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Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Awards: Q&A with Neal’s Yard Remedies

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Louise Green is acting head of sustainability at Neal’s Yard Remedies, a leading British retailer of organic natural health and beauty products. The company won Ethical Corporation’s 2013 Responsible Business Award for its Bee Lovely campaign, in the consumer engagement category.

In the run up to this year’s Responsible Business Awards, which will take place on September 29, Louise Green talks about the winning campaign and the importance of sustainability in business.

This article was first published on Ethical Corporation’s website.

Ethical Corporation: First off, why bother with engaging consumers around sustainability issues? Why is it important for Neal’s yard Remedies?

Louise Green: The answer goes back to who we are as a company. We were founded by a teacher with a very strong passion for empowering people to change their health and to change their circumstances through education.

Today, we’re privately owned by an organic farmer and active ethical campaigner, so we’re still very much committed to these goals. But you can’t bring about change without engaging people. We’ve always felt it’s more effective to support and educate people so they themselves can make changes.

Ethical Corporation: So you developed the award-winning Bee Lovely campaign. Can you tell us briefly about what the aim of the campaign was?

Louise Green: Sure. As you may well know, populations of bees are in rapid decline all over the world. And in Britain, bees are disappearing faster than in the rest of Europe. Without bees and wild pollinators, agriculture as we know it – on which the world and our business rely – would collapse.

What the Bee Lovely campaign set out to do was highlight the deadly impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on pollinators. It’s these so-called ‘neonics’ that are primarily responsible for the decline in bee populations. 

Ethical Corporation: What were the key components of the campaign?

Louise Green: Well, one of the central objectives was to put together a petition calling for a ban on neonics and to deliver it to Downing Street. Our aim was to get 100,000 signatures in total.

We wanted to touch everyone, not just our existing customers, the people who walk into our stores, or those buying on our website. We were particularly keen about getting the message across to our customers’ children as well. So one of the things we did was to run a Bee Lovely photography competition. The idea was to get people noticing the natural world around them and then to relay that back to us in a lovely way.

Alongside that, we gave out wildflowers in our stores, as well as making petition sheets available to our store and online customers. The idea was to provide enough options for people so that they could get involved in the campaign in a way that suited them.

Ethical Corporation: Did you incorporate the Bee Campaign into your product offering too?

Louise Green: Yes, we did actually. We created a limited edition product – a Bee Lovely hand cream. We donated £1 from the sale of every hand cream to support bee friendly charities. Within one week, it was completely sold out it was so well received. We had to go back to the production line and manufacture more. 

The Bee Lovely Hand Cream was so popular, we decided to introduce a full range of Bee Lovely products which formed our first ever family range. Alongside this launch, we ran a ‘Design a Beehive’ competition so families were able to come into the store, pick up a competition sheet and then take it home, or download it from the website.

It proved a really fun way to help parents educate their kids. It was even taken up by teachers too, who used it in their lessons as a way to teach their pupils about the declining population of bee.

Ethical Corporation: And the public petition that formed part of the campaign: did you achieve the 100,000 signatures?

Louise Green: Yes, we did! By the third year of the campaign, we had almost reached our goal, but needed one last push to get us there, and this is where we harnessed the power of social media to help us get the last signatures that we needed.

We took Twitter ‘by swarm’ and we reached out to celebrities, all of our press contacts, all of our charity partners, everyone we could. We wanted everyone to use the ‘#belovely’ hash-tag to encourage as many people as possible to sign our petition.

Within an hour of the swarm, we were a trending topic for the UK and we generated an additional 1,500 more signatures for our petition in just a few hours, as well as raised even more awareness of our campaign. At the end of the campaign we had over 117,000 signatures and it was a very proud and exciting day when we presented our petition to Downing Street.

Ethical Corporation: Did you involve other groups in helping you engage your customers around the Bee Lovely campaign?

Louise Green: Definitely. One really critical group were our Independent Consultants. We have over 8,000 consultants across the UK; they sell our products through direct selling channels. They have a very close connection with customers and, because of this and because of their passion for the brand, they were really well placed to inspire people to join the campaign.

We also partnered with Project Dirt, the UK’s most active green social network. They helped us coordinate a whole host of practical ‘bee friendly’ projects by local community groups.

These projects are great because they mean the Bee Lovely campaign lives on in Bee Lovely gardens, education projects, and so on. In a way, the campaign now has a life of its own, rather than something that is exclusively about our brand. That’s one of the best things about it, because it gives the campaign the legs to keep on running.

Ethical Corporation: Why do you think this particular campaign resonated with your consumers so strongly?

Louise Green: I think it’s the sheer simplicity of the campaign. It’s simple to talk about bees and how we need them to help pollinate the flowers necessary to grow the fruit and vegetables in their shopping basket, and what the implications are of their numbers are decreasing.

These are all messages that people can immediately relate to and understand. It all drives back to the food they eat and the natural world around them – to their everyday lives. So it’s not difficult to get people on board because they get it. 

Many environmental campaigns lack support because people don’t really understand how it involves them or how the issue impacts them directly. As a result, campaigns like these can sometimes have trouble engaging people. 

Ethical Corporation: What was the biggest challenge you faced when trying to engage your consumers around the decline in the bee population?

Louise Green: The main challenge was a practical one, really. We didn’t imagine people would come on board in the numbers that they did. So just making sure that we had the products and materials connected to the campaign in sufficient stock was perhaps the biggest challenge. 

Going forward, one of the big challenges will be to work out how we can continue to raise awareness about bees and the need to protect them.

Ethical Corporation: What were the primary benefits for Neal’s Yard Remedies of winning the Responsible Business Award?

Louise Green: More than anything, obtaining independent recognition like this has made our people really proud. It’s also bolstered how people feel about the Bee Lovely campaign – not just our own staff, but everyone that’s been involved. As we go forward, it’s helped to remind us about our core values and what we’re all about as a company.

Ethical Corporation’s Responsible Business Awards 2014 winners will be announced at a glamorous awards dinner ceremony in central London on the 29th of September.

This is the one night of the year where we celebrate the work you and your peers do in the responsible business arena. 

This year the likes of; Bacardi Limited, Interface, Twinings, Tetrapak, KPMG, Glanbia Ingredients Ireland Ltd, ZipXpress have already booked their seats at the ceremony and are bringing their whole teams! 

It’s a great opportunity for you to be alongside some of the best in your field, meet them in person and take their learnings and best practices back to your office – reserve your seat at the Awards today: ethicalcorp.com/ reservation

Further reading:

Invertebrate species have declined by 45% in 40 years, study finds

Government calls for the public to help protect British bees

Warm spring and summer boost honeybees productivity in Somerset

Syngenta withdraws application to use banned bee-killing pesticide

Petition calls for David Cameron to uphold pesticide ban to protect threatened bees

Economy

Will Self-Driving Cars Be Better for the Environment?

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self-driving cars for green environment
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Zapp2Photo | https://www.shutterstock.com/g/zapp2photo

Technologists, engineers, lawmakers, and the general public have been excitedly debating about the merits of self-driving cars for the past several years, as companies like Waymo and Uber race to get the first fully autonomous vehicles on the market. Largely, the concerns have been about safety and ethics; is a self-driving car really capable of eliminating the human errors responsible for the majority of vehicular accidents? And if so, who’s responsible for programming life-or-death decisions, and who’s held liable in the event of an accident?

But while these questions continue being debated, protecting people on an individual level, it’s worth posing a different question: how will self-driving cars impact the environment?

The Big Picture

The Department of Energy attempted to answer this question in clear terms, using scientific research and existing data sets to project the short-term and long-term environmental impact that self-driving vehicles could have. Its findings? The emergence of self-driving vehicles could essentially go either way; it could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90 percent, or increase it by more than 200 percent.

That’s a margin of error so wide it might as well be a total guess, but there are too many unknown variables to form a solid conclusion. There are many ways autonomous vehicles could influence our energy consumption and environmental impact, and they could go well or poorly, depending on how they’re adopted.

Driver Reduction?

One of the big selling points of autonomous vehicles is their capacity to reduce the total number of vehicles—and human drivers—on the road. If you’re able to carpool to work in a self-driving vehicle, or rely on autonomous public transportation, you’ll spend far less time, money, and energy on your own car. The convenience and efficiency of autonomous vehicles would therefore reduce the total miles driven, and significantly reduce carbon emissions.

There’s a flip side to this argument, however. If autonomous vehicles are far more convenient and less expensive than previous means of travel, it could be an incentive for people to travel more frequently, or drive to more destinations they’d otherwise avoid. In this case, the total miles driven could actually increase with the rise of self-driving cars.

As an added consideration, the increase or decrease in drivers on the road could result in more or fewer vehicle collisions, respectively—especially in the early days of autonomous vehicle adoption, when so many human drivers are still on the road. Car accident injury cases, therefore, would become far more complicated, and the roads could be temporarily less safe.

Deadheading

Deadheading is a term used in trucking and ridesharing to refer to miles driven with an empty load. Assume for a moment that there’s a fleet of self-driving vehicles available to pick people up and carry them to their destinations. It’s a convenient service, but by necessity, these vehicles will spend at least some of their time driving without passengers, whether it’s spent waiting to pick someone up or en route to their location. The increase in miles from deadheading could nullify the potential benefits of people driving fewer total miles, or add to the damage done by their increased mileage.

