First carbon neutral challenge is getting consumers to care, says Neal’s Yard Remedies


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Vicky Murray, Neal's Yard's Head of Sustainability, speaks to
Vicky Murray, Neal's Yard's Head of Sustainability, speaks to

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As the United Nations Conference on Climate Change draws closer, beauty retailer Neal’s Yard Remedies believes all companies can go carbon neutral or at least start to work out how they can do it, but the first challenge is getting consumers to care about carbon. spoke exclusively with Vicky Murray, Head of Sustainability, and Lou Green, Head of Campaigns at the British firm, and both believe all eyes will be on Paris in December for the COP21 as it is being seen as last chance saloon to reach a global agreement on carbon targets to limit climate change to manageable levels. 

“We hope our story on going carbon neutral helps to inspire others in the health and beauty sector to do the same,”​ they tell us.

“As a natural health and beauty company this means it is even more important that we do everything that we can to reduce our carbon impact, and encourage others to do the same.”

Neal’s Yard was the first UK high-street retailer to be certified as ‘Carbon Neutral’ by the CarbonNeutral Company, back in 2008, for reducing net emissions to zero for its Dorset eco-factory, London office, all UK stores, warehousing, and national distribution.

“The first challenge​ [of implementing a Carbon neutral programme] is getting people to care about carbon!”​ says Vicky.

“Having really special projects that we use to offset our carbon has really helped,” ​she adds, referring to the Makira project in Madagascar as an example, as it helps to protect one of the world’s top five biodiversity hotspots by limiting deforestation and working with communities to support low-impact farming practices.

Neal’s Yard document the work done here on its Facebook page and this helps to connect directly with consumers.

“We also try to make carbon reduction practical, relevant and fun to our employees!  Behind energy consumption, commuting by car accounts for our second largest amount of emissions in our operations: 17% of the total,”​ say Vicky and Lou, explaining the company set up a ‘Cycle to Work’ last year.

Offsetting is the last step

The UK retailer also has a carbon management hierarchy in place to ensure that it is reducing emissions and doing so in the most efficient way: 1. Avoid, 2. Reduce, 3. Replace, 4. Offset.

“Offsetting has had a bad reputation in the past, but that is no longer deserved.  Using a carbon management hierarchy means you are offsetting within a framework of improving efficiency and reducing carbon use as much as possible, so that offsetting becomes the last step, not the first,”​ say the pair.

According to the hierarchy, the first step toward carbon neutrality is to avoid using carbon in the first place, and then reduce it as much as possible where necessary.

Neal’s Yard’s eco-factory in Dorset was purpose-built to minimise energy use with Scandinavian high spec glass windows and doors to help minimise heat loss whilst maximising natural light, a high level vent system to regulate temperature, and concrete floor acting as a heat sink to help keep temperature constant.

The company is also involved in many energy efficiency projects to reduce carbon emissions, such as for material use and transport related emissions, as well as avoiding energy waste via heat loss.

Third on the list is to ‘replace’, and for Neal’s Yard this meant replacing fossil fuels with renewable options, which has seen solar panels installed at its Dorset facility, and the use of 100% renewable energy electricity supply from Green Energy at its London office and in all company owned stores.

As mentioned, offsetting is viewed as the last resort and for Neal’s Yard, Vicky and Lou say that the company calculates how much carbon is used in its business operations and then reduce the same amount of carbon elsewhere.

Vicky Murray will be discussing Neal’s Yard’s carbon neutral programme and how the beauty industry can implement this strategy at the Sustainable Cosmetics Summit which takes place in Paris on October 21-23, 2015.

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