💥 #7 - Meet the Brands: Pip & Nut are taking a crack at Net Zero
Featuring Pip Murray, Founder and CEO of Pip & Nut.
Pip & Nut is an all-natural nut butter brand on a mission to make food that people love, and that in turn loves the planet. From focusing on their workers and good governance to putting in the hours to create a more sustainable supply chain, Pip & Nut take their impact seriously. After becoming a B Corp in 2019, they’re now aiming for Net Zero by 2030!
We spoke to Pip Murray who, you’ve guessed it, is the Founder and CEO of Pip & Nut. After launching in 2015, Pip has been busy building the much-loved brand to a team of 20+, found in 6,000 stores across the UK and Europe. Not only has this incredible success been an inspiration to many entrepreneurs with a passion for premium products, but to many women in the FMCG industry too. As nut butter addicts ourselves (the Pip & Nut Coconut Almond Butter is our religion) it was a pleasure to sit down with Pip.
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“We want to have a more direct supply, as there are clear benefits to that, but until you have good visibility you can’t make any choices.”
👉 What steps have you taken to lighten your environmental footprint?
We’re doing quite a few things, so as an overview:
We became B Corp in 2019, and in the process, we focused on initiatives like increasing the amount of recycled plastic in our packaging, reducing our transport miles and volunteering with local food banks like Hackney Food Bank.
We’re aiming for Net Zero by 2030, which will involve calculating our carbon footprint and setting science-based targets to reduce our emissions year on year.
Currently, we’re digging into our nut supply chain to achieve better transparency.
👉 How and why did you become a B Corp?
One of the reasons why we decided to become B Corp is that it’s a really good, all-encompassing framework covering governance, workers, policy and the environment.
It gave us a structure on which to focus on governance, forming a board for the first time, and creating better checks and balances on the activity we’re doing within the business. This has helped us build a good foundation which will guide our focus on people, the planet and profit at the same time. Editing governance documents can be one of the easiest things to do, but I think it is one of the most impactful actions in the long-term because it ensures that any shareholder that comes into the business aligns with this foundation. We want to make sure that we’re not simply driving profit all the time, but we’re having a positive social and environmental impact too. There are things that we’re doing naturally quite well. For example, there are a lot of women working in the business, I’m a female founder and CEO, and 75% of our senior leadership team are female.
Workers are a big part of the B Corp process. We’ve never had particularly disparate salaries, but now we’re particularly mindful of what the difference between the lowest and highest earners could be in the future, and as a result we’re proud to be a London Living Wage employer. We also ensure that there’s equality when it comes to bonuses, for example.
Another great aspect of the process of certifying as B Corp is the data gathering that happens. We have long-standing partnerships in our supply chain and with manufacturers, but it reminds us to check-in and to collect information from, for example, our agencies and the legal team too. Since becoming B Corp, it’s also really influenced our selection process with any new partner that comes on board.
Now, one of the main things we’re thinking about is using business as a force for good, and what our next steps are. We’re thinking about what’s important to us, beyond what points we scored when certifying for B Corp.
You mentioned that B Corp affects your new partner selection process. How?
All new supply chain partners will need to comply with our standards. We pay attention to things like how they pay their staff, their approach to good governance and ensure that they sign up to our code of conduct too. We also like to ask them what initiatives they’re running on-site and how they do their supply vetting.
👉 Where did you start on your Net Zero Journey? Do you have any partners?
We’re working with The Carbon Trust to become Net Zero. There are different approaches we can take to reducing our carbon footprint, like becoming carbon neutral, but we wanted to focus on Net Zero. It will require us to set clear science-based targets so that we reduce our emissions year on year.
What is Net Zero? A net zero emissions company will set and pursue ambitious reduction targets for its full value-chain emissions - Scopes 1, 2 and 3. Carbon Neutral primarily focuses on Scopes 1 and 2, so often doesn’t include the full supply chain. Learn more here and here.
