All Together’s monthly CEO Circles are an opportunity for member CEOs to come together and discuss a particular business issue. Hosted by a Volunteer Advisor, but intended as active learning groups, these sessions are confidential open spaces for consulting like-minded colleagues. This month, guided by the knowledgable Tim Lee, CEOs tackled the journey to Net Zero.
In a recent blog post, Volunteer Advisor and sustainability strategist Nita Woods urged businesses not be afraid of the journey to net zero: ‘perfection doesn’t exist,’ she wrote, ‘just make a start. Set a goal and complete it.’ Wise words, of course, and seconded by Tim Lee, the progressive CEO responsible for Mindful Chef’s accelerated net zero plan, and host of our November CEO Circle.
Kicking off the discussion, Tim outlined Mindful Chef’s current sustainability plans and what they have achieved so far. He highlighted that the company became BCorp registered in 2018, measured the total footprint of all their operations in 2020 (15 000 tonnes of CO2), and revealed a bold target for achieving net zero by 2030. Undeniably, Mindful Chef is a business taking proactive responsibility for their impact.
Understand your impact by measuring it first:
The approach needed for tackling the challenge of climate change is embedded deeply into Mindful Chef, with being ‘kind to the planet’ central to all operations. As part of this, Tim kicked off by stating that measuring impact is the first step to reducing it.
Using the right external partners and choosing good, consumer friendly accreditation will go a long way to simplifying this process and communicating your efforts to customers. Without doubt, the group recommended B-Corp as a great place to start. Their free B-assessment online even highlights the gaps within your business and makes relevant suggestions for reducing them. They are also widely recognised, reducing the need for customer education and multiple bits of branding on products.
Then there is the option of external partners and agencies. Everyone acknowledged that this was a minefield, but for some it had helped to support their efforts. For example, one CEO found they could improve the emissions of one food product by changing the package instructions to ‘fry’ rather than ‘oven cook’, as oven coking is far more carbon intensive. https://www.orbisadvisory.com/ came highly recommended as a partner, but the key really is to meet with several recommended agencies before making your choice.
Mindful Chef’s Carbon Journey:
Became B Corp certified in 2018.
Measured that their total footprint in 202o was 15,000 tons of CO2.
Of this scope 1* and 2* accounts for 5% of emissions.
Scope 3* accounts for 95% of emissions.
The majority (70%) of their scope 3 emissions come from the production of ingredients for their boxes. Around 15% comes from their packaging.
They are carbon neutral and intend to be net zero by 2030.
What are the scopes of carbon emissions?
Scope 1 covers direct emissions from owned or controlled sources.
Scope 2 covers indirect emissions from the generation of purchased electricity, steam, heating and cooling consumed by the reporting company.
Scope 3 includes all other indirect emissions that occur in a company’s value chain.
Scope’s 1, 2 and 3:
With scopes 1 and 2 being the acknowledged ‘easy wins,’ Tim started by highlighting that there are always ways to further reduce impact, whether your business starts from a good position (like Mindful Chef helping to reduce food waste), or whether you don’t have such a good head start. Tim revealed that 50% of Mindful Chef’s recipes are now vegan, inherently producing 10-50% fewer emissions. By simply selling a consciously designed product, Mindful Chef have already reduced their emissions hugely. This is an easy win, and builds upon the very nature of his business and the product he sells.
Similarly, a member of the group revealed that simply by switching their business to a renewable energy supplier, they had dramatically reduced their emissions overnight – an easy and impactful change. Another attendee purposely chose to move their office to an eco-friendly building, while others suggested taking advantage of cycle to work or electric vehicle schemes for employees. Tim agreed that these are all great places to start and that no change is too small or irrelevant.
Tackling scope 3 was unanimously recognised as the greatest challenge, especially as the majority of emissions are produced at this stage. Tim suggested using internal audits on suppliers and producers, allowing you to choose good partners who actively demonstrate they are on a net zero journey too.
Packaging was also a talking point. While good packaging is a key to reducing food waste, it is still hugely important to look for small, impactful ways to reduce it. One member of the group changed plastic lids to aluminium foil, another changed the ink they used on their cardboard. This is another area full of small wins, and again, external partners can save a lot of legwork in identifying them.
Offsetting – Imperfect but necessary?
A hot topic at the moment, the validity and usefulness of offsetting emissions was our final ‘deep dive’ topic. A number of the group expressed their concerns with offsetting, with one CEO comparing it to ‘buying tokens to get out of jail’. Many were finding it hard to gather information about where invested money actually goes, resulting in them taking their own steps: one CEO actually chose to plant 60,000 trees instead of paying for offsetting, with another investing in tin recycling plants in Indonesia to make recycling more efficient in the region.
There are a number of different paths to take and Tim was keen to point out that offsetting is not a perfect solution, but one he still firmly believes you should take to ‘keep momentum going while you build the rest of your plan for net zero’. Two important steps to take with offsetting were: finding a partner who is ‘gold standard,’ and therefore trustworthy and proven. Secondly, use the Climate partners websites as a great resource to find more information.
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Thank you to our Volunteer Advisor and Circle host Tim Lee for his insights in another advice-filled gathering. Becoming a more sustainable business and making a net zero plan is not an easy journey, but with Tim’s tips, one that you can start making progress with. Huge thanks goes to Tim for hosting the session and to our attendees for their insights and questions throughout.
Resources mentioned by the group: