlife.

MJ: Yes, it is important to link them all together. I have a slight bugbear with carbon offsetting. My view is that we need to do everything we possibly can. Lean into reducing our carbon as much as possible and then start offsetting. It is not something that you can just buy to clear your conscience. It is something you need to do at the end. And planting trees isn't necessarily the answer, but the rewilding piece, I think that is critical to getting the biodiversity up.

RD: Yes, the statistics are shocking. I read at the end of last year, in the WWF report, that we'd lost 68% of our biodiversity in the last 50 years. That is an extraordinary figure. I was talking to a school on Friday, I said to them, “Do you know how many different varieties or species of beetle there are in the UK? And one very bright boy said “3,200”. But I think the figure is closer to 4,000. And that is just beetles. And yet, I don’t know about you, I could probably only name three.

MJ: It is about taking a holistic approach. Using a mathematical equation to make the point. It’s about making it visual, versus incredibly dull and boring. I would like to hear more about some of the partnerships that you're working with, and some of the leaders that you've worked with? What is working well? What can you share from a collaboration perspective?

RD: Collaboration is so essential. We need to work together. I already mentioned the Forest School Association and our work on the nature of premium. I am also working with the Eden Project and Eden Project International, and that is fascinating. Tim Smit is such a visionary man. He is keen to see how we can push forward these urgent issues and really address them. So, we are doing some interesting work there.

We have got a lovely project at the moment with young people on the subject of ‘Home’. What is my home? Where is my home? What are my hopes and fears for the future? And what would I say to someone who visits my home? The first group of students we are working with is a group in the Maldives. Their home is hugely under threat and they are very conscious of that. They are absolutely brilliant at sharing their message. We want to build a network of young people sharing their story: their hopes and fears for the future, and how they think we need to address the issue of looking after our ‘home.’ It has got the environmental side, but it has a social dimension as well.

Also, in terms of collaboration, we are doing some interesting work with The Prince’s Foundation. Lord John Bird, who set up The Big Issue, is pushing hard in England with his act that addresses the future and not just the now. It’s called The Future Generations Act. We need to be much more forward thinking, as well as dealing with the here and now. We need to be looking at the long-term impact of the way we live. All of these projects are looking very much along those lines.

MJ: If you had a magic wand in your hand, what would you do?

RD: I would shift learning away from being separated out. I would make it coherent and cohesive. That doesn’t mean to say you cannot teach subjects skills and knowledge, but what it does mean is that you do so because it is relevant to the project that you are doing.

I remember talking to one of my daughters about her learning in maths, and they did the number sequence of the Fibonacci spiral. And I said, “Did you draw the Fibonacci spiral, because it's a spiral of nature?” And she said, “No, no, we just did it as a maths sequence of numbers.” I said, “That's a shame, because it's a really beautiful spiral that we see everywhere in the world.” Then I asked, “By the way, what are you doing in art?”, and she said, “We're doing pop art”. So, I thought, there could be a great connection between the maths and the art. They could have joined it together in a beautiful way but in reality, there was no connection at all. From one lesson to the next, was a different world. I think if I had a magic wand, it would be to bring learning together under projects that really have a sense of purpose, and a sense of practical application.

MJ:  There are so many kids out there who would learn better if you actually made it real. A few last questions. What are your favourite brands that are inspiring you?

RD:  Well, of course, there is Delphis Eco.

MJ: Thank you for the plug, that was not necessary!

RD: No, but in all seriousness, I think the way that you work, and the dedication and commitment you have to the cause is exactly what we need to be looking at. I remember Robert Swann, the polar explorer, talking about the biggest threat to our planet is the belief that someone else will save it.  We have to walk the talk. And that is what you do. I love any organisation that is trying to challenge the status quo. More and more, we are seeing organisations, like North Face, who are doing great work around environmental issues.

MJ: Any brilliant books and podcasts that you think we should be listening to? Obviously yours, The Harmony Approach, but any others?

RD: In terms of books, you may know of a guy called Mike Berners Lee. He has written an interesting book called How Bad are Bananas which looks at the journey of our bananas, from where they are grown to our homes. He has done a number of books, which are very environmentally aware and challenging.

I am also reading a lovely book called The Well Gardened Mind. It is about the importance of gardening and nature to our wellbeing, particularly for people who are in situations of trauma or depression. I'll share one last one, which is a beautiful book called The Hidden Geometry of Flowers by Keith Critchlow. It’s written by a man who used to run the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts.  It's all about the amazing beauty and patterns in the geometry of flowers. That is a special book.

