31st July 2022
Catherine Weetman talks to Jo Chidley, a circular economy expert, chemist, herbal botanist, and co-founder of TWO successful circular economy businesses, Beauty Kitchen (which is on a mission to create the most effective, natural and sustainable beauty products in the world) and the business we’re focusing on today, ReRe. ReRe is a buy anywhere, return anywhere, reuse anywhere alternative to…
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Catherine Weetman is in conversation with Jo Chidley, a circular economy expert, chemist, herbal botanist, and co-founder of TWO successful circular economy businesses, Beauty Kitchen (which is on a mission to create the most effective, natural and sustainable beauty products in the world) and the business we’re focusing on today, ReRe. ReRe is a buy anywhere, return anywhere, reuse anywhere alternative to single-use packaging, helping retailers, brands and consumers to switch to Reuse & Refills across a wide range of products from milk to moisturisers and pasta to protein.
Widely regarded as one of the pioneers of sustainable beauty since founding Beauty Kitchen back in 2014, Jo Chidley has been instrumental in developing the world’s first closed-loop solution for beauty packaging and has powered the service behind the ground-breaking Re programme & Refill Stations. Thanks to her leadership, Beauty Kitchen is recognised on the UK’s 50 Most Disruptive Companies list and has won numerous industry awards.
Jo is now championing a Reuse Revolution through ReRe – which is the new brand name for Return-Refill-Repeat. Jo talks us through the many barriers – or excuses – that are blocking progress towards reusable packaging, and highlights some of the benefits including customer engagement and carbon reduction. You’ll probably be shocked by the proportion of GHG emissions created by the packaging of everyday products.
Jo explains the transformational potential of reusable packaging, and explains how ReRe is changing the brief for packaging designers – beyond the usual questions: can you make it cheaper, can you make it lighter and so on.
Jo tells us about the importance of turning competitors into collaborators, and why the system – the infrastructure – is the most difficult part of scaling out reusable packaging. We talk about how to make it convenient, and attractive, for people to return the packaging for another cycle of use.
To explain an acronym Jo uses – DRS – that means Deposit Return Schemes, which are regulations that say retailers have to provide take-back options for certain products or packaging, with customers paying a deposit when they buy the original product, and getting that deposit back when they return the item. For example, Scotland is introducing a deposit return scheme, so when you buy a drink in a single-use container you will pay a 20p deposit, which you get back when you return your empty bottle or can. That scheme goes live in August 2023.
Early on, Jo mentions a figure for the plastic packaging produced by the FMCG (Fast Moving Consumer Goods) sector each year. I wanted to give you a link to that statistic, but in looking for it, I discovered several different numbers for plastic packaging production, all from reputable sources. The figures range from 141 million tonnes to 171 million tonnes a year, across all industries. I’ll include links to those reports in the shownotes.
Podcast host Catherine Weetman is a circular economy business advisor, workshop facilitator, speaker and writer. Her award-winning book: A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business includes lots of practical examples and tips on getting started. Catherine founded Rethink Global in 2013, to help businesses use circular, sustainable approaches to build a better business (and a better world).
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Links we mention in the episode:
- A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business – buy from any good bookseller, or direct from the publisher Kogan Page, which ships worldwide (free shipping to UK and US) and you can use discount code CIRCL20 to get 20% off. It’s available in paperback, ebook and Kindle. If you buy it from online sources, make sure you choose the new edition with an orange cover!
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- Beauty Kitchen website is beautykitchen.co.uk
- ReRe https://rereworld.com/
- Facebook is https://www.facebook.com/beautykitchen
- Instagram https://www.instagram.com/beautykitchen/
- Twitter https://twitter.com/beautykitchen
- You Tube is https://www.youtube.com/beautykitchen
- LinkedIn is https://www.linkedin.com/company/beauty-kitchen-ltd
- The World Economic Forum Future of Reusable Consumption report mentioned by Jo: https://www.weforum.org/reports/future-of-reusable-consumption-models
- Ellen MacArthur Foundation Global Plastics Commitment resources: https://ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/global-commitment/overview
- Greenpeace – A Crisis of Convenience: The corporations behind the plastics pollution pandemic (2018) https://www.greenpeace.org/international/publication/19007/a-crisis-of-convenience-the-corporations-behind-the-plastics-pollution-pandemic/
- Roland Geyer’s main research (I use his charts and reports in my book), with Jenna Jambeck and Kara Law: Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made https://www.science.org/doi/10.1126/sciadv.1700782 This report says “We estimate that in 2015, 407 Mt of primary plastics (plastics manufactured from virgin materials) entered the use phase, whereas 302 Mt left it. […] Most of the packaging plastics leave use the same year they are produced, […]. For example, in 2015, 42% of primary nonfiber plastics produced (146 Mt) entered use as packaging […], whereas nonfiber plastic waste leaving use was 54% packaging (141 Mt)…” So 42% of 407 Mt is 171 Mt (for 2015). Again, that’s ALL packaging, not just FMCG.