What are science based targets? The Science-Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) provides companies with a clearly-defined path to reduce emissions in line with the Paris Agreement goals.
Why Net Zero and not Carbon Neutral?
You need to first set your science-based targets before you start offsetting what you can’t reduce, which to me felt more robust. It’s harder and more complicated because you’re focusing on Scope 1, 2 and 3 emissions, but I think it’s important to include the entire supply chain in our calculations and communication.
I think it could be tricky for consumers to understand what the difference is. Many brands are communicating about being carbon neutral or negative, but what’s not clear is what they’re offsetting against - is it just Scope 1 and 2? It’s becoming clearer and clearer that Net Zero is the most robust path, and the language around it is going to become more popular. For example, we of course work closely with supermarkets, and Sainsbury’s has pledged to be Net Zero by 2040. Coop has made a similar pledge. It will become the norm.
What’s your progress on becoming Net Zero?
We’re starting very soon, and hopefully we will have calculated our carbon footprint, as well as put in place our science-based targets, by the end of 2021. After that, we will have a roadmap on how we can reduce some of the hotspots in our supply chain to become Net Zero by 2030.
Are you going to focus on calculating a product footprint, or labelling your product’s footprint in any way?
We will do a full Life Cycle Analysis as well as calculating our carbon footprint, which will of course focus our product. We’re going to discuss putting a carbon label on our product, but we haven't made that decision yet. We will discuss it on our website at the very least. I do think it’s cool that brands like Allbirds and Oatly have labelled their products.
Naturally, you will have unavoidable emissions that you can’t decarbonise. Will you offset these, if so, have you chosen a project?
Not yet, we’re going to work with The Carbon Trust on this. There’s a lot of discussion around where you offset, and how you offset without greenwashing your impact, so we’re keen to find the right partner and projects for us as a brand.
👉 How do you budget to become Net Zero or B Corp?
As a startup and a relatively new business, there’s a tension between the investments you need to make in marketing, innovation, hiring and other areas to drive the business forwards and investments required to make changes like becoming Net Zero. Every year we allocate a set budget towards B Corp initiatives. It’s not necessarily a percentage of e.g. profits, because you have initiatives that cost money upfront, and then you have initiatives that take a lot of time and people power.
Another initiative that we’re running this year is getting clear on our supply chain for our nuts, which is separate from calculating our carbon footprint. We’re aiming for transparency at every touchpoint in our supply chain, and ideally, once we get that we can start to understand more about the issues and challenges at source and we can work with our partners to make improvements. This is taking two of our team members a couple of days every month, which is an investment of their time. So, I don’t allocate a set budget every year to initiatives like this because it’s often people-powered.
👉 How are you gaining clarity on your supply chain?
It’s a complex path, but it’s about working with our supply chain partners. Our almonds are from California and our peanuts are from Argentina, and we’d love to go visit them ourselves and ask the questions at the source, but that’s not possible right now due to COVID-19. Currently, we’re working closely with our brokers and manufacturers who we purchase through, but our nuts pass through lots of different hands to get to us. It’s quite difficult to buy directly from one farm, as they go through handlers, processors, brokers, manufacturers and more. For us, it's about understanding every hand that they touch, and then understanding more about each.
What’s your goal with this initiative? Do you want to shorten your supply chain?
Our main goal is transparency. Once we understand it, we can make decisions like asking our existing partners to improve, or making bigger changes. We want to have a more direct supply, as there are clear benefits to that, but until you have good visibility you can’t make any choices. Transparency is important to get internally, and then we can go from there.
Will this transparency help your mission to Net Zero?
Yes, once we understand our supply chain better we can measure it better, work with partners more closely, and more. However, I think we’re seeing it as a separate mission to becoming Net Zero because sure, carbon is one challenge, but we also want to be conscious of other areas like water or bees. Bees are a big problem in California in terms of how they’re used to pollinate almond trees. Finding out more about these areas of impact will be important when it comes to choosing and working with partners who, for example, have better irrigation practices. Even in California, there are 100 different brokers, and so there are better ones that we can invest in and choices we can make. That’s what we’re trying to aim for.