Thank you to Richard for adding valuable insight to the education and agricultural sectors and how we can Collaborate to Zero. To find out more about The Harmony Project please visit www.theharmonyproject.org.uk .

 

Continue reading

#AskMark – Made in Britain for the planet

#AskMark – Made in Britain for the planet

Summer’s here and the sun is out. Once again, it’s time to dig out my cricket whites and get back to the crease with a bunch of old mates.

While playing ‘dad’s cricket’, a pal of mine – a ship broker by trade – had some grim news that he wanted to share. “Things are going mad in the market and it’s going to be bad for everyone.”

Shipping prices are a pretty good early indicator of inflation and national prosperity, it turns out. And container shipping, especially from Asia, seems to have lost its mind. Where forward rates for ship hire were recently around $8,000 a day, they are now hitting a staggering $146,000. And these are prices that are locked in… for at least five years.

As someone who runs a growing SME, the intricacies of the container market had passed me by. But pandemic imports like PPE and medicines, a growth in online shopping demand and low ship availability have created a perfect storm. Or as my mate said, it means everything imported is going to get way more expensive. “The government should watch out – inflation is coming like a bullet train.”

Of course, inflation is bad for business because it forces up interest rates, hurting investment and hitting jobs. However, that wasn’t the issue that got me thinking.

At Delphis Eco we have been passionately pro-British since the off. Not in a creepy jingoistic way, but more to do with wanting to do the right thing to deliver on our environmental promise. For me, supporting local businesses supports local communities, it also means we can share our eco-vision and standards with suppliers and cut the ‘carbon miles’ of our products.

Sadly, over time Britain has become a manufacturing wasteland. There is no doubt that we have some of the brightest and best minds in this country, yet successive governments have seemingly given up on the idea of supporting companies that make ‘stuff’. The attitude seems to be that third world countries will produce cheap goods and we should just leave them to it, no matter that it means products have to come halfway round the world to us.

Recently there has been plenty of bluster about how the post-pandemic world will be a chance to ‘build back better’. A ‘green revolution’ is going to take place, with Britain at the forefront, apparently.

For our business, the lack of homegrown manufacturing capability has been a real bind. Trying to find a UK firm making lotion pumps and spray triggers for our bottles (we want them made of 100% recycled plastic, of course) has proved totally impossible. Look around your house and you’ll find virtually every one of those trigger sprays on domestic products was made in China.

It’s the same for washing powders. We’d love to get into that market and have a great recipe ready and waiting but I’d have to go to France to get it made (a 30-second phone call would do it), so still our search goes on to find a British partner.

Plastic as a raw material costs the same here as anywhere else in the world, and machine-made mass-produced items have virtually no cost of production. My big gripe is how – as a nation – we’ve got ourselves into such a state. All the small, simple consumables that we import from the Far East could easily be made here if only there was concerted political will to give SMEs a break. As a solution, why not make stuff here and do away with the crazy global supply chains on items that do not require specialist know-how?

Instead, Politicians go for headlines rather than having a joined-up approach. SMB’s make up 99% of UK companies and employ 61% of the workforce, accounting for 52% of the UK’s turnover. They love this kind of stuff and are happy to take risks but unless you are a huge company with a massive lobby budget, you’re invisible to politicians.

For example, on the green front, the recent announcements of Nissan’s decision to base future battery production for new electric models in Sunderland is undoubtably great news. But the 1,600 direct jobs it secures – plus 4,500 more in the firm’s supply chain – is just a drop in the ocean compared to what the wider business community could offer.

From an environmental perspective, people have to see the bigger picture. As a nation we’re signed up to a legal pledge to cut emissions drastically, yet the issue of carbon miles is overlooked and rarely articulated.

Offering SMEs tax incentives to invest in the UK would bring back huge amounts of manufacturing to these shores and create millions of worthwhile jobs, while simultaneously doing away with the need for wasteful, high-emissions imports. I can’t help wonder that if the government gave some kind of incentive to SMEs to invest in machine manufactured goods, we would see a huge lift in locally made products, creating jobs, supporting local communities and cutting C02 units.

It would also spark innovation, meaning businesses like ours could find someone here to make our new washing detergent and triggers for our bottles.

Unfortunately, calls such as this can often be viewed through a distorted Brexit lens. This isn’t about being ‘Little Englanders’, but more about understanding that global commerce in its current form definitely doesn’t work for the planet.