- The World Bank publishes a presentation from Roland Geyer – p3 has plastic packaging WASTE at 46% of 343 m tonnes/year in 2018, so 158 m tonnes of plastic packaging waste https://thedocs.worldbank.org/en/doc/951211603384968172-0130022020/original/CESession3WorldBank21Oct2020RGeyer.pdf
- WRAP’s Plastic packaging web page says “The world produces 141 million tonnes of plastic packaging a year.” (again, no reference!) https://wrap.org.uk/taking-action/plastic-packaging
About Jo Chidley
Jo Chidley is a circular economy expert, chemist, herbal botanist, and co-founder of Beauty Kitchen, the highest scoring B Corp in the UK beauty industry. Founded in 2014, Jo has set out to change the face of the beauty industry by creating the most effective, natural, and sustainable beauty products in the world.
Widely regarded as one of the pioneers of sustainable beauty, Jo is championing a Reuse Revolution through sustainable innovation by implementing Cradle to Cradle design into Beauty Kitchen’s circular approach. Among her achievements and award accolades, Jo has been instrumental in developing the world’s first closed-loop solution for beauty packaging and has powered the service behind the ground-breaking Re programme & Refill Stations. Thanks to her leadership, Beauty Kitchen is recognised on the UK’s 50 Most Disruptive Companies list and has won numerous industry awards, including ‘Who’s Who in Natural Beauty’.
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Could we start by asking you to give us a quick overview of your first circular business the Beauty Kitchen?
Yeah, sure. If I just take a step back. So the FMCG industry creates over 161 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year. And sadly, as we know, most of this isn’t recycled. The global packaging industry is worth $1 trillion annually. 99%, the single use and less than 1% of the reusable packaging is smart and trackable. So when I we thought about Beauty Kitchen, so I am a chemist, but My professional background has been in human resources, working for some big brands, including Avon Cosmetics. And we wanted to disrupt the beauty industry. But when it comes to formulations, and natural, sustainable ingredients and formulations, although not all of the industry uses them, it’s something that is really well developed, where the opportunity leave for us was definitely within the packaging aspect of it, and the rest of the supply chain. So some of the things that that we have that lots of other businesses don’t is we are the highest scoring B Corp in Europe for personal care, and one of the highest scoring in the world. And that means that we can bring people planet and profit together. But alongside that, we’re also Cradle to Cradle certified and 90% of our product range. 10% isn’t certified yet, because it’s new products. But 90% of that product range is Cradle to Cradle certified. And that’s at silver or gold level. So it’s a very high level for Cradle to Cradle. Now, these two certifying bodies are not really known within the beauty industry. In fact, they’re not really known a lot outside of sustainability if I’m honest. But they were really important to be able to develop the culture of how we wanted to explore circular business models as a business, particularly within personal care, because it’s a huge industry that has a huge problem with single use packaging.
And I think people are really getting interested on there people are realising that even though you might be able to recycle something lots of us know that that’s not really all that all that good a solution. And lots of us know that you things go off in a recycling bin, but then they end up being incinerated. So even though we’re kind of doing the right thing as as householders, and as citizens, we still feel a bit guilty about it, because we know it’s not really the solution. So I think there’s a whole growing awareness that we need to do things differently. And so can you say you kind of had the the betta kitchen with much more sustainable packaging. But what was the spur for starting to offer reusable packaging and what guided your choice of materials.
