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Bread & Jam’s Future Summit: Key Sustainability Lessons From Leading Challenger Brands.
Hear from innocent drinks, TRIBE, Minor Figures, Abel & Cole and more...
Last Friday, on Earth Day, Bread & Jam gathered FMCG’s boldest and brightest sustainability champions to share their learnings at the Future Summit, powered by GS1 UK. From deep dives into the legitimacy of offsetting, to tips and tricks to embed purpose at the core of your brand - the day was packed with lessons learnt. At Following the Footprints, we focus on bringing brands actionable insights and examples to help them make progress on their sustainability journey. Luckily, the Bread & Jam team has a similar aim.
Bringing together 5 key learnings from each of the 7 sessions, here’s an overview of all you might have missed…
👉 Building A Profitable Business With Sustainability At Its Core
Chaired by Louise Stevens, Stevens.Earth.
A deep dive into the journey of innocent drinks, from festival stand to household name. Moderated by Louise Stevens, innocent’s Sustainability Lead for 19 years, they dug into why building a brand that Richard was proud of from ‘day one’ was an essential foundation for innocent’s renowned ethos. Ingrained in their DNA, Innocent have donated 10% of profits to charity from the beginning. Richard was quick to point out that with 90% of profits staying within the business, "it's not that remarkable" proving that there is always more that can be done.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Equity will help your employees feel ownership, which is essential. Ensuring your early employees have equity will ultimately make sure that you ‘get back far more than you give’. The catch? You can’t do this as an ‘instead of’ for other employee needs. Employee-ownership will make your team “think like shareholders” and more value will be created in return. Innocent have gone one step further and set up a bonus for employees who switch to renewable energy at home. A quick win.
Brands need to focus on aligning their reality and their projected image to avoid greenwashing. Many brands struggle to do this perfectly, and many campaigns are being called out for greenwashing when actually the brand’s reality is so much better than the advert. This communication is tricky to get right. The Green Claims Code is really needed, but it’s not been fully worked out how that applies to a piece of creative execution like an advert. Brands need to find a balance between showing how much they’re doing in a ‘happy clappy way’, whilst making sure consumers don’t see it as simply ‘happy clappy’ and nothing else.
Sustainability choices need to make financial and commercial sense, for them to have longevity. Innocent experimented with changes in their plastic bottle, introducing more recycled content. At the time, the quality of the bottle went down, and the plastic was tinted green - causing sales to go down, which didn’t make the innovation financially sustainable. Brands need ‘maximum environmental benefit, and maximum engagement with consumers, in a way that isn’t bad for the business’.
Make sure you understand what consumers will focus on. Richard detailed how research showed that consumers cared more about whether the bottle was recyclable, rather than Innocent’s commitment to donate 10% of profits to charity. The reason? They don’t want to feel bad when they drop it in a bin. Make it as easy as possible for them to do the right thing.
Richard’s one piece of advice for FMCG brands? Bring joy. ‘Invest in team and community, but never lose sight that the world could shrug its shoulders and give it no thought if it doesn’t quite sell right or doesn’t bring them joy, (...) you have to accept that consumers are unreasonable and don’t care, unless you bring them moments of joy’.
👉 Integrating Purpose & Responsible Values Into Your Food Business
Chaired by Sarah Atkins, GS1 UK
Communicating purpose can be a tricky thing to get right. Embedding it in your organisation can be even harder. Laragh, James and Ed detailed how their brands have achieved this, and how having a strong purpose as your brand foundation doesn’t mean the work stops there. Engaging your team, measuring it accurately and working out your messaging are continuous challenges they’ve worked hard to overcome.
Our 5 Key Takaways:
Your purpose is your ‘why’, and ‘why’ will be a question that peels back the layers of your brand. It’s also ‘who you are when you’re at your best’. For Brewgooder, James pointed out that their purpose was built from a personal experience from his co-founder Alan, and it was strong enough that it rubbed off for him too. For brands worried about greenwashing, James suggested that greenwashing was ‘proclaiming a purpose that your internal values can’t match’. The solution? Make sure they align, truly. Check out Start With Why with Simon Sinek and Ed’s recommendation - Ashley Grice’s TED Talk on ‘The Power of Purpose in Business’.
Prioritise embedding your purpose into your team. Your values shape how you operate as a business, so they need to speak through everything. Since the start of COVID-19, the Brewgooder team has expanded from a team of 2 to 12, hiring another team member almost every 4 weeks. Embedding values across the team was the single biggest challenge they didn’t see coming. Brands also need to be conscious that their purpose won’t be their employee’s top priority, especially with the many challenges faced in society today. Ed’s tip? Embedding purpose in policy documents means you may never have to work hard to articulate it further.