👉 You mentioned wanting to avoid greenwashing. Are there other things you’re keen to avoid?
Tokenism. We want to go beyond just looking at Scope 1 and 2. If we’re going to have a mission like this, I want to be whiter than white on how we’re doing it. We make products, so ultimately we do have an impact, it’s the very nature of what we do. However, there’s a hygiene factor of running a business where you should clean up after yourself and be conscious of the social and environmental impact of your supply chain.
I think it's really important to understand that this is a journey, and it’s going to take a while and be a process. I don’t want to slap something on our brand that doesn’t have soul to it. We want to have a purpose that comes from the heart and isn’t for the sake of marketing.
👉 Why is impact important to you?
When I now think about the impact we can have as a brand, it goes beyond encouraging consumers to have healthier lifestyle habits. We’re thinking about what we can do. Can we have an impact on food poverty and inequality? Can we extend further into combatting palm oil and the impact it has? We think about how we can do more, and how we can increase our hygiene factors across the board in terms of waste, packaging and more. We want to leave a good legacy and little impact.
Did you start the business knowing that you wanted to be conscious of your environmental impact, or is this something that you’ve focused on once you’ve had more budget?
Good question. One of the reasons that we started was to create a product without palm oil. Palm oil is bad for you and it's bad for the environment, and I knew as a consumer that I wanted to avoid it. This was our mission from the beginning.
As we’ve grown, both my knowledge and our ability to be able to do better in our activities has increased. Was I making really conscious choices when I was setting up Pip & Nut? Probably not, but I think we’re all much more informed now. For example, when Pip & Nut started our labels weren’t recyclable, so you’d have to take them off to recycle the jars. We’ve since changed that, and our entire jar can be recycled. We now have this lens of responsibility when we create innovations and products, and having a team makes this easier.
That said, I wasn’t throwing things away and being wasteful - the nature of a startup is that you minimise waste and are really resource-efficient!
Has this been influenced by consumer trends?
Definitely. 6 years ago there wasn’t this current level of scrutiny on brands about whether they are socially and environmentally responsible. As a brand, I think we can often get more scrutiny because we’re a premium product, we’re natural, and so it’s more expected.
👉 Have you experienced any tangible benefits from being an impact-driven brand?
The benefits are quite difficult to quantify. There’s lots of research on how impactful and purpose driven brands benefit, for example, financially. In my opinion, the main benefit has been the retention of people. Nearly every person that we interview brings up B Corp or our brand purpose at some point. It attracts great talent, which is essential for any startup.
From a consumer perspective, we see a lot of engagement across our social platforms when we discuss B Corp. We also use ProQuo to look at different measures of how people feel about our brand. There are many layers of reason as to why consumers purchase, but I think our brand values are a key one. It helps us stand out from our competitors.
👉 Any advice for other brands looking to follow in your footprints?
I think it's really important as a small brand to stay focused. It’s great to have big aspirations and want to do a number of things, but it isn’t always productive.
Net Zero by 2030 is a big job for us, and it will cost a lot of time and money for us to deliver that. However, I’d rather do nothing else and do this properly, then spread ourselves with less focus across a number of different impact projects. It isn’t always neat and tidy behind the scenes, especially when you’re figuring it out, but that’s ok.
👉 Any impact driven brands that you particularly admire?
I always recommend Rubies in the Rubble, they’re really great when it comes to impact and Jenny (the Founder and CEO) is really passionate.
💥 Impact Resources 💥
Check out our partners The Carbon Trust.
I recommend The Power of Purpose.
Take a look at our most recent People & Planet Report.
Watch Leading the way: Pip Murray x Douglas Lamont.