Maybe reusable packaging was always something that that was a foundation of Beauty Kitchen to start with. What we wanted to do was understand reusable packaging within personal care. So Beauty Kitchen is an indie beauty brand, we do skincare, Bath and Body. But we’ve had a little bit of fun and play around with with different packaging options. So and that includes packaging options with recycled content, or that can be recycled. One of the other elements that we did in the early days with Beauty Kitchen. And not a lot of people know this, but there’s hundreds of 1000s. In fact, millions probably billions of unused packaging sitting in warehouses waiting to go to either landfill or incineration. Because brands and retailers have have changed the packaging of a certain product. And it sits as ‘grey’ stock. Sometimes people buy that that stock and reuse it, but generally ends up going you know, where we don’t want it to go. And we introduced in the early days what was called pre cycled packaging. And that meant it was packaging that other brands and retailers didn’t want to use, but it was brand new. And as a as an an offshoot from Beauty kitchen, we thought well, we would at least like to use it once before it then goes into either the recycling system and it goes completely into the bin. So that was our starting journey of playing around with different models within the supply chain, and how to reduce waste, which ultimately is part of Cradle to Cradle principles and the circular economy at large. Whether its own brand that’s on a small scale, we could also then look at different materials. So we looked at glass, aluminium and stainless steel. And the reason why we wanted to not look at plastic was at the moment, we have a monoculture of plastic and it needs disrupting because a monoculture in any format anywhere in anything. It’s just not good diversity and celebrating diversity in any format is definitely better. So with Beauty Kitchen, we could do things on a startup scale. And what that what that did is it really got us to understand the problems within the supply chain, not just from a packaging perspective. But when you get to larger, more global businesses, how they actually have to manage their packaging. So if we look at some of the large personal care organisations, 50% of their GHG emissions comes from packaging, nuts, just huge. And that was where we realised what we had developed with Beauty Kitchen is something that could then be offered out to the FMCG industry, starting with personal care, because personal care is a relatively straightforward way for consumers to be nudged into reusable packaging. The other aspect to that as well is that we had the credibility within the industry. And we’d also gone through the pain points of the supply chain details with regards to moving to a reusable packaging system. Because it’s not just about reusable packaging. To be fair, that’s actually the kind of easy part. The difficult part is the infrastructure that sits around a reuse provider. And it was for us, we had to take the time to turn competitors into collaborators. And I guess one of the I like to come back to that competitors to collaborators, because I think that’s that’s really important. But I guess just to unpack that, you know, the the complexities of the supply chain, there’s also the cost isn’t there, if you kind of think about returning your own empty packaging to the supplier. Unless you’ve got a really convenient drop off point, then it means posting it back. And there’s a cost to that and potentially damage in transit because is the consumer going to you know, have they got a box to put it in. And that applies to everything that might come back to you know, not not just packaging, but things that might go back for repair. If the consumers chucked away the original packaging, then, you know, it could get damaged in transit and something that only needed a minor repair is now is now trashed. So there are all those challenges. Oh All of which add cost and complexity to the scenario. And you can imagine it, it’s kind of one of the things that puts lots of companies off going down that route. So, okay, so then you got the idea for what for how you are going to do this. So So what happened next? Well, what we needed to do was get a list of all of the barriers to why people are why businesses wouldn’t change from single use packaging to reusable packaging. And I’m being polite by saying it’s barriers, because really, it’s excuses. Because, you know, a barrier is something that you can overcome. And that’s why we’ve used that. So things like reusable packaging is expensive, both from a cost perspective and a carbon perspective. single use plastic LCA sure lower carbon emissions than single use glass, aluminium and steel. Packaging shape is part of a brand’s identity; you know, how do you get consumers to return empties? How do you get the empties back from stores? How do you wash it? How do you ensure the product quality refilling in store is messy and costly, it was the – and that list is not exhaustive. There’s a very very long list of putting up excuses of why reuse shouldn’t or couldn’t work, or why a brand wouldn’t want a retailer wouldn’t want to engage. And it’s but what has happened, that is definitely supported our solutions to all of those issues and all of those barriers, is market conditions. So – and you kind of touched on that earlier – so consumers, they want less plastic, consumers are willing to pay more not a huge amount of more, but they see more value in reusable packaging, because it just feels more valuable. And that’s one of the that’s been one of the key consumer behaviour ‘nudge’ points for us is when you look at plastic, as a material, as a consumer, you do not see any value in it generally. And that’s, you know, being the problem with plastic bags, plastic packaging, anything, it’s not really seen as something that you think is a value to you. And also alongside the fact that you maybe don’t want plastic anymore, it doesn’t then set with your values. And then the other things, you know, Net Zero targets, plastic pack reduction targets, your brands and retailers want to do the right thing, plastic taxes, almost here EPR is coming carbon taxes lately, you know, DRS systems are going to be launching. So there’s there’s a huge part of market conditions around making things more circular, that have obviously have helped in terms of the backdrop to the barriers that we’ve had to find solutions for. So that that has really helped. And to be able to get more brands and retailers in each in collaborating with each other. Because at the end of the day, this is not around one brand, creating a reuse system just for their brand, because that’s never going to work. Because let’s face it, you’re seeing about my shelf with all the different, you know, potions and lotions that are sitting behind here. Think about it. When you look at an online store, whether that’s a supermarket store, your bricks and mortar store or a specialist store, the plethora of different brands, if every single one of them created their own reuse system, they would never get to scale. And as we know, when it comes to the circular economy, that’s been the challenge, how do you get things to scale. So what we’ve done is we’ve come in to see here is a solution for packaging, because we know that your consumers are looking to buy your particular shampoo, or body wash or moisturiser, the packaging element of it is not really that of interest to them. But if we can place a value on that piece of packaging, and they become part of the system, then they are more likely to return it. And that’s we’re it’s about bringing brands retailers and consumers who want to participate in the circular economy, they just don’t have a way of accessing that. And packaging is a great way in a great a big opportunity to solve some big problems. And the fact that we have got know some big brands and retailers on board demonstrates that
and just to go back to what you were saying earlier that people want to break up you know, citizens want to break away from all this plastic. So although you were just saying that for the you you’re talking to the brands and saying the packaging is not that important. You can flip that and say improving the packaging to be reusable and better. You know having a lower impact can add value to your brand because now the person buying it – the person making the choice on the shelf is thinking, Well, I like both these brands in terms of, you know what’s in the package. But this one has now got the packaging, that makes me feel much better about buying it about looking at it every day, you know, on my bathroom shelf, and so on. So suddenly, it’s adding additional benefits to the, you know, and kind of credibility to the brand. And I think I think the, the, the evidence of people’s behaviour, and there’s still an action intention gap, but that gaps narrowing, and the proportion of people who are more interested, and in fact, who expect businesses to be doing the right thing. It’s not that they’re looking for the heroes, they’re kind of shocked when they find out that companies aren’t really looking after us on our planet. What you know, what most of them are looking after, is keeping costs down and profit up. That’s right. So okay, so you kind of started to convince some of them that collaboration was the way forward. And now you’ve developed a partnership with TerraCycle, for the Loop prefill system that they’re offering through Tesco, some other retailers. So how did how did all that come about? And how does it work in practicality?