Continue reading

The unintended consequences of pouring chemicals down the drain

The unintended consequences of pouring chemicals down the drain

Chemicals that we dispose of through our plumbing are ending up in your food

As media coverage and general public awareness of the planet’s state of emergency becomes more widespread, many have begun to wake up to the drastic impact that climate change is having on our environment.

A growing number of people realise that, now more than ever, it is crucial that we each individually make those small changes that can help us as a species become more sustainable. - whether that is consuming less meat, driving an electric car, or simply adjusting our shopping habits.

Some of these new habits have become more popularised than others. However, there are some other simple changes to your lifestyle and daily routine that could make a big difference.

Why shouldn’t you put chemicals down the drain?

Have you ever thought about how what you are putting down the drain could be impacting our planet? Not many people do, because it seems like such an innocuous matter. After all, the drain is where liquid waste products should go, right? And whatever happens to it after that is not our problem. The truth, however, is slightly more complicated, and decidedly less convenient.

Did you know that many of the chemicals that we pour down the drain pass through our water’s filtration systems? As a result, many of these substances often end-up back in our surface and groundwater, which then runs into the oceans and is consumed by marine life, or is used to water our crops, and ultimately ends up on our plates.

As these compounds, such as phosphates, have a destructive effect on the ecosystems of our rivers, lakes, streams, and other water sources, water is increasingly becoming unsafe for consumption by all living creatures, including us.

In China, the water supply has become so contaminated by the dumping of toxic and industrial waste that pollution-induced algae blooms have caused the surface of China’s lakes to turn the water bright green. However, greater problems can be seen below surface, with 90% of groundwater in China’s cities now contaminated, linking to high cases of liver, stomach and oesophageal cancer.

How do these toxic chemicals enter water waste?

With all pipes attached to a waterway system, anything that is washed down the drains via our sinks, toilets or washing machines should travel into our wastewater treatment plants.

Shockingly, however, 39 million tonnes of raw, untreated sewage flows into the Thames every year, in 21st century London (although you could be forgiven for thinking that this was describing the Victorian era). And this is just one of the many hundreds of rivers in the UK.  The true national total hardly bears thinking about.

Additionally, with most of our water systems ironically being reliant on old Victorian pipes, these chemicals can often seep directly into our soil through leaks in these outdated pipes. With just under 3 billion litres of water lost to leaks everyday across England and Wales, an equivalent of 1,180 Olympic swimming pools is going straight into the environment. The worst offender, Thames Water, loses around a staggering 179 litres per property each day as a result of broken pipes, meaning that the value of the Thames’ annual 39 million litres of raw sewage water pollution is likely to be much larger.

How are household cleaners damaging the environment?

While household cleaners are not usually thought of as pollutants and instead seen as helpful aids to tackle tough cleaning jobs within our homes, this is not the full picture.

Many common cleaning products contain hazardous and lethal chemicals that are large contributors to water pollution, including bleach, ammonia, nitrogen, and phosphates – with bleach itself having many chemical makeups that are banned across Europe for its corrosive and toxic effects. With a large number of countries taking action to “impeach the bleach”, many are left wondering why the UK government is yet to recognise the extensive damage that these compounds are likely causing to the environment and to people.

With traditional cleaning agents containing dangerous water contaminants in large quantities, pollution in our waters is becoming a widespread problem that is detrimental to marine life and jeopardising our health. With less than 1% of the Earth’s freshwater actually accessible and safe to drink, this will only decrease as our waterways continue to be polluted.

Why chefs clean sustainably 

Calum Richardson, Chef Director at The Bay Fish & Chips restaurant and Delphis Eco ambassador, has woven sustainable practices throughout his business and has always been mindful of the fish he has sourced. However, he later became concerned about the knock-on effects of the products that went down the drain.

“If you use bleach, for example, and it leaves a smell, that smell is a volatile organic compound which transfers directly to what you’re doing on the surface. Do you want to serve people food that has chemicals in it?” 

As a result, Calum became conscious of the cleaning products he was using in his kitchen, realising that the household cleaning brands he was using contained toxic compounds that once washed down toilets, sinks and dishwashers became a severe problem – especially when they travelled up the food chain.

After discovering these long-term effects, Calum began using Delphis Eco and hasn’t looked back. As a perfect green alternative, Delphis Eco is derived from renewable plant-based ingredients – meaning our eco cleaning products are readily biodegradable and never contain harmful toxins.

What cleaning products are safe for our rivers and oceans?

Here at Delphis Eco, we produce professional award-winning, ecological cleaning products made from renewable, plant-based ingredients with an aim to significantly reduce both our plastic waste, water pollution and carbon emissions. With over a decade of experience in tackling tough dirt, all our products are formulated to be kind to the environment without compromising on quality or price.

Read more about our ingredients here.

Here are Calum’s top two favourite cleaning products that are safe for our waterways:

Delphis Eco Multi-Purpose Cleaner 700ml, £4

With Calum Richardson’s stamp of approval, the Multi-Purpose Cleaner is a fan favourite and the perfect all-in-one cleaner to scrub out stubborn marks and any dirt and grease. Working brilliantly throughout the home, our product leaves everything clean and shiny – without impacting our waterways.

 

Delphis Eco Drain Cleaner and Maintainer (tube of 10), £10

Need to tackle a tough drain blockage? Look no further than Delphis Eco Drain Cleaner and Maintainer. Our powerful enzyme treatment is specially created to eat away at food, grease, and organic waste to eliminate blockages and nasty smells. With its natural ingredients, our product is perfect for putting down the drain.

 

Continue reading

#AskMark – Scope 3 and the combined might of a collective

#AskMark – Scope 3 and the combined might of a collective

I love the summer because you can invariably count on long days packed with sport. This year is a right feast, with the Euros, Wimbledon, Lions Tour and Olympic Games all packed into a few short weeks.

The thing that I’m always fascinated by is the fantastic team ethics of top-class competitors. Even those in ferociously competitive individual events such as track cycling or athletics are supported by huge networks of backroom staff – such as nutritionists, coaches and physios – to help them get over the line.

Business is the same. Success certainly is never down to one person or idea, but typically is about taking the combined might of a collective to achieve a dream. And it usually requires both a ‘carrot and a stick’ to get the best results.

I make no secret that I want my company, Delphis Eco, to be a winner when it comes to being for the planet and for profit. And to that end we need to lead our entire team including suppliers to become net positive businesses – who care about the planet, people and profit.

We’re already a B-Corp business, which means we can demonstrate a high moral and social compass. Our products are EU Ecolabel certified to prove they do not harm the environment or users and come in 100% recycled plastic bottles. We were founding signatories to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s (EMF) Plastics Pact and among the first 100 companies globally to back  Global Optimism’s The Climate Pledge. We are also signed up to The Race to Net Zero and The Prince of Wales’s Terra Carta. I am proud of every single initiative and support them passionately.

Being an eco-friendly business can’t be the end of things though. In our drive towards net zero emissions we are already working hard on what’s called our Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions. Basically, that’s all the greenhouse gas that we produce directly through our facilities, vehicles and energy use. More difficult is Scope 3 – these emissions include all our supply activity, not strictly ours, but directly related to our products.

The letter that landed on the desks of the respective CEOs of our suppliers addressed these emissions. Think of it as a mission statement about how we all move forward to reach a net zero target. It effectively asked them to join our journey and now the ball really is in their court as to how we get there.

We work with a tight selection of businesses and, typically, have chosen those along the way that have similar ideals to us. For example, as I’ve mentioned before, our printer for our labels is the greenest in the world, using eco-friendly inks and cutting-edge processes. So what we are asking of these guys won’t be too much of a struggle, but for others it will be a huge challenge.

You see, what we have suggested is that all our suppliers come on an eco-journey with us, cutting their own carbon emissions and improving the green credentials. We will be conducting audits to see how they are progressing – and holding them to account on promises.

I’ll admit that years ago you could not have expected the type of businesses we work with to have given these issues much thought. But things have moved on. Today, there is no reason why a factory in the Midlands can’t have solar panels on its roof to decarbonise its power needs.

This all sounds a bit draconian and Big Brother, but it really isn’t. The feedback we’ve had so far has been amazingly positive. Now’s the time to realise they are called ‘business partners’ for a reason. The ‘partnership’ comes in the form of a two-way exchange of views and ideas. We are helping with advice and contacts but have also set clear goals about what we expect.

Having a greener and more holistic supply chain requires bold action and may mean some short-term increases in costs. I like the famous IKEA example best – the Swedish giant unilaterally decided to only sell low energy LED bulbs and de-list all non-LED bulbs, which over time completely changed the lighting market. The good news is that LED bulbs have dramatically come down in price and are a normal thing in every home.

We expect to see changes in behaviour across our supply chain, and this will feed further along into thousands of other companies – the suppliers of our suppliers.

It’s all about the action of the collective. Teamwork makes champions.

