In 2022, we began the process of analysing and recording the carbon footprint of our business and each of our products. Our Environmental Task Force, which brings together team members from across our business, felt that this process needed to act as the overarching activity that would then go on to inform all other aspects of their work.
Only once we knew the ‘cradle to gate’ carbon footprint for each product, its raw materials and shipping methods, could we possibly determine how we go about reducing the carbon impact or offsetting it through other measures. So it was agreed that as a team we’d work on lifecycle assessments for all of our products – no small undertaking given that we manufacture and supply over 150 individual product lines across our human and pet businesses. Creating these assessments takes some effort and so our current timeline is to have these completed and a full business analysis completed by the end of 2025.
Why analyse the carbon footprint?
We take our corporate social responsibility seriously and understand that whilst we’re helping families in grief, there is an environmental impact associated with the manufacturing and shipping process of our products, alongside the additional impact of running the business with power, offices, vehicles, and people.
Without a healthy and sustainable environment, many of the products we sell would not exist given we primarily use naturally occurring materials such as bamboo, wood and willow in the majority of products. We have a company-wide target to attain Net Zero emissions. Currently, we are in the process of calculating our existing carbon footprint and plan to establish a deadline to achieve Net Zero in due course. Along with this we’re actively looking at applying for B Corp status, which is about making our business a force for good – introducing and aspiring to standards that benefit people, communities, and the planet.
What will the carbon data be used for?
Lots of businesses are working on their carbon footprint and have ambitions to be carbon neutral, and so we’re not alone. But we’re not just carrying this process out for our own purposes. We’re also doing this to help our customers. Once we’ve completed the analysis process, the data will be made available to them so they can make an informed choice based on the carbon credentials of our products. It’s something we’re increasingly being asked about as families strive to create environmentally friendly funerals for their loved ones, and so we want to make sure we’re able to meet their demands.
Because we’re running the process across all our products and manufacturing sites, we’re also developing a clearer picture of what different materials and processes look like in terms of their individual carbon impact. So we’ll also be using the data to inform future manufacturing decisions including what materials we use and where we manufacture. There will be areas where we simply cannot remove or reduce the carbon impact and so in these instances, the data and analysis will help us organise carbon offsetting schemes.
We’ve got plans to develop our own purpose-built UK HQ. Our founder, Richard Bush, is keen that the building is developed to the highest environmental standards and includes methods for us to offset or capture and repurpose carbon. If we know what the overall footprint looks like, then it’s simple to add another dataset which shows our offsetting activity or carbon capture.
What is the data telling us already?
Whilst the entire process won’t be completed until 2025, we’ve already captured a huge amount of useful information and it’s been eye-opening. As well as confirming some of our suspicions, it’s also been turning up some surprises. As an example, on face value we might assume that a large shipment coming by sea from the Far East would have a higher carbon footprint than a small shipment from Eastern Europe – but it’s actually the other way round. Smaller loads travelling by road are far more carbon intensive than fully laden ships – even if they are coming halfway around the world!
Our work has also made us double down on our ambitions to switch all production to use FSC certified materials wherever possible. The replacement lifecycle that this promotes has benefit in terms of carbon offsetting and so whilst we originally wanted to introduce it from a sustainability perspective, we’ve now got an additional reason to target this. As a result, we’re actively trialling several products in alternative materials and our Purchasing Director Gavin’s recent trip to visit many of our suppliers allowed him to discuss this transition with them in person.
Obviously, that touches on a key point; the buy– in of our suppliers. It’s all very well us having ambitions and targets but our suppliers are an intrinsic part of the process. So the push to use FSC certified materials, reduce the carbon footprint, drive sustainability and promote wellbeing are all key goals we’re sharing with them and asking for their support in achieving. As part of another standards certification, (we’re undertaking ISO14001), we’re required to complete supplier performance evaluations each year to help drive improvements and so it’s provided us with plenty to speak to them about and build into those reviews.
It’s a big project but as we progress through it, we’re learning more and more and are already using our findings to adapt our operations. We’re reducing packaging and waste, streamlining processes and reviewing our materials and manufacturing. By the time the calculations are complete, we hope to have made significant steps in the right direction and not find ourselves left with too big a hill to climb. We’ll continue to keep you posted on our findings and progress.
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