Well, and that’s comes back to the first couple of lines on this interview. So the $1 trillion annual industry that is single use packaging. And then there is this small, really small startup community of reuse providers of which loop is one of them, you know, ReRE as another which is ours, John booty that’s based in France. And we kind of then realised that we are small, and there is a few others that we’re all in contact with each other, because we’ve got a $1 trillion industry that we are trying to disrupt. And okay, it might be thoughtful disruption, but that that industry knows that they have a lot of the industry is obsolete. And we have to stick together there has to be I’m probably not going to pronounce this right with my Scottish accent. But there has to be solid data today to use providers because we have a huge industry to disrupt. And that’s where the conversations chemo, chemo with loop. And what we’ve found is that as we use providers, each of us has a certain element that we have more expertise in which you find with any business, yeah, and look realise that there are packaging formats, and we could do them better. And that’s where the ask those will, could you help, you know, P Z Cussons as an example, with their with their packaging needs, because we you know, we’ve got a gap in that. And it’s something that you guys can do. And I think, you know, having that collaboration within your own in history, and demonstrating how competitors can be collaborators, it’s then a simpler model to then go to big brands and retailers to see if we can do it, you guys can do it. And if you do it, that means that we can leverage this opportunity within a second, that has become more and more compelling with the market conditions to make everything more circular.
Hmm. Yeah, I think you’re right. And I think people and not not everybody, but businesses are certainly starting to see that the winds of change are blowing. And whether they’re looking at it from a, you know, the risks of APR taxes and the IRS deposit return schemes and things being outlawed. And kind of looking at that as a threat, or whether they’re perhaps more engaged with what people are thinking both their employees and their and their customers. So there’s kind of these these several forces really, but those are two that that kind of come to mind. So either of those can start to really pull up the, you know, the lower of the of the status quo. And get people really thinking actually, this, you know, this is a real real and present danger to our model.
Yeah. And the other thing is, so the cost, so when we have been talking to any brands and retailers, because we’re a circular business, you can’t sometimes you can’t talk to them in circular terms, because, you know, they just, they’re just not engaged with it. You have to talk in linear terms, and the linear terms is about cost efficiencies, more profitability, in a nutshell. And that’s really what, how we have won the business that we’ve won so far, because rather than can indicating the plethora of stuff of why it’s such a good thing to do the circular business model. We’ve talked to them in the linear terms, got them over the line in terms of engagement, and then said, and it just so happens that it gives you all of this other stuff.
Yeah, yeah. Here’s three pages for your CSR or ESG report as well! Yeah, I think you’re absolutely right, that, you know, it’s about the hard numbers of the business case. And even if you can’t make the business case, sort of for day one, if they can look at the trends, and kind of think, well, you know, let’s try this with a couple of product lines, or let’s try it with one particular country that we’re in and see how it goes. And then realise that they get better engagement and better feedback from customers, then that all starts to flesh out the business case, doesn’t it?
Yeah, I mean, we’ve got some great data that’s happened. And we are, I’m not going to say the particular brand or the particular product line. But it’s their lowest selling SKU within within a certain category. And they moved it to reusable packaging. And it’s now their highest selling SKU. Now, it’s relatively small scale, because it’s only in 10 stores. Yes, so to be fair, however, from that basic data, they know 1: that they are selling more of their own product, because it’s in reusable packaging, but they are getting consumers to switch brands, to theirs, and with no marketing, all they’ve done is changed it to reusable packaging.
