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Innocent Drinks: An Insight to Corporate Sustainability
On Thursday 23rd November, OSBE were delighted to host Karina O’Gorman, European Head of “Force for Good” at Innocent Drinks. Karina gave a brilliant overview of her journey through the sustainability sector, the projects she has worked on at Innocent Drinks, and the challenges that arise when implementing sustainable practices at a corporate level. With free smoothies in hand and a thoroughly engaging presentation, our attendees were given a real treat for our last event of term.
Karina began by quizzing the audience on how much they know about nutrition. Attendees were surprised to learn that just a third of adults in Britain consume five or more portions of fruit and veg per day. Given that just a 150ml glass of an Innocent Drinks smoothie counts as portion, it seems like smoothies are a no-brainer for good health! In addition to the health benefits of consuming more fruit and veg, plant-based diets result in a much smaller carbon footprint than eating meat on a regular basis. Encouraging Britons to get more of their daily calorie-intake from fruit and vegetables is therefore key to meeting emissions targets, and brands like Innocent Drinks can play a vital role in helping to change people’s habits.
Karina went on to discuss the innovative projects she has helped to implement at Innocent Drinks to make the company more sustainable. Perhaps the company’s most impressive measure to reduce its total carbon emissions was the construction of an all-electric, fully renewable energy factory in Rotterdam called “The Blender”. The Blender is a BREEAM certified factory, meaning that the asset meets high standards with respect to low impact design, carbon emissions reduction, and biodiversity protection. Additionally, even the location of the factory helps to reduce its environmental impact, as being situated in the Port of Rotterdam means that Innocent Drinks’ trucks travel fewer miles to transport ingredients. Moreover, the company will soon be transporting all of its ingredients using fully electric trucks to further reduce its carbon emissions.
After describing the other ways that Innocent Drinks is committed to sustainability, such as reducing the company’s total amount of packaging by 2,500 tonnes between 2020 and 2023, Karina invited the audience to fire away with their questions. Attendees were particularly interested in learning more about how they could pursue a career in the sustainability sector. Karina answered that the most important thing is to be passionate and proactive in seeking out opportunities, whether that be helping out in the local community or contacting sustainability specialists at larger firms. She was honest in acknowledging that the career path is not always straight-forward, but that with the right attitude and approach there are ample opportunities to pave a career in sustainability.
We would like to give a huge thank you to Karina for her entertaining and highly informative presentation, and to our attendees for asking such thoughtful questions. We couldn’t think of a better way of rounding off the term’s events, and we can’t wait to bring in more inspiring speakers next term!
Future Planet Capital: Impact Investing in Venture Capital
On Thursday 16th November, OSBE were delighted to host Alex Shadbolt to discuss his work in impact investment and venture capital. Alex is an Associate and Impact Lead at Future Planet Capital (FPC), a venture capital firm which invests in high-growth companies solving global challenges like climate change and food insecurity. With $400m in assets under management and 140 companies in its portfolio, FPC has backed several highly successful start-ups, including Vaccitech - the company which helped to develop the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine with its T cell immunotherapy platform. Our audience was treated with a fascinating insight into the world of venture capital, as well as the processes involved in evaluating the impact potential of start-ups.
Alex began by introducing the audience to venture capital and impact investing. He explained how venture capital firms (VC) raise money from investors and financial institutions to put into funds. He outlined how venture capitalists use this money to invest in high-growth potential companies (often start-ups) in exchange for equity. Alex went on to describe the kinds of tasks and projects venture capitalists work on. Attendees would have found Alex’s description of the deal screening process very appealing, given that this involves learning about innovative start-ups which have developed cutting-edge technologies. Alex also provided an overview of FPC’s different funds, such as the Blue Ocean Fund, which allocates investment to companies working on decarbonisation, food security, and the clean energy transition. From direct carbon capture and storage systems to aqua-drones for waste collection, the technologies developed by the start-ups in FPC’s portfolio are truly fascinating.
After providing an excellent an overview on the world of venture capital and impact investing, Alex explained the advantages of FPC’s impact-led investment strategy. First and foremost, impact investing helps to solve the world’s greatest challenges by supporting start-ups which can make a difference. Right now, as we’re faced with the looming climate crisis, simply cutting carbon emissions is not enough to avoid catastrophic global warming. To limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century, we also need to be actively removing carbon from the atmosphere. That’s why it is vital that start-ups in the carbon removal and decarbonisation space receive the funds they need to grow and prosper. Additionally, because of the high-growth potential of companies that align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals, investing in sustainable business ventures often delivers outsized returns. Hence, an impact-led investment approach is a win-win scenario for start-ups and investors, which is why FPC remains fully committed to this strategy.
We would like to give huge thanks to Alex for providing such a detailed and fascinating insight to impact investing at a venture capital firm. We hope our audience feel inspired to pursue opportunities in venture capital and kick-start their career in impact investing!