Don’t underestimate the power of community. Laragh spoke of TRIBE’s strong community, which has been a central pillar for their success and impact. It’s also amplified their core vision - fighting modern slavery. From this, the TRIBE Freedom Foundation was born, executing it’s purpose on a scale bigger than a one-off partnership or project could. Through their Fight for Freedom runs, TRIBE has given their community the tools to use the luxury of running to support those who do not have the same freedoms. (In other words, running is their piece of joy with a positive impact!)
Be quantitative and qualitative when you measure your impact. Focusing on the numbers won’t always show you the true outcome of your work. TRIBE Freedom Foundation talks to survivors, and focuses on partnerships with a distinctly human touch. A tip? Use your impact reports for storytelling.
Work to understand the hierarchy of your messaging, especially if you’re marketing on a tight budget. Brewgooder have learnt the importance of speaking to their consumers' desires for great tasting beer, rather than always leading with their purpose. However, it’s ultimately a combination of the two that will tip consumers to buy them over other beer brands.
👉 Helping Consumers Challenge the Greenwashers and Support the Seriously Sustainable Brands
Chaired by Amirah Jiwa, Social Impact & Sustainability Strategist.
Bringing together a major retailer, a specialty and fine food wholesaler working with over 450 suppliers, and an early stage challenger brand doesn’t happen every day. Guided by Amirah, each panellist gave insights into their unique approaches to communicate sustainability - from quick digests on socials, to deep dives in impact reports. The focus wasn’t just on tips learnt and mistakes made - key questions around the responsibility of large corporations like Tesco to focus more on planet than profit were posed too.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Engaging suppliers is crucial, and it’s quickly becoming more stick than carrot. However, you can’t set the bar too high for your suppliers, otherwise there might be no business. Cotswold Fayre’s 450 suppliers are surveyed via questionnaire, relying on honesty, but ultimately taste and cost and other variables will always be priority.
To strike a balance between detail and engagement, leverage UGC, impact reports and product fact sheets. Aneisha suggested working with your customers to make content about what they care about is a good way to engage them. Trialling this on different platforms, focusing on click through rate, and testing out different communication strategies for key sustainability information will be key. Paul and Rodrigo suggested sharing your data and evidence online in impact reports or product fact sheets - so if consumers want it, they can find it. The more you have, the more you should share, the more you can communicate authentically and avoid greenwashing.
Understand the tension between profit and purpose. Paul pointed out that consumers know a key reason for a business’ existence is to generate money for shareholders, so until this fundamentally changes there will always be scepticism. How to overcome this? There’s no ‘best’ solution as there’s always tradeoffs, so being honest and transparent about decisions and progress is key. Rodrigo pointed out that there can be positives for working in a profit-making environment, as it can make systems run more efficiently. Tesco have recently tied remuneration and bonuses to success achieving environmental targets.
Don’t forget to avoid ‘greenwishing’, not just ‘greenwashing’ . Arming your team with communication training is essential, and an internal tool book is one way to start. Being careful about saying what you’d like to do, as opposed to what you’ve actually achieved, is another way to avoid mistrust. Finally, rely on peer reviewed and scientific information to get more specific about the sustainability of a product, and how changes you’re making internally are contributing. Interestingly, Paul mentioned his hesitation in Cotswold Fayre publishing an impact report with fears that it would be seen as a marketing tool rather than a way to maintain accountability to suppliers and consumers.
“Plastic is not the enemy”. Aneisha was keen to point out the positives in the right type of plastic and this was reiterated on multiple later panels. Rodrigo voiced his frustration with shopper’s fixation on plastic wrapped fruits and vegetables but failing to see the positives of an extended shelf and reduced food waste. He did admit that Tesco could do better at communicating their decision making in their comms.
👉 The Secrets of Sustainable Packaging
Chaired by Louise Stevens, Stevens.Earth.
Thomas Soden - Ace + Freak
Rob Malin - When In Rome
Discussing the highs, and lows, of trialling packaging innovations and learning what consumers like (and importantly, don’t like) each brand has taken different routes to reduce their impact, and focused on different end goals. For WARP Snacks, their north star is to reach net zero by 2030, for When in Rome, they’re keen to reduce their carbon footprint, and for Ace + Freak it’s all about focusing on their product’s end of life and reuse capabilities. A key message? Trial new things, forget traditional business models, find solutions that can save you money, and ‘what you think might be right might not work anyway’. Either way, the focus should be on progress - for the brand and the industry.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Think ‘outside the box’ and don’t be constrained by traditional business models. The panel were advocates for using creativity to unlearn what we think we know and be unconventional when it comes to packaging. WARP Snacks have made a commitment to creatively reimagine their packaging for a product by 2025. Ace & Freak have championed using surplus unbranded cardboard boxes for their secondary packaging, using paper tape to add their brand name instead. In this case, this solution saved Ace & Freak money, as they sourced surplus boxes from a large manufacturer.
