The journey to net zero is a collective one, with the destination out of reach without the open sharing of information and collaboration between brands. To help facilitate that process, we recently spoke to the Butterfly Mark-certified natural beauty brand object, whose approach to plastic and packaging, social issues, and carbon is an inspiration. We caught up with co-founders Hugo Tylor and Jack Wolton for an interview that’s essential reading for any brand looking to operate more sustainably.
You don’t use any plastic in your products or packaging. What was this process like? Did you come up against any unexpected roadblocks and do you have any advice for brands looking to cut plastic out of their supply chain?
Eliminating plastic from bathrooms was the original goal that kickstarted object. So right from the start it was ingrained in everything we did – there were no adjustments we had to make to our practices. Our bars were specifically designed so that they didn’t require plastic packaging. Depending on what your products are, there are lots of plastic free packaging alternatives and there’s lots of information available online, so we did lots of research ourselves to find the best, most sustainable solution.
Along the way we discovered lots of interesting packaging options that, although not right for our current product range, may work for future products we release. There are new plastic free solutions coming on to the market all the time, it’s very exciting.
As far as roadblocks, we found it difficult to get some of our suppliers on board with not using plastic because it’s often a cheaper option. However, as time has gone by, they have become more aware of the issues and we’ve been able to educate them to an extent.
One significant issue with going plastic free is the cost. As well as our products and packaging, all our accessories are also plastic free. For example, our aluminum travel tins and concrete shower dishes would be cheaper to make if they were plastic – but it’s a cost worth absorbing to meet our company’s sustainability goals.
Our advice would be to look far and wide, there are so many plastic alternatives out there, and be prepared to pay a little more. Speak to your suppliers and suggest plastic free alternatives that they can use (for example packaging filler) – they’ll generally be open to ideas. Finally, find a great packaging manufacturer who is also passionate about sustainability, they will be able to provide lots of advice and support.
“we found it difficult to get some of our suppliers on board with not using plastic because it’s often a cheaper option. However, as time has gone by, they have become more aware of the issues and we’ve been able to educate them to an extent.”
You’re currently working towards reducing your carbon footprint. How are you finding that process?
As a small start-up we have a low primary carbon footprint ourselves – the main challenge is reducing the carbon footprint of our suppliers and from shipping. The first steps we’ve taken are to try to estimate our emissions and to offset them – but the only real solution is to reduce or eliminate them altogether. To truly understand our carbon footprint will require buy-in from our suppliers which is not always easy – it’s an ongoing process.
“The first steps we’ve taken are to try to estimate our emissions and to offset them – but the only real solution is to reduce or eliminate them altogether”
You have a strong social side to your sustainability strategy. How did you weave it into your business? What was the process of educating your customers and team members like? Do you have any advice for brands looking to replicate your success?
It was relatively straightforward for us because from the outset we wanted to create a business that gave back to people and the planet so we built everything around those principles. We implemented a range of policies which gave us a framework within which to operate and we came up with a list of key action points. Some of the steps we’ve taken include giving a percentage of our sales to charities that work in our local community and actively promoting diversity, equality and inclusivity in everything we do, from the models we use, the staff we hire and by using our voice on social media.
How do you manage relationships with your suppliers and encourage ethical behaviour?
We require all our suppliers to sign up to our Suppliers Code of Conduct which covers all aspects of ethical behaviour – from paying workers a living wage to conforming with all environmental regulations. If they fall short in any areas we work with them to help bring them in line with our standards. But it’s not always easy – we are a relatively small business so we don’t always have a strong bargaining position when it comes to suppliers. We have to adopt a very diplomatic approach and try to educate them on why adopting ethical practices is also in their interests.
You amended your constitution so you have to consider the social and environmental impact of every decision you make. Was that a difficult process? Has it complicated your relationship with investors?
From a practical perspective it was an easy process for us, luckily Jack is a lawyer so quite good at drafting legal documents! We haven’t yet taken on external investment so it hasn’t been too much of an issue. In any event, we would only seek investment from an investor that shared our vision and that also believed in giving back to society and the environment. Hopefully more companies will follow suit and considering the environment and society in decision making will become the norm.
To discover more about object’s sustainability actions, read their Positive Luxury brand page.
Written by - Jacob Corner