Sustainability is not such a modern concept

As the chase for net zero gathers momentum SMEs are being increasingly challenged to not just create plans for sustainability but to achieve them.

According to some reports, 50% of businesses have ambitions to achieve net zero by 2050 but only 11% believe they have the right strategy to get them there. The focus on the environment may seem like a relatively recent movement but for some it has been a philosophy for well over a century.

Known as Lincolnshire’s favourite coffee roaster, Stokes Tea & Coffee is an award-winning family business with more than 120 years of experience in sourcing, roasting, blending and supplying the freshest coffees, finest teas, equipment, servicing and barista training. The company also runs multiple destination cafés and hospitality spaces. Stokes has built a reputation amongst its piers for leading the way in sustainable practices. This is in part, testament to some solid habits which are as alive today as they were when the company began back in 1902.

The mantras of ‘make do and mend’ and ‘waste not want not’ together with an uncompromising commitment to world-class levels of quality, are not just standing the test of time, they’ve been instrumental for decades in delivering effective ethical and eco practices.

Emma Olivier Townrow, Business Development Manager at Stokes, is helping to co-ordinate the sustainable efforts, she describes the journey so far. “Stokes has never been just about profit. The family has always given back to its communities, operated responsibly, ethically and sustainably. These are not just snappy sound bites. I can honestly say that these behaviours and values are quite literally built into the DNA of the company. Minimising waste, being efficient and valuing resources is the Stokes philosophy.

“The company has just got on with it for decades and never been interested in virtue signalling or labelling its efforts when it comes to environmental or community activities. This has presented a very different challenge, as unlike many other businesses where sustainability initiatives are being developed to meet the requirements of things like B Corp certification, Stokes has so much in place already that is just business as usual.

“The behaviours and practices require retrospective ‘labelling’ as it were, rather than having to start something new, it’s been a case of finding and formalising what’s already in place. I’ve been working on the B Corp application to help Stokes get formal recognition and certification for the amazing work it’s been doing. There’s a vast amount already in place including investment in new heating systems and eco-friendly coffee roasters that significantly cut down on energy usage and emissions and a clear focus on minimising waste through upcycling, recycling and re-purposing. Stokes is close to its supplier base at home and abroad to ensure every penny spent benefits communities near and far. The company demonstrates that a team focus and strong principles can make huge headway when it comes to the sustainability journey.” 

Emma’s Top Tips for Achieving Net Zero Targets:

1. Don’t be overwhelmed by the prospect of driving sustainable agendas, the UN targets all ultimately lead to overall benefits for businesses including efficiency, savings and greater business/community engagement.

2. Start small, for example by finding 3 ways to reduce single-use plastic, switch to greener suppliers or support a community project to develop a fresh perspective and approach towards tangible and sustainable business practices. Once you start looking, you’ll be surprised by how many ways you’ll find to reduce your carbon footprint.

3. Get your team onboard, share your ambitions and seek ideas from your people, better still create incentives or rewards for innovative ideas. Nothing breeds success like success, so find the wins and celebrate them.

4. Rethink how you dispose of your waste products - can they be reduced, reused or recycled?

5. Don’t be nervous about sharing your aims and ambitions with your customers, data shows consumers appreciate and value sustainable businesses. So, share your aspirations and seek collective solutions.