Learn quickly from your mistakes, and never forget customer needs. When in Rome were candid about the innovations that have succeeded, and the ones that have ‘flopped’. Rob’s tale of When In Rome’s ‘Rosé in a box’ not being a success, due to consumers liking to see the colour of the Rosé they’re buying, was a reminder to make it as easy as possible for the consumer to change their habits when introducing new innovations. Taking this on board, they’ve recently launched the UK’s first paper wine bottle in Ocado. Whilst this product has a higher footprint than their bag in box products, it will compete more directly with the wine industry - where the manufacture and transport of glass bottles accounts for 40% of emissions - having a long term net positive impact.
Aim to change the industry, not simply your own emissions. WARP Snacks have joined The Flexible Plastic Fund, researching innovations in flexible packaging, funding recycling systems and trialling kerbside recycling. Katie reminded us that we ‘can’t always solve problems in isolation’. Facing a challenge with their own packaging, they’ve sought to trigger systems change to help. Her reminder? The more packaging you produce, the more you pay to be part of the fund, so SMEs shouldn’t shy away from getting involved due to cost.
Make your communications tangible, utilising equivalents. Communicate your impact more effectively through translating the quantity of carbon avoided into real life actions, like a flight from London to Glasgow or the energy required to power a lightbulb for 3 hours. Ace & Freak are looking to do this through TikTok.
Work closely with your manufacturers, often they’ll want to trial an innovation with a startup like yours. Katie pointed out that SMEs can often be first in the market to launch a new innovation, because manufacturers will want to test it out with a smaller agile client. Take advantage of this, and work closely with them through feedback.
👉 Offsetting Your Carbon Footprint
An open and critical conversation about the lack of transparency within the carbon offsetting market, and a clear reminder to audit and check every project you give money to. It also challenged us to think about whether that money could be best used reducing emissions at their source instead…providing plenty of food for thought for an audience of resource constrained SMEs. “Do conversations like this help us with your journey?” Will asked at the end of the panel to a loud “YES” in return from the audience.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Ensure your investments align with your purpose - ‘offsets and credits aren’t the only way to get there’. Belu are redirecting their previous investments towards offsetting into nature based solutions to drive resilience. Direct engagement with their climate investments has given Belu the opportunity to improve water quality and support nature-based water stewardship while delivering their purpose. After all, ‘why spend money on something you can’t see’? This year will be the last they offset, as the transparency of the carbon credit market isn’t aligning with their own goals. Instead, they’ve recently donated £10,000 to Canal & Rivers Trust. A similar investment, Ancient & Brave moved their manufacturing three times until they found a factory who could facilitate zero plastic packaging.
Decarbonise first, truly. Can your investment be used instead to decarbonise your business practices and reduce your operating costs, such as energy use, for financial return? The panellists spoke of the importance of minimising your operational impact and being radical to achieve net zero. From Belu moving to 100% hydropower and solar, to Prodigy being plastic free, to Ancient + Brave focusing on on-site recycling, implementing an in-house shredder to reuse waste cardboard as filler packaging.
Drive projects from the ground up, rather than buy them off the shelf. Natalie cited Ocean Bottle as a good example of this, as they focus on being there on the ground to create change themselves, often by working very closely with partners. To Natalie, ‘it’s a shift the industry needs to make’.
Your role as a CEO or change agent is to be an auditor. Know your business, know the processes, question the norm and speak to people. Be on the ground and engage with the impact. It takes time, but this is the only way to stand behind your business and deliver transparency. Belu have a purpose built P&L which documents their donations and spend on projects and frameworks for people and the planet. Here, they’ve built their purpose into their business at its core.
Embed the Sustainable Development Goals into your company articles. Belu have embedded Sustainable Development Goals 3, 12 and 13 into their business, and they use them to measure and report on progress.
👉 Decarbonising Your Business: The Easy Wins
Chaired by Matthew Isaacs - My Emissons
Every business is designed differently, we were reminded by Pip Murray, so every business will have different routes to decarbonisation. The first step? Get to grips with your outgoing impact. The audience was reminded that, between the easy wins and harder challenges, consistency and tenacity were necessary to achieve long term goals like net zero. It was also clear, particularly from Zoe of Shed 1 Distillery, that making decarbonisation a mindset was the only real route to redemption.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Know where you’re starting from. Carbon footprinting your entire business operations to understand the hotspots are and where to focus reduction in impact. Minor Figures worked with ClimatePartner to find that ~90% of their emissions occur within scope 3, with 20% for ingredients and 30% for packaging. Pip shared her surprise that agricultural carbon and nut growing accounts for 55% of their impact, whereas manufacturing (3%) and transportation (29%) were much lower than she thought they’d be, after working with Carbon Trust. This helped the team allocate time and resources to where they can have a more meaningful impact.