That’s an amazing story. And that’s one of the things that I encourage companies to do is think about, how could we pilot this, you know, with with one niche group of customers, or with one niche product, and I guess it kind of speaks to the lack of faith that the company had in whether this would work that they chose their lowest selling SKU. But you know, it’s kind of it’s about baby steps, isn’t it, and it’s about building the case, internally, in the, in the business with all the sceptical people, you might have one person who’s really got gut feel that this is the way forward. But those kinds of stories, and that kind of evidence, is just a brilliant way to suddenly get other people to, you know, stop making excuses, as you said, and think about the direction the future is really going in. So from a from a practical perspective, you know, thinking about your own brand ReRe, or the partnership with with the loop prefill system, how does it work for the people buying the products, you know, what do I need to do differently.
So the only, so if we take, really, that is replacing single use packaging, if you think of a store, let’s say a bricks and mortar store, just from a visual perspective, you go into a supermarket, a grocer, and you go to the personal care aisle, and you will see the option to buy a product in a single use package or a reusable package. And you know, it’s as simple as taking that paying for it. And then what will happen is that you will have QR codes. There’s a variety of different coding systems that we are trialling and utilising at the moment, but the QR code is the simplest format, you basically take a picture of that on your phone and it will take you direct to the ReRe website. You either sign up for an account or you don’t and you’re a guest and that’s okay. But that registers your piece of packaging, you then take your product or you use the shampoo or rather everyone in the house uses the shampoo, it’s finished, you then return that either to your point of purchase or you return it to other participating retailers and which includes collect plus which have you know, 60,000 convenience stores across the UK. Or you can also use Royal Mail we obviously encourage it to be the easiest most convenient for you as the as the user and the less distance that it travels the better. And you then scan the QR code that’s on the return box and scan your bottle again and put the bottle in and that sets so that’s everything will be on your own accounts and I can you know be registered and it tells you everything that you need to know
so have you had to pay a deposit when you bought the packaging? Was that all part of the – sorry when you bought product – was that all part of the product price?
It is it’s it’s more of a ‘borrow anywhere’, so what we do it’s it’s different to deposit return scheme because you don’t get your money back but your money He stays within a coupon. And that’s either digital or it’s a hard copy coupon depending on the store or how you want to get that coupon. And for most people, most of the majority of people that that shop generally have a smartphone. So it tends to be a digital coupon that we found 99% of people take digital coupons over the hardcopy. And that means that you stay part of the ReRe system. But you can use that coupon on any other ReRe. You know, packaging. So whether you buy from one brand one day, and then you buy from a coffee shop the next day, for example, you can use that coupon in participating retailers.
Right, so let me make sure I’ve understood this. So I’ve kind of borrowed my first coupon. And then I returned the packaging by one of the methods. And that gets my coupon back into credit. Yes? And how, how would I use that then in a coffee store? Does it give me a discount next time?
So for example, so we’re currently working with a nationwide coffee provider to provide reusable coffee cups. So if you bought your shampoo, for instance, in a retailer, you then return your empty shampoo bottle, your coffee shop the following, you know, few weeks, you would then scan it, the the coupon that you have on your digital device, you can then use against your reusable coffee cup, right. And that’s where, you know, it’s a boat, this border anywhere reused anywhere concept that you have. And as, as we’re starting small, so So the majority of our products at the moment in reusable packaging, are within personal care in home care. However, we are currently working with, you know, all aspects and categories within a grocery store. So that’s from personal care, home care, to speciality milks, to alcohol, beers, wines and spirits, to dried goods, to fresh goods. It’s everywhere in the store outside of frozen foods. Yeah. And all the way through to working with different coffee shop brands. Because we want this to become part of somebody’s lifestyle, where you can basically, you know, be part of the ReRe system to participate in reusable packaging, wherever you’d acquired it. So how many times do you go on, you know, you? Well, maybe not. So in the last two years, but it’s starting to, to be more regular, you go on a business trip, and you get on the train. And, you know, you have to use a single use coffee cup, when really you shouldn’t have to, if you’re part of a system and the half the reusable coffee cups there. But what you do is you then finish your coffee on the train. Yeah, and you should be able to just leave your coffee cup there. Because it’s not, it’s not convenient necessarily for you to carry around. And ultimately, that’s the future. That’s what we want to create, we want to create a really world where it’s convenient for you, just the way that you would use single use packaging throughout your daily life, that that isn’t then changed to reusable packaging,
You’re right with the coffee cups, because, you know, I always take my own reusable, you know, which started off with my own coffee in it. But then when I get to the other end, and I want to, you know, maybe have peppermint tea or whatever I’m now thinking right? Where am I going to go to wash this coffee cup out? Or do I do I beg the server serving staff at the wherever I’m buying something from? Would you mind washing this out? So yeah, it’s not it’s some, you know,
if you can make FMCG, fast moving consumer goods is all about convenience and accessibility. That’s where the industry came from. You don’t so we have to complement that packaging that fits into that that consumer mindset, because we’re not gonna you’re not going to get someone to do huge leaps. It just, it just doesn’t happen. Some of the ways to describe it is if you think of self serve tills, yeah, when they first came about, you know, people were like, oh, right, okay, I’m not really sure. How am I supposed to do that? And you maybe saw it in one store, and then you didn’t see it again for maybe another two weeks. Once you saw it more regularly, it then just became a thing. That’s, that’s that is how you prefer to shop. Not for everyone, and that’s okay. It’s about diversity. It’s about giving access and convenience to how you live your life.