Make and Model of Car

Much will also depend on the types of cars equipped to be self-driving. For example, Waymo recently launched a wave of self-driving hybrid minivans, capable of getting far better mileage than a gas-only vehicle. If the majority of self-driving cars are electric or hybrids, the environmental impact will be much lower than if they’re converted from existing vehicles. Good emissions ratings are also important here.

On the other hand, the increased demand for autonomous vehicles could put more pressure on factory production, and make older cars obsolete. In that case, the gas mileage savings could be counteracted by the increased environmental impact of factory production.

The Bottom Line

Right now, there are too many unanswered questions to make a confident determination whether self-driving vehicles will help or harm the environment. Will we start driving more, or less? How will they handle dead time? What kind of models are going to be on the road?

Engineers and the general public are in complete control of how this develops in the near future. Hopefully, we’ll be able to see all the safety benefits of having autonomous vehicles on the road, but without any of the extra environmental impact to deal with.

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Economy

New Zealand to Switch to Fully Renewable Energy by 2035

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renewable energy policy
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Eviart / https://www.shutterstock.com/g/adrian825

New Zealand’s prime minister-elect Jacinda Ardern is already taking steps towards reducing the country’s carbon footprint. She signed a coalition deal with NZ First in October, aiming to generate 100% of the country’s energy from renewable sources by 2035.

New Zealand is already one of the greenest countries in the world, sourcing over 80% of its energy for its 4.7 million people from renewable resources like hydroelectric, geothermal and wind. The majority of its electricity comes from hydro-power, which generated 60% of the country’s energy in 2016. Last winter, renewable generation peaked at 93%.

Now, Ardern is taking on the challenge of eliminating New Zealand’s remaining use of fossil fuels. One of the biggest obstacles will be filling in the gap left by hydropower sources during dry conditions. When lake levels drop, the country relies on gas and coal to provide energy. Eliminating fossil fuels will require finding an alternative source to avoid spikes in energy costs during droughts.

Business NZ’s executive director John Carnegie told Bloomberg he believes Ardern needs to balance her goals with affordability, stating, “It’s completely appropriate to have a focus on reducing carbon emissions, but there needs to be an open and transparent public conversation about the policies and how they are delivered.”

The coalition deal outlined a few steps towards achieving this, including investing more in solar, which currently only provides 0.1% of the country’s energy. Ardern’s plans also include switching the electricity grid to renewable energy, investing more funds into rail transport, and switching all government vehicles to green fuel within a decade.

Zero net emissions by 2050

Beyond powering the country’s electricity grid with 100% green energy, Ardern also wants to reach zero net emissions by 2050. This ambitious goal is very much in line with her focus on climate change throughout the course of her campaign. Environmental issues were one of her top priorities from the start, which increased her appeal with young voters and helped her become one of the youngest world leaders at only 37.

Reaching zero net emissions would require overcoming challenging issues like eliminating fossil fuels in vehicles. Ardern hasn’t outlined a plan for reaching this goal, but has suggested creating an independent commission to aid in the transition to a lower carbon economy.

She also set a goal of doubling the number of trees the country plants per year to 100 million, a goal she says is “absolutely achievable” using land that is marginal for farming animals.

Greenpeace New Zealand climate and energy campaigner Amanda Larsson believes that phasing out fossil fuels should be a priority for the new prime minister. She says that in order to reach zero net emissions, Ardern “must prioritize closing down coal, putting a moratorium on new fossil fuel plants, building more wind infrastructure, and opening the playing field for household and community solar.”

A worldwide shift to renewable energy

Addressing climate change is becoming more of a priority around the world and many governments are assessing how they can reduce their reliance on fossil fuels and switch to environmentally-friendly energy sources. Sustainable energy is becoming an increasingly profitable industry, giving companies more of an incentive to invest.

Ardern isn’t alone in her climate concerns, as other prominent world leaders like Justin Trudeau and Emmanuel Macron have made renewable energy a focus of their campaigns. She isn’t the first to set ambitious goals, either. Sweden and Norway share New Zealand’s goal of net zero emissions by 2045 and 2030, respectively.

Scotland already sources more than half of its electricity from renewable sources and aims to fully transition by 2020, while France announced plans in September to stop fossil fuel production by 2040. This would make it the first country to do so, and the first to end the sale of gasoline and diesel vehicles.

Many parts of the world still rely heavily on coal, but if these countries are successful in phasing out fossil fuels and transitioning to renewable resources, it could serve as a turning point. As other world leaders see that switching to sustainable energy is possible – and profitable – it could be the start of a worldwide shift towards environmentally-friendly energy.

Sources: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-11-06/green-dream-risks-energy-security-as-kiwis-aim-for-zero-carbon

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-france-hydrocarbons/france-plans-to-end-oil-and-gas-production-by-2040-idUSKCN1BH1AQ

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