Better Know a B: Pukka Herbs
Pukka’s mission is to connect people, plants and planet. They kindly joined us on the Better Know a B couch and opened up about what it means to them to become a certified B Corp.
SD | Tell us a bit about the history of your company?
Pukka’s humble beginnings began with an idea, a BIG idea, that through the incredible power of plants we will help bring greater health and happiness to as many people as we can. And with this idea and £5000 Tim (Westwell) and Sebastian (Pole) started Pukka. Sebastian whittled away in his kitchen blending special herbal teas and supplements and they ran the business from Tim’s spare bedroom in Bristol, in the south-west of the UK. Tim was looking to step out of the corporate world to find a way to express his passion for nature and desire to contribute to a more positive world using his business skills. Sebastian was a nature-inspired herbalist who wanted to help change the world through introducing people to the power of herbs. It was a fantastic match.
Nearly 15 years on, Pukka Herbs, create delicious teas and incredible wellbeing supplements, helping millions of people worldwide to discover a healthier, happier life.
‘Pukka’ is an Indian word meaning ‘authentic’ and ‘delicious’ and it’s at the heart of everything that we do. From the incredible organic and fairly traded herbs used in every tea and supplement, to the fact that Pukka gives 1% of its turnover to support not-for-profit environmental organisations.
SD | Why did you become a B Corp?
We are a B Corp because we are committed to business being a force for positive change. As well as bringing the wonder of plants to people, Pukka has always been a voice for promoting our interests in environmental and sustainable health, so B Corp helps us join with a wider community committed to benefiting society and the environment. The changes we need to make as a society in terms of how we support our own health and that of the planet’s need to be so vast that it’s only by joining together with other like-minded communities that we can create the paradigm shift we so urgently need. Simply put, this paradigm shift involves us moving from a “‘humans’ are the most important ‘thing’ in the world”, to one where “‘nature’ is the most important ‘thing’ in the world” and all of our thoughts, actions and habits need to celebrate that.
SD | What excites you about being part of the global B Corporation movement?
We started Pukka with the aim of doing good through commerce which we have summed up through our environmental mission of creating ‘conservation through commerce’. This is all based on the idea that nature is more valuable intact, still standing and co-creating than destroyed, chopped down and co-destroying. Our business model was therefore built around doing things the right way. Whilst Pukka has grown to become a leading herbal wellbeing company this vision is still at our heart. Becoming a certified B Corp means no matter how big we get this commitment will never be lost. We have joined a powerful global lobby of other pioneering businesses that share this intent. It feels like that together we have the potential to create the tipping point that creates the shift we know our future depends upon.
SD | Can you tell us about the impact that your company is having in the world?
We work right across our value chain from crop to cup to have a net positive impact on people, plants and planet: from our 100% organic herbs and commitments to fair trade, to our 100% biodegradable teabags which are staple free; and from our commitments to sustainable wild harvesting to our love of serving our customers with the best that the science and tradition of herbalism offers. We are trying to create circles of benevolence so that everyone we come into contact with benefits from being connected with Pukka.
We are glad that we send zero waste to landfill and all our teas are packed together with renewable energy. However we recognise that this is just the start and in the last few years have focused on our broader carbon footprint. In 2015 we celebrated becoming a certified carbon neutral company through carbon efficiency, switching to 100% renewable energy and offsetting our remaining operational carbon footprint with a gold standard efficient cookstove projects in Uganda and India. We’ve carefully selected projects that not only have positive environmental benefits (reducing greenhouse gasses) but also improve the wellbeing of local communities and support local entrepreneurship. The projects not only subsidises the cookstoves being made, but also helps train people and develop the whole value chain (including the manufacturing, distribution, local sales channels and marketing in Uganda) to create a sustainable social enterprise.
But of course our main impacts are ‘downstream’ from the millions of cups of tea drunk around the world every day. So to have an influence on this we are working up to encouraging our UK customers to switch to Good Energy to power their kettles with electricity from sun, wind and rain.