Yeah, yeah, I think you’re right, it’s about the kind of making it easier and easier for people to get it back into the system. And as you say, you know, through the smartphone app, and so on, nudging and, and sort of, you know, helping helping people keep it at front of mind. I think there is this sort of, you know, subconscious discomfort that a lot of a lot of us have got. And when you start to make those changes, those discomforts are allowed to surface and then you realise that you’ve been feeling bad, you know, a bit about this all along. Okay, great. So along the along the way, then you’ve you’ve got some really important certifications, including Cradle to Cradle certification, and you become a B Corp. So tell us a bit about why those things were important to you and what difference it’s made.
So when we started Beauty Kitchen, I am a bit of a sustainability nerd, even though I absolutely love the beauty industry. And I’m a big reader as well. So I had read about B Corp, and the B, the original B Corp handbook. And I’d read the Cradle to Cradle books before that, because they would be without before the the B Corp book. And when we started the business, you know, I just saw it as good business to look after equal weighting within people planet and profit. That just made sense to me. You know, so, before we certified, we were one of the early certifier early certifications in the UK. So it was 2017. When we certified I think, at that time, there was only about 30, or the B Corps within the UK, we just know it’s well over 500. And when we went through the certification, it was relatively straightforward, we pass first time we got 89.3 from the you have to get 80 as the score, because we’d already you know, had those principles. And we’re working to those principles, when we were starting up, cathedral to key there was a longer term play, because it is a more stringent, particularly when it comes to your supply chain, it is a much more stringent certification. And the thing with Cradle to Cradle, it’s a round a triple top line. So it’s looking at equity, ecology and economy alongside the core, which is people planet and profits. And what they mean by that is that if you design products with circularity, and the beginning, yeah, then the everything else then then falls through. But if you’ve already got products that are already designed, you obviously have to make those changes and tweaks that will then get you that Cradle to Cradle certification. So it was it was a slightly different way of doing that certification. But what for me, that means that we have not only designed our business models, but we’ve designed our products and services that fit into the circular economy. And that just gives me the framework, it means that culturally, you know, everyone knows the standards that we live by here. And as we grow and get bigger, if that foundation is obviously really strong, and people understand that, then when new people join, that then gets assimilated into how we do things. Because we’ve never run a linear business. It’s just not who we are. And it was, it would never be what we would want to be. I don’t think it makes any sense, either commercially or environmentally to continue to take finite resources and not replenish or regenerate them. That’s just plain stupid. Because ultimately at some point, those resources are going to run out. And you know, so if we think of it in financial terms, if you’ve got a bank balance of 100 credit and you keep taking money out then you wouldn’t have any left.
Yeah. Exactly. It’s just such a no brainer, isn’t it but people always think that you know, Oh, well I might need only a tiny bit and you know somebody else or they’ll sort it out and
see if I can bring that to life. So blue glass is beautiful. Yes, it is. It’s also very expensive. So blue glass the reason why we use it is it protects the essential oils and our formulations from Beauty kitchen skincare perspective. And blue glass. It also just looks great. You know looks of value. blue glass. Not only is it commercially expensive, yeah. It’s also environmentally expensive because of the the cobalt mining that has to happen. It just didn’t make sense to me. that this blue glass, once the consumer has used it, they will put it in the recycling bin. But it’s not recycled unless it goes to a specialist recycler, of which there is very few are for blue glass. It will not be recycled, but even more. So why would you want to crush the blue glass down? Yeah, and then build it back up again, that just doesn’t make sense, when it’s easily washed and put back into a system. And simple things like that just create such opportunity for not just your own business, but the supply chain, the the supply chain at large, because ultimately, we are a product as a service business, that blue glass should just be leased throughout the system. The cobalt should just be leased throughout the system, if we could get it back in.
Yeah. And yeah, that that reminds me of something Walter Stahel was talking about in terms of leasing minerals, and one of his colleagues was doing some work on that, particularly for the African countries. So this whole concept of not selling the, you know, the very, very resources at the start of the supply chain. So yeah, I think I think maybe in five or 10 years time, that’ll start to permeate, permeate into business models as well. So what’s in the pipeline for the next phase, then, because having heard all the brilliant stuff you’ve done so far, I can’t believe you stopping there. So what’s, what’s one books.