Continue reading

#AskMark – the journey to find the holy grail of greenness

#AskMark – the journey to find the holy grail of greenness

Dressed for work in a suit and a tie, I’m probably the last bloke you’d consider to be an eco-warrior.

But the longer I am involved in the world of environmentally conscious manufacturing, the more I realise that there is a real fight to get involved in. And it is time that everyone picks a side!

Down at the frontline of the war on waste, it is a dark and dispiriting place. And as with all battles, the picture is confusing and difficult to explain. But I’ll try here, using my experience as a guide.

At Delphis Eco, I’ve made a point of trying to do the right thing from the off. Producing cleaning products without chemical nasties was always going to be a challenge simply because the industry wasn’t set up for it. But developing recipes that suppliers could work with was just the starting point.

My interest in green products really grew during my former life in banking and ethical investment. Seeing pictures of mountains of plastic waste in poverty-stricken Third World countries was a particular eye-opener that made me question the traditional thinking of capitalism’s industrial model – the destructive linear economy of ‘Take-Make-Waste’.

So, as well as all the other challenges of starting a business, ensuring our products were packaged the right way has always been important.

We wanted plastic bottles that were 100% recycled, so off we went, chasing waste collectors, rubbish dumps and plastic suppliers only to be told our dream wasn’t possible. When we did find a small business that was recycling London’s plastic milk bottles – and was able to help us – they rather inconveniently went bust.

Still, out of adversity came an even stronger desire to succeed. And if milk bottles were the way forward, it presented another opportunity – to reuse ‘home-grown’ waste products, rather than plastics that had been sent halfway around the world to be processed before coming back. In the circular economy, keeping this production in the UK was the holy grail of ‘greenness’.

Of course, waste collection firms thought we were mad, but when they realised we were serious they agreed to separate used milk bottles for us. The same too for our bottle blower, who initially insisted this plastic wasn’t of good enough quality to go into their plant and needed lots of convincing. There was some complicated science too (all to do with molecule length, in case you’re interested!) but we overcame that by making our bottles slightly thicker. Sure, they are slightly heavier as a result, but UK recycling and manufacture means zero carbon miles, which far outweighs the emissions cost of importing recycled raw materials from China.

At the same time, our supplier is now getting considerable interest from a whole host of other manufacturers about their 100% recycled plastic, opening up the prospect of new jobs and new investment. And as more potential customers make the switch, the processing should get cheaper meaning better prices for all of us.

So there has been some interesting learning on this journey. First off is perseverance. When it comes to the environment, you encounter plenty of ‘old world’ thinking. Asking to do new stuff in different ways will typically be met with a shake of a head or sharp intake of breath, so the secret is to have a thick skin and a total belief that you are doing the right thing. We’ve pushed boundaries and changed opinions by convincing suppliers to work with us – mostly by paying more than to get the technology up and running and shown them why it will be financially beneficial for us all in the long run.

Secondly, and on a rather more depressing note, is the fact that the whole recycling arena is one of smoke and mirrors. The present packaging waste regulations essentially incentivise companies to watch plastic waste be exported to poorer nations for recycling. Given the UK is fast running out of landfill capacity, it’s no surprise the government is happy to see plastic sent abroad, but we are not fooling anyone if we think recycling facilities in Indonesia, Vietnam or India are more efficient than here. Thousands of miles away, mountains of rubbish are building up – and being burned – so we don’t have to deal with the problem.

Meanwhile, consumers should be similarly concerned about the dutiful recycling they do at home. Separating your rubbish is all very well, but in some London Boroughs a staggering 82% of those recyclables are currently being incinerated rather than reused.

Where do we go from here then? For us, it’s about ensuring that every business partner we work with buys in to our eco vision and is committed to joining us to be carbon neutral by 2030. We’re also among the founding signatories to the Ellen McArthur Foundation’s Plastic Pact, which is working towards a true circular economy for plastic products.

Ultimately, I’d like to see the introduction of a proper kitemark system that consumers can trust when it comes to plastic products made from recycled materials. We’ve seen how demand (from Delphis Eco) pushed manufacturers to try new things, so imagine this pressure multiplied across the country. If we can do it with old milk bottles then what about other types of plastic too? The pendulum of public opinion is swinging, and it’s up to business to meet the challenge.

Continue reading

Collaborate to Zero: Seep

Collaborate to Zero: Seep

How can we achieve net-zero carbon and halt the climate crisis? By working together to drive widescale, meaningful change.

