Ecoware: a Toitū carbonzero case study

Ecoware logoEcoware provides a full range of sustainable packaging solutions made from abundant and renewable resources such as corn starch and bamboo fibre. We are more than just a packaging company. At Ecoware we strive to lead the way when it comes to sustainability. That’s why we are New Zealand’s first and only Toitū carbonzero certified packaging company. We monitor and manage the entire company’s operations with a plan to reduce our carbon footprint. We offset all the carbon emissions associated with our activity by investing in renewable energy projects, and native forest restoration projects, both nationally and internationally.

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What is your involvement with Toitū Envirocare?

Ecoware is a certified member of the Toitū carbonzero programme and has been for the last four years. We started out being just a packaging company selling plant-based alternatives. As our brand grew, our conscience grew with it. We wanted to be a company that was responsible for taking ownership of what we did – not just our products, but the entire business activity through the whole product lifecycle. The partnership with Toitū Envirocare was something that aligned well with where we wanted to take our brand. The biggest attraction for us was the accountability and authenticity that Toitū Envirocare brought to the equation.

How has it changed what you do?

The Toitū carbonzero programme has had its effect not only on Alex and me as the founding directors but also throughout the entire company. Any decision we make business-wise has emissions at the forefront of our thinking as we look for ways to curb emissions wherever possible. An example would be when we initially purchased our vehicle fleet. We did our homework and invested in cars with smaller engines and lower emissions.

What kind of improvements have you made?Ecoware - compost

Our most effective improvements are mostly concerned with waste and freight/shipping. We run a three-bin system – general, recycle and organics – on our sites where we can, and our international and national freight is a lot more strategic in terms of ensuring full consignments. We’re aware that when trucks are moving from A to B, the best thing we can do is ensure the truck is full. Being a rapidly growing company, this has allowed us to be mindful and to put a lot of attention into planning our logistics to minimise emissions when we’re moving boxes – especially internationally. We try our best to reduce kilometres if we can. We try to maximise volume and reduce the number of deliveries by having the required conversations with our customers. This makes our supply chain more efficient.

To offset our unavoidable emissions, we invest in carbon credits for various projects based in New Zealand and overseas. Our New Zealand carbon credits are from forests at Pūhoi, in Northland, and Pigeon Bush in Wairarapa. Offshore in Asia, where our manufacturing facilities are located, we have invested in renewable energy projects like the Changtu Biomass Power Plant in Liaoning Province, China. So we are aligning with projects that will assist or enable our business to be more sustainable in the years to come.

What benefits have you experienced?

Our staff are proud to work for a Toitū carbonzero certified company. The sales team is probably the most engaged because they’re always tracking their fuel mileage and emissions. We encourage them to walk to meetings around the corner if they can, rather than drive. In terms of culture, in the end it adds to the overall experience of being part of the Ecoware journey. It is definitely a part of the overall value of working here.

All our improvements have benefitted not just Ecoware, but some of our customers. Our actions and values trickle down to our customers. What we are seeing is a lot more customers keen to manage their own environmental impacts, and our products fit in well with that.

How have you communicated your achievements to your stakeholders, and what has been the most effective method?

We have started to communicate our credentials more over the last year or so in line with the growing movement to improve sustainability. Sustainability grew and became mainstream, which meant our credentials with Toitū Envirocare became more interesting to people.  We communicate our environmental achievements through existing marketing channels, which are predominantly B2B focused. It’s always communicated during business acquisition and/or retention. Our customers value the fact that we are going one step further and we are conscious of our emissions and the world around us.

That being said, we also like to share this information on social media with consumers via impact data/infographics. This has also been effective in communicating this achievement.

Which of your achievements are you most proud of and why?

In terms of our emissions, one notable achievement was in our emissions management in 2017 compared to 2016. We had a big increase in top-line revenue from 2016 to 2017, but what we saw was a reduction in our emission intensity. Our business has almost been doubling each year, but our emissions aren’t increasing as fast in comparison. This assures us that we’re putting the right strategic policy in place to manage our emissions effectively. It was truly an ‘Aha’ moment and an indication that the partnership between Toitū Envirocare and Ecoware is working really well. What Toitū Envirocare gives us in terms of guidance and direction is great, because it enables us to set the right policies in place internally that will allow our business to grow but not increase emissions.

Ecoware's biodegradable straws and pasta bowlsWhat has been the most challenging aspect of this?

The most challenging aspect is to hold ourselves accountable as the business grows so rapidly. We are constantly under pressure to make quick-fire decisions because nothing really sits still. So it’s been quite challenging putting these practices in place in a fast-paced business. However, in saying that, we have managed to do it quite well so far.

How has being a member of the Toitū carbonzero programme assisted you?

We take pride in running a company that is Toitū carbonzero certified, but also in being a brand that reports back on its impacts. The third-party verification and audit help us maintain transparency and mean that the numbers we present are credible. The reporting and the fact that we are taking steps to manage our emissions really help us align with like-minded brands and organisations.

Where are you heading now with your carbon management efforts?

Our approach to sustainability has always been that it’s not a destination, it’s an ongoing journey. A lot of organisations think it’s a destination, and they make decisions that affect one financial year which have no long-term impact. We are about to become the first and only New Zealand-based food packaging company to release a sustainability report by the end of this financial year. The report will include our accomplishments with the Toitū carbonzero certification, along with the various other ongoing sustainability initiatives all across the business. We will be putting in place some strong objectives and KPIs in order to keep us on track and to continue getting better every day.

What advice would you give other companies thinking of mitigating their carbon footprint?

It’s 2018 and sustainability is no longer an outside influence. It’s something that organisations need to embrace in order to stay ahead. If any company in this day and age is ignoring sustainability, emissions and environmental impacts, they will very quickly realise the need or get left behind. My advice would be to own this space and realise that it’s not a short-term trend: it’s here to stay. Nowadays, just being transparent and authentic as a brand is the best thing you can do.

How would you describe your experience with Toitū Envirocare and their programmes?

It’s been a great journey. I’ve also attended a few Toitū Envirocare networking events – one of them was with Ecotricity in Auckland, which demoed electric vehicles. Interacting with sustainability champions from various backgrounds allowed me to broaden my perspective and think beyond my own industry. I learnt about the many sustainability initiatives that are happening, both nationally and globally and across different industries.

carboNZero LogoToitū carbonzero certified organisations

Toitū carbonzero organisation certification is proof an organisation is positively contributing to our environment through measuring, reducing and offsetting their carbon footprint. To achieve Toitū carbonzero certification, an organisation measures all operational greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions required under the international standard for carbon footprints, ISO 14064-1, including vehicles, business travel, fuel and electricity, paper, and waste. The emissions are measured annually, and the inventory is independently verified to ensure it is accurate and complete. Once they have measured their footprint, the organisation must develop plans to continually manage and reduce their emissions. Each year, unavoidable emissions are offset through the purchase of quality carbon credits to achieve neutral emissions. The organisation must reduce emissions on a six-year cycle.