So we recently were awarded an Innovate UK grant, and for the wider, you know, more global audience, that is a huge demand signal from, you know, the UK government’s any effect, to demonstrate reusable packaging systems at scale. So that demand signal has given us a great foundation, not just both financially, but from a credibility perspective that our systems is being held up. As, you know, one of the systems that has worked a lot of these, you know, excuses out. The other aspect is part of the seculars accelerator, which is sponsored by the World Economic Forum. And the and a censure in terms of consulting firm, and the World Economic Forum, produced a report, probably, it’s about two years old now called the future of reusable consumption models. And you can definitely see where we sit as a business in terms of reuse providers, but then all of the infrastructure that sits around that, and also, within Europe, personal care and home care, have the highest potential to get consumers to be able to make that change to reusable packaging, we are in the final stages as well off announcing, you know, a large national retailer that will give us that give consumers that accessibility and convenience of being able to return empty packaging. And also, it also reassures the brands that we’re working with, that this isn’t something that’s in its pilot phase anymore, it’s very much going to at scale up fees. So you know, I was asked the question at the circular shift, just yesterday, no, the day before, around, if I fast forward two years, what would I come back, you know, to talk about, and for me, in two years, quite easily, I can see where if you go wherever you shop, whether that’s online, at convenience stores, or, you know, large bricks and mortar grocers, the high streets or shopping malls, that you will see the majority of your everyday consumer products in reusable packaging formats. And that’s really the dream. And I think that’s how quickly it can happen.
Yeah, I think you’re right, because, as you say, the the kind of methodology is in place, the collaborations are in place. And now we’re at that sort of tipping point where the brands that aren’t already thinking about this are going to be disrupted by those that are and then everybody gets on board really quickly, don’t they? So yeah, yeah, let’s let’s put that in the diary then to check in and and then see who’s late to the party. Yeah, when
we were asked the other day, by a large global business, and how easy it would be for us to get a billion bottles and to the system. So that just you know that that is a conversation that is happening.
Yeah. Yeah. It’s, it’s just so exciting.
And that’s just the the UK, I might add.
Wow. Wow. Yeah, exciting times. So looking, looking back on those eight years and since you’ve since you found a Beauty Kitchen, ahead of founding ReRe. What surprised you in the process of building the two businesses?
Now is a great question. What surprised me? It surprised me that there wasn’t more active collaboration. If I’m honest, particularly Wayne, you have a really huge established single use packaging industry. Yeah, that needs disruption. And although technology, you know, the digital age is definitely making reusable systems more accessible to businesses, the the jigsaw puzzle had many different pieces missing from it. And I think that probably surprised me. The other thing that surprised me was this. And I think it’s a Greta Thunberg quote, where no one’s too small to make a difference. And that’s really being true when it comes to Beauty Kitchen, we are a very small, self funded business that’s based, you know, south of Glasgow in Scotland. You know, we’re not in the hub of, I don’t know, New York, or wherever. And, you know, we have just focused in on building these relationships within the infrastructure, and asking different questions of the infrastructure. So we are asking aluminium packaging manufacturers to make the packaging more durable, heavier, more resilient, they have never, ever, ever been asked that question. They’ve only ever been asked, Can you make it thinner? Can you make it lighter? Can you make it cheaper, and basically less durable. So it’s been fascinating to talk to much, much more larger businesses, but more experienced businesses. And we’ve just come at it from a different angle. The other thing that surprised me is that once that active collaboration has been facilitated, how quickly things can move. And that’s where, you know, that human element of solving problems we just love. And that really, that’s what gets me out of bed every day.
Fantastic. So some, some real gems in there. And I’ll look at that quote. And because because I want to use it. So I’ll check if it’s, if it’s greater. So we’re not we’re not cutting her out of the loop. So we might you might have covered this in the last question. But if you were talking to another business that wanted to start something, or to go circular, and I’m sure you’ve had these conversations, lots of times in terms of going circular, then what’s the number one top tip that you try and share all the kind of, you know, the, the the mindset change? What’s the one thing that you want them to take away to start getting them on board with the circular approach?
The generally have to give something to get something back. So we’ve been really open, possibly too open, sometimes we’ve had that feedback, of giving solutions to problems, rather than asking for something in the in the first instance, and then I am going to add something else to that. When you’re talking, you’re then wanting to give your circular solution to a linear business, do not talk to them in secular terms. I think I touched on that earlier. Talk to them in linear terms, because that’s what they understand. And that’s what they feel comfortable in. Yeah. And at the end of the day, we all want to be included. And we all you know want to be respected and loved for the things that we do. So you have to be mindful that this is not a round telling people how bad the audit what they currently do. It’s switching it on its head and saying look at all the great stuff that you do. But look how much it could be better.