To this end, Delphis CEO Mark Jankovich meets fellow eco-entrepreneurs to swap insights and inspiration. This week, we’re honoured to welcome Laura Harnett, founder of sustainable cleaning retailer, Seep.

 

Mark Jankovich: A big welcome, and thank you for being our second in the series after Toast Ale!

 

Laura Harnett: Toast was actually one of my inspirations, so this was clearly meant to be.

MJ: Excellent. Please start by telling us about your background and the story of Seep.

LH: I was a buyer, a consultant, and then I went into Selfridges as the chief of staff, but my corporate life was at odds with how I was living, the products I was using, alongside being very aware of things going on in the world, and at some point you can't live this kind of separate life. Then I was diagnosed with and treated for breast cancer, and that puts a fire in your belly. I’d had the idea for Seep for quite some time and at the beginning of lockdown I decided to finally go for it.

MJ: What is the idea, in a nutshell?

LH: I believe it should be easier for people to make sustainable choices. I was in my local Waitrose and I had my recycled toilet paper and my organic food in the trolley, but then I went down the cleaning aisle – bin liners, sponges, cloths, washing-up brushes, mops, all of that bumpf – and it looked like the 1950s. There wasn't a sustainable product anywhere to be seen. I wanted to put in some innovation, to give people an alternative.

 

MJ: I think you've succeeded in that for sure, Laura. And as you say it should be easier to make better choices. What do you think businesses should be doing to drive this impact at scale?

LH: You have to keep peeling back the layers of what you've got in your supply chain, because it’s not ingrained. The guys doing our packaging and our printing, they don’t automatically think of sustainability unless you ask questions. And if they come back with a crappy answer or say, "oh, it’s biodegradable", that’s not good enough.

MJ: I hear you work with On A Mission. How are they different from the 55 million others doing carbon offsetting?

LH: They are scientists and engineers who work in reforestation. They’re very data-driven, there’s no ego, no flashy branding, just great decision-making and backup for how they choose their projects. If I feel that somebody has the same sort of ethics as me, that goes a long way.

MJ: Did they help you with your LCA, the Life-Cycle Assessment?

LH: Yeah, we’re at the early stages of doing that as part of our B Corp certification. They look at what your products are made of, how they’re made, how you're shipping them, the mileage, and then they give you a carbon footprint based on the way that you're currently sourcing. We offset three times our footprint, but the idea is that you keep the money the same, even though your footprint – hopefully – comes down, so you’re offsetting more and more over time. How have you done it? Any tips?

MJ: For us, scope one and two was easy, the hard piece is scope three. It's auditing our factories at a real deep detail. They are moving in the right direction, but I'm almost at the point of panicking about scope three and how we can draw that baseline. Because you can't say you’re going to race to zero and not know where you started.

LH: Exactly. I mean, it's really great to hear, because that's the stuff I endlessly beat myself up about, you know? How far back can we go? But knowing that even someone like you, Mark, is still worrying about that sort of thing, actually makes me feel better. If I can just chip away at it and understand where I'm at, anything that I can move forwards is a little victory.

MJ: And the whole point of this session is that it’s 100% our responsibility – 100% our responsibility! – and it winds me up that you have massive corporates that are putting their heads in the sand and saying, it’s not me! We are talking about such systemic change and you're not seeing it on a massive scale. The only one is Tesla where, at a binary level, they’ve redesigned the entire infrastructure and that's what we need. We need somebody to blow a billion dollars and be broke and be crying on the floor because he's got cars that nobody wants to buy and be within seconds of shutting down and then… make it! Everybody's now copying him, and governments are going we need to stop combustion engines!

LH: I couldn't agree more, it's the big disruptors that are prepared to challenge their industry. I'm biased, but I think Selfridges has done some really good stuff in that space. They did the ‘No More Fish in The Sea’ campaign years before it was the thing that caught on. It really comes from the top, so Alannah Western, the chairman, and the MD Anne Pitcher, they baked it into the strategy.

MJ: Alannah is a real stand-up leader.

LH: And brave. Because she said, "Look, it's going to impact our bottom line, but I believe so much in this".

MJ: What's so important about case studies and telling stories is we need to tell people that stuff is happening, things are changing, and this is the way you can behave, and they'll follow. If we can keep telling great stories and can collaborate on how we can work together, we will move the needle.

LH: If you can get people to love a brand, and an ethos, and a great looking product, and it also just happens to be sustainable, I'm good with that. A great example is Stella McCartney who, when she became a designer, said, I'm not using any animal products. Another example is Good Club. Are you listed with them?

MJ: Yes.

LH: Okay, so they’ve really thought it through from beginning to end. You get the crate that you can decant when you’re buying it loose, and they’ve made it super easy for the customer. The ethos they have on the buying side, being really clear about what they think is okay and what is not, I think that’s a real challenge to other grocery retailers.

MJ: The more I learn about them, the more I like their passion. What about your journey to getting B Corp certified? How’s that going?

LH: We are very early days, but I wanted to build Seep from the ground up in a way that was right, and I knew that B Corp was kind of a North Star that would guide me in the decision making. What works really well with me is, if I make a public statement about something, by God am I going to make sure that it happens!

MJ: I remember doing my B Corp submission. Oh, my God, that was hard yards! You know, Laura, it's amazing the overlap, because my ethos has also been, we’ve just got to do it, we've got to keep going and we've got to be true to ourselves. We have to think through all of our procurement, we have to make those better choices.

LH: Yeah, and it's tough when you're a new business, because those choices add cost. And you don't have the budget sometimes, so they're not choices that you make lightly. I think that's the hardest thing actually, how do you tread the balance of being as sustainable as you can be without killing your margin along the way?

MJ: I mean, that’s the reality of being an entrepreneur and a disrupter and delivering something completely new. I've got long-suffering shareholders who have been around for three times longer than they'd hoped, but you've just got to keep going and hope that it will come right. Last question. Where did the name come from?

 

LH: My husband's an orthopaedic surgeon and he loves an acronym. He came up with Sustainable Eco Everyday Products or something, and I thought, God, that’s naff! But then I thought, hang on a minute, it spells Seep, it’s got a lovely sound and a graphic designer would get quite excited about it. And it stuck.

MJ: That’s pretty cool. Well, thank you for taking time to talk.

LH: I mean, I have a ton more questions but they're all really practical, like plastic bottles and inks and, you know, no end of it. I’ll have to set up another time to pick your brains!

MJ: That is the point of Collaborate to Zero. I want to share what I know, my suppliers and so on, and get tips from others and kind of help push the whole thing. So, watch this space…

 

      

Continue reading

Collaborate to Zero: Toast Ale

Collaborate to Zero: Toast Ale

How can we achieve net-zero carbon and halt the climate crisis? By working together to drive wide-scale, meaningful change.

To this end, Delphis CEO Mark Jankovich meets fellow eco-entrepreneurs to swap insights and inspiration. First up is Louisa Ziane, co-founder and COO of Toast Ale.

Louisa Ziane, co-founder and COO of Toast Ale.

Mark Jankovich: Welcome Louisa, thanks for finding time to talk. I’d love to start by understanding the story of Toast, where you guys came from and how you developed this amazing, sustainable approach to craft beer.

Louisa Ziane: My pleasure, Mark. We started Toast over five years ago when we saw that there was a huge problem with food waste. Did you know that in the UK, 44% of commercially made bread is discarded?

MJ: That’s appalling.

LZ: But thanks to a visit to a brewery in Belgium we learnt that the origins of brewing and baking are intertwined, because the original recipes for beer actually used a fermented grain like bread. This brewery created a delicious beer using surplus bread, creating a circular product. And we saw that we could marry the huge problem of food waste with the growing market opportunity of craft beer and create a really tasty solution. Now we dedicate our profits to a charity called Feedback, which was started by my Toast co-founder Tristram Stuart, to campaign for systemic change in the food industry. And of course, it’s also a communication tool, beer being the perfect way of starting a conversation. We know that the industrial production of food is the biggest contributor to climate change and biodiversity loss, yet we're wasting a third of everything that we produce. It's nonsensical. So it's a fun and delicious way to solve the problem, where we're not asking people to make concessions, but to value all of those natural resources and the human resources that we’re expending to produce food in the first place.

Toast Brewers Adding Bread To The Mix

MJ: Drinking beer is nearly as much fun as cleaning your bathroom, but I would say that…! My ‘ah-ha’ moment was in Italy where I saw a shop owner pour a bucket of soapy brown water into the storm drain, that literally went straight onto a crowded beach. And I realised it’s such a massive disconnect between this person who owns the shop, who wants us to shop there, but really is there because of the beach. So the question was, how can I create a cleaning product that doesn't have an impact on the environment? And then think through everything that we're doing to try and remove and reduce the environmental impact. The logic was obvious, like making beer from discarded bread, but the tricky bit has been telling the story and getting people to come on the journey and that took a lot longer than I thought. But there are lots of similarities around there being a fundamental need to be more sustainable and then delivering a product and a solution. How was your journey to becoming B Corp certified?