You can read more about this, our net positive vision and priorities in our sustainability report (www.pukkaherbs.com/pukka-planet/stories/pukka/pukka-sustainability-report). We’re always looking for people to collaborate with to find solutions on our net positive journey.
We also strongly believe that our teas and supplements have a huge positive impact on people’s wellbeing too and are taking part in the debate about how natural healthcare can support our society’s health alongside modern medicine. It’s clear that the healing and restorative powers of herbs have been used for centuries. Take turmeric for example. There’s a huge body of research (over 6,000 peer reviewed papers), which demonstrates this incredible spice’s anti-inflammatory properties and ability to help a wide range of conditions. We recently launched an entire range dedicated to turmeric using an environmentally sound method called ‘wholistic extraction’ to extract the full potency of the plant. We also launched a new turmeric tea, which is not only packed full of antioxidants but also tastes amazingly refreshing. Herbs do so much more than simply add flavour and colour to our favourite dishes – they are nature’s medicine chest.
SD | What benefits have you seen since certification?
Although it’s early days yet, the benefits of being a B Corp are already being felt across Pukka. Whilst we were thrilled to achieve such a high first assessment score, B Corp has given us the framework to identify those areas where we can improve our social and environmental impact.
Being a B Corp is also a commitment. A commitment to serve society no matter what. This commitment gives all of us at Pukka both the inspiration and courage to grow what we do with the knowledge that whatever happens next we will always be a force for good.
SD | How did your other staff react to the certification?
We announced our certification at a recent company day to huge excitement. We asked everyone in the company how we might ‘B a Better B Corp’ and we got some great suggestions. Our first BCorp inspired initiative has been becoming a ‘Do nation’ where everyone at Pukka makes commitments to reduce their carbon footprint. This year awe are committing to offset 500,000 cups of tea.
SD | What has changed in your organisation as a result of taking the B Impact Assessment?
In a way the values that are at the heart of Pukka are what makes us who we are and have enabled us to join B Corp so ‘it’s business as usual’ as we work to create a better world every day. We are looking forward to connecting with other B Corps around the world as well as tackling the goals we want to reach for our next Impact Assessment.
SD | What does the year ahead hold in store for your company?
We have exciting plans for next spring when we’ll be launching a new range which spans both teas and supplements. We’ll be showcasing a herb which currently receives surprisingly little attention in the west but is an incredibly powerful everyday tonic which has been used for centuries.
We also want to better explain our ethical and environmental credentials - the high standards we now meet (including Fair for Life and FairWild) and schemes we’re part of (including B Corp and also 1% for the Planet). This is as much about helping and encouraging other organisations to be a force for good as it is about letting our customers know the lengths we go to to link people, plants and planet.
SD | Who is your B Corp crush?
I would love to work with Patagonia. Yvon Chouinard, Patagonia’s inspiring founder has shown the world how it is possible for even the world’s largest private sector companies to give back to the planet and be profitable at the same time. In the early 1990s, an environmental audit of Patagonia revealed the surprising result that cotton was the worst product for the environment. In 1996, Chouinard committed the company to using all organic cotton. He was also a founding member of 1% for the Planet - Patagonia commits 1% of their total sales or 10% of their profit, whichever is more, to environmental groups. Patagonia is one of the six largest companies in One Percent.
SD | It’s 2020, 5 years since you certified as a B Corp, what does the movement look like?
We’d like to see an organic revolution! Organic agriculture sustains the health of soils, ecosytems and people. Healthy soils are also our secret weapon in fighting climate change.
We would also like to see natural health having a much deeper role in society’s wellbeing with plants and herbs at the centre of daily living.
By 2020 B Corp has taken on a whole new position in environmental and social change with a respected platform to influence sustainable change at a policy level bringing positive benefits to billions of people.
SD | What is inspiring you at the moment?
Seed, the Untold Story http://www.seedthemovie.com/
Jonathon Porritt from Forum For the Future https://www.forumforthefuture.org/
Ann Ambrect from The Sustainable Herbs Project http://www.numenfilm.com/blog/
Patagonia’s Black Friday campaign (100% of the day's sales online and in its 80 locations worldwide will go toward groups that help the environment.)