For micro-businesses with time and money constraints, use immediacy to target impact. As a team of two, Zoe and her husband have targeted their impact towards the low hanging fruit and reducing operational costs by translating what they do at home into the office. Their biggest win is recycling water within the cooling process of distilling, which not only reduces their water use but also their outgoing cost.
New supply chains present huge opportunities to avoid emissions from the start. A core message of the panel was the need to embed change early, as once a supply chain is established it can be hard to change. The biggest tips? Stick to sea freight and use GoodShipping to decarbonise your export supply chain. Work hard to find brokers you trust. Localise production in international markets. Use your growth to leverage suppliers, and ask for data from day 1.
Don’t be afraid to ask. Pip & Nut asked Tesco to take full pallets of product, rather than half pallets at a time. They were successful, saving emissions and lowering logistics costs in the process. Minor Figures took a similar route with understanding the impact of their aluminium cans - they assumed a high percentage of the aluminium was virgin until they had the details to prove themselves wrong, which lowered their understood emissions.
Build the cost of carbon into your P&L and have a holistic view of your supply chain. It was noted that whilst offsetting can be a great way to support areas across the world where the climate crisis is magnified, a reduction to absolute Net Zero carbon within the business needs to be the goal. Pip stressed that no one has all the answers, decisions need to be made with research and deciding what is right for your business, and global communities. After all, innovations in renewable energy can have a negative impact on global communities too - for example. Thibault supported this: “the goal is not to be perfect but to get there you do this now, and do them the best you can”.
👉 Ethical Sourcing: How Challenger Brands Are Doing It
Chaired by Adam Garfunkel - Junxion.
“Relationships first, business second” was the motto of the conversation. Jessamy reminded us that we can do a lot, over a sustained period of time, with not a lot of money. In fact, it was the ‘groundswell’ of SMEs doing this that could really change an industry. Covering certifications, how to build lasting relationships, and keeping an anti-colonial attitude as a core belief - PACT, Karma and DASH left us with hope that challenger brands can have a positive global impact, if they work really hard to do so.
Our 5 Key Takeaways:
Long term relationships should be prioritised. There is opportunity to have real, positive impact within sourcing and creating long lasting impact within communities. PACT Coffee focus on finding farmers who could make great coffee, but currently don’t have the incentives to do so. Year on year, they develop their relationship and provide support to change this. Jack detailed how DASH still works with the farmers it was founded with.
Ask your farmers. The Karma Cola Foundation empowers the farmers where they source their ingredients by listening to growers and funding the projects that will benefit the communities, like building bridges. They’ve even flown to Sicily to meet lemon farmers their brokers said would be hard to connect them with, just to see how they’re operating. Brands should avoid a colonial attitude by asking questions and making understanding challenges your true goal.
Build a new market by going to the heart of your product. For DASH this was placing value on second-grade fruit. By speaking to farmers, PACT Coffee discovered that coffee beans of different sizes are not sold. The bonus; these products have a story to tell. By speaking to people you “get ideas and get inspired.”
Certify your core beliefs. Karma Cola and PACT demonstrate their commitment to ethics through being Fairtrade certified. PACT even pay 60% over Fairtrade price for coffee, with incentives and good wages ensuring farmers mitigate risks and look after natural resources. Success for them could pull millions of people out of poverty - so they’ve certified their work and have it as a driving force.
“There is a problem in every supply chain”, and you need to be proactive in finding it. Will reminded the audience that if they are not finding things that are wrong in their supply chain, they’re not looking hard enough. Work with your supply chain to facilitate fixing the issues and providing solutions. Get on the ground and go, ask questions, send questionnaires and go back and check.
👉 Future Summit’s Carbon Challenge
Judging panel: Phil Hails-Smith, Philippa Christer, Jason Gibb
An inspiring end to an invigorating day, the Carbon Challenge saw four business leaders take to the stage in a three minute pitch. Presenting their business plan and how they plan to eliminate 3 tonnes of carbon from their supply chain. Followed by questions from the judges they competed for a £3,000 cheque and a spot at next year’s International Food & Drink Event (IFE).
Yolanda Antonopoulous of Gaia Pulses came out on top with her closed loop meal delivery, focusing on healthy and sustainable ready meals from heritage recipes. Detailing her journey and the influence of her Greek culture, we are looking forward to seeing her beautifully designed products at IFE next year.