LZ: I was previously a climate change consultant at the Carbon Trust and before that I did a master's in environmental sciences, so I’ve known about the movement for quite some time. And when we started Toast, I saw some really interesting brands that were engaging with it, for example my daughter was six months old, so I was using Ella's Kitchen products. Ben and Jerry's is another B Corp. It was then connecting the dots between these fantastic brands and this greater purpose that maybe I hadn't been aware of as a consumer. I did the B Corp impact assessment just to see what it was all about and it opened my eyes to the fact that, yes, we're a fantastic environmental business, but there's still a lot more that we could do. I used the assessment as a framework to help me build a responsible business and our environmental mission, then it was a natural step to then go through the certification process. And it was the most wonderful experience for me, because I love everything about B Corp.

MJ: Yeah, I mean, we get asked every day to join some form of eco club. When we started there were none so am delighted that others are now on the journey, but I'm quite strict on sticking with very few and sticking with the best. And B Corp, I think, arguably is the toughest. From a provenance perspective, very few companies have it. There are a lot of massive competitors of ours who can't get it. We've got high-level product endorsement and at the corporate level B Corp arguably is the best or the toughest to achieve in that respect. My key driver with any club is collaboration and conversation, and B Corp make all of the members do the work, which is genius. We're having conversations with people and then we feed back to B Corp, but it works for us because it enables us to have strong conversations with people we wouldn't ordinarily have. And that’s the only way we’ll get to net zero carbon, don’t you think?

LZ: It's going to be very challenging. It requires partnerships, not just between businesses, but with government and civil society as well. You know, we all have a role to play and I think the structural changes that are required are huge. More than we've experienced over the last year with the lockdowns. But I saw in the news this morning that the UK reported that we're 50% of the way there to our target. And we're seeing some other countries switching away from fossil fuels. China is making a huge investment in wind, for example. And we've also seen the investment community moving away from investment in the old structures. I think all the players are there, the people in organisations that want to make this happen, and we've set these ambitious targets. It will be interesting to see what happens at COP26, whether we and other countries go with ambitious enough plans. So I'm hopeful, but the scale of the challenge is not to be underestimated.

MJ: We're going to get there, but it's either going to be collaborative or incredibly painful. I mean, it's going to be painful whichever way we look at it, but we're going to get there. But I think, to your point, the level of disruption is something that nobody is currently thinking about. And I think that's where conversations like this are super important because we are going to need to disrupt so fundamentally everything that we think about

LZ: Yes, there's a huge element of behaviour change to overcome. For example, one of the reasons there is so much bread waste is that supermarkets purposefully fully stock their shelves to create a feeling of abundance and luxury when you shop. And then the bread is fresh daily, usually, which creates so much surplus. A lot of it goes to charities, but some of those charities have too much bread. I don't know if you know the app OLIO?

MJ: Yes.

LZ: Where people go and they actually collect food direct from supermarkets and other retailers and then they distribute it to the neighbourhood? There's always bread on there because there's so much of it. And it's a short shelf-life product. Often charities have to turn it away or they end up with a waste problem and cost for themselves. So we have to incentivise the reduction of overproduction in the first place, as well as incentivising the use of that waste, you know, shaming some of these companies and working with them to re-educate, to change people's expectations of how we buy our food.

MJ: Absolutely. The way we operate businesses, the supply chain, the way we consume, the entire infrastructure and framework needs to be completely unravelled and re-woven, to orient it to a new way of doing things.

LZ: Exactly.

MJ: Last question. As a consumer, what could I be doing differently to make more sustainable choices? Besides drinking lots of Toast ale, of course?

LZ: I would say, don't feel like you have to be perfect. Don't feel like you have to fix everything in your life, focus on one thing. For example, you can can look at one room in your house. What’s under the kitchen sink? What are my cleaning products? Replace one at a time and find what works for you. Think about what interests you, like fashion, then find out what brands are doing something, like looking at alternative materials. Or if you're a real foodie, focus on where your food’s coming from and what changes you can make. Everything needs to change, but each of us individually doesn't need to change everything all in one go.

MJ: Wise words. Thank you, Louisa, and all the best with Toast.

LZ: Thank you, Mark.

To summarise, green businesses must do more networking and showcasing of best practice so we can learn from each other and drive scale change. And as consumers, we have the power to move the needle, from deciding what cleaning products and beer to buy, to how products are packaged and so on, it has a massive ripple effect.

   

Continue reading