Yeah. Yeah, that’s great. And I think we were talking about the linear terminology in the sort of linear mindset before we press record, and we were talking about the business case and making the business case in terms of, you know, increased sales or lower costs. And I always, I’m always nervous about using the increased sales because it’s one of my bugbears that, you know, modern businesses just focused on selling more and that Biggers better. So I guess we can kind of flip that around a bit and say, you know, it’s about increasing your market share at the expense of, you know, less switched on competitors, or it’s about reducing your marketing spend because now people are loving your product so much that they’re telling everybody and becoming net promoters. So they’re all these kinds of ways of improving the the ability of your business to survive and thrive, that don’t necessarily involve getting more people to consume yet more stuff.
I agree. So it’s about increasing profitability, but it’s also about de risking new opportunities. Yeah, yeah. So if I think of packaging, that’s more doable. One of the other questions that we have asked is about refurbishment. Yeah. So the, you know, packaging manufacturers have never been asked that question before. How would I refurbish a piece of packaging? Why not? You know, and that is, that’s a big, that could be a big opportunity. And that’s not about selling more, that’s about selling less, but it’s about keeping things in the system because of the other services. Again, very circular, the other services that you can offer.
Yeah, great point. And yeah, kind of refurbishment. And Walter Stahel has talked about the era of R, which is obviously, you know, resale, remanufacturing recycling and so on, but also the era of D. So delamination. You know, disassembly that can disassemble. Yeah. But there’s also de-logo-ing, you know, and removing the removing the labels from things. Yeah. So yeah. So, Jo, thinking about your values, and I’m, I’m sure, you know, we could just hear with everything you said that what you’ve what you’ve done in the in the business is very driven by your personal values. So which one do you think helps to move us towards a better world, one that’s more sustainable and fairer.
For me, it is about action. And maybe that’s the, you know, the kind of founder and entrepreneur, I like to try things out quickly. You know, to de risk them. But talking and being theoretical and conceptual is amazing. And I get that because I love to, you know, dream, but making something, even if it’s not that perfect, but it’s not just the dial. For me, that’s what’s really important. So that action that that dream maker points is really important and getting people just to be prepared to fail. You know, but it’s not really failure. It’s then that next iteration, because the quicker that we get iterations within the circular economy, think of think of how quick iterations are in the in technology. Now, you know, if we start thinking in the same terms with circular, and having iterations and learning from what’s going, how quickly and at what pace, could we move to a circular world?
Yeah, it’s like the inventing the first light bulb or whatever it was more than 1000 different designs before the right mix of chemicals, and, and structure and so on. Excellent. Thank you. So Jo, who would you recommend as a future guest for the circular economy podcast?
So I think we’ve got I’ve got two in mind. The first would be Bill McDonough, who is one of the founding fathers of Cradle to Cradle and the circular economy so obviously, him and Michael Braungart were the the original authors of Cradle to Cradle as a book, which then evolved into how would this work in the real world. So they took those concepts and, and, and made it into something that is now a certifying body and separate from what the currently do as individuals, and you then have the Cradle to Cradle Institute. So my second recommendation would be Christina Rab, who is the president and CEO of the Cradle to Cradle Institute’s, I think both those individuals would give a holistic viewpoint of both theory conceptions and, and action, which is, you know, what I like? Excellent. And I’d love to hear.
Yeah, and I’d love to talk to them. So thank you that they sound like excellent conversations to be to be having. And lastly, Jo, how can people find out more about you about Beauty Kitchen about ReRe.
So I am still the only Jo Chidley on LinkedIn so people can find me on LinkedIn, that’s a married name. And our websites are just ReRe and Beauty Kitchen so they’re easy, and we’re also on social. But if people want to find ate more about, you know, reuse in particular, and how that relates to FMCG, then contacting me with a no on LinkedIn is definitely helpful. And I like to share our learnings as much as far and wide as we as we can.
Brilliant. Thank you. And we’ll put a link to the report that you mentioned from the World Economic Forum, the future of reusable consumption, put a link to that in the show notes as well, with all those other links. So Jo, thanks very much for an illuminating conversation. I wish we could have talked for longer, I’d love to catch up in a couple of years. And find out whether you’ve hit the billion number and who the late adopters are, who we can name and shame for not getting on board with the circular economy, for packaging. So thank you very much.
Excellent. I look forward to that. Thank you very much for having me.
Want to find out more about the circular economy?
To go deeper, you could buy Catherine’s book, A Circular Economy Handbook: How to Build a More Resilient, Competitive and Sustainable Business. This comprehensive guide uses a bottom-up, practical approach, and includes hundreds of real examples from around the world, to help you really ‘get’ the circular economy. Even better, you’ll be inspired with ideas to make your own business more competitive, resilient and sustainable.
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Thanks to Belinda O’Hooley and Heidi Tidow, otherwise known as the brilliant, inventive and generous folk duo, O’Hooley & Tidow for allowing me to use the instrumentals from the live version of Summat’s Brewin’ as music for the podcast. You can find the whole track (inspired by the Copper Family song “Oh Good Ale”) on their album, also called Summat’s Brewin’. Or, follow them on Twitter.
31st July 2022
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