Future Planet Capital
Tom's Trunks: Sustainability and Scalability
On Tuesday 7th November, OSBE were delighted to host Tom Holmes, founder and CEO of Tom’s Trunks, to discuss how his brand produces clothes sustainably. From navigating rapid business growth to streamlining supply chains, Tom gave our attendees a great insight into the challenges of starting a business and the opportunities that come with a sustainable business model.
Tom began by discussing what led him to create his own clothing brand. Tom started making clothes in his garage when he was just 14. At the time, he wasn’t yet thinking about global warming or the environmental impact of the fashion industry (which accounts for 10% of global carbon emissions - more than all maritime shipping and international flights combined (World Bank, 2023)). Tom mainly just wanted to make clothes which were stylish, durable, and comfortable. But it was on a trip to Kenya in 2014 when Tom realised the huge potential of sustainably produced fashion. Whilst in Kenya, Tom came across the kikoi, an item of clothing resembling a pair of baggy trousers, hand-woven from organic fibres like cotton. Tom was struck by the kikoi’s comfort and durability, and by the simple methods and materials used to produce it. Because the kikoi is hand-made from locally sourced materials, its carbon footprint is also minimal. Tom wondered if he could produce clothes with the same qualities of the kikoi on a larger scale, all without incurring a significant cost to the environment. The kikoi therefore became the inspiration behind Tom’s Trunks’ products: loose-fitting loungewear made from all-natural materials.
It was Tom’s Trunks’ focus on sustainability which allowed the company to thrive. Though business was slow at first, Tom’s Trunks went from struggling to break even in 2015 to turning a £200 profit in 2016. Customers were drawn to the fact that they could now purchase comfortable clothes without feeling guilty about the hefty carbon footprint and environmental consequences that came with them. Tom explained how his company uses innovative methods to mitigate the environmental impact of its operations. For instance, the manufacturing process uses a topology optimisation software to cut patterns of clothing with minimal waste. Tom’s Trunks’ supply chain is also 100% single-use plastic free, which is achieved by using returnable packaging made from recycled card. The business also invests in carbon-offsetting projects to ensure it remains carbon neutral. Tom and his team even attempted selling clothes by bicycle, rather than out of a van, in an effort to reduce the overall carbon footprint of the brand.
Tom left our audience feeling optimistic about the future of the fashion industry, with up-and-coming brands like Tom’s Trunks finding great appeal among the younger generation. We hope our listeners enjoyed the evening as much as we did, and that they feel inspired to make more environmentally friendly clothing choices. We would also like to extend a huge thank you to Tom for delivering an engaging and eye-opening talk, and we wish him all the best for the future!
Cool Earth: Corporate Partnerships and the Perils of Greenwashing
On Thursday 2nd November, the Oxford Sustainable Business and Entrepreneurship Society were delighted to host Martin Simonneau, Senior Manager at Cool Earth, for a discussion about the organisation’s journey and its people-powered approach to combatting climate change. Cool Earth is a non-governmental organisation whose mission is to help indigenous peoples and local communities to protect the rainforests and fight the climate crisis. Since it was founded in 2007, Cool Earth has backed 40 projects to fight deforestation, spanning areas as diverse as the Amazon, Papua New Guinea, and the Congo Basin. These projects involved over 31,000 people from local and indigenous communities, whose efforts helped to prevent an estimated 177 million tonnes of carbon from being lost to the atmosphere through deforestation.
The evening began with a presentation by Martin, in which he elaborated on Cool Earth’s “people first” approach to protecting the rainforests. The rationale for this approach is simple: indigenous communities have lived in the rainforests for hundreds of years, learning over many generations how best to maintain these ecosystems. The best way to fight the climate crisis is therefore to empower residents of the rainforests by providing them the funding and resources required to manage their land sustainably.
Here lies a key challenge. As Martin highlighted in his presentation, less than 1% of climate funding trickles down to indigenous peoples and local communities who live in the forest (Source: Rainforest Foundation Norway 2021). While generous donors may believe their donations are directly contributing to conservation efforts, this is rarely the reality. Instead, climate-related funding is often misallocated by bureaucrats far removed from the rainforests. This is why one of Cool Earth’s primary objectives is to ensure that it is the people on the ground who are the direct recipients of climate funding. A project currently being spearheaded by Martin is a cash transfer programme whereby village residents are provided with a basic income. This basic income would mean that the villagers can afford to devote their efforts to conservation projects while still making a living.
After an eye-opening and deeply informative presentation, it was time for the audience to ask their questions about Cool Earth. Ollie Nicholls, OSBE’s Events Director, opened the Q&A session by asking Martin whether Cool Earth had ever been approached by businesses who care more about their corporate image than about protecting the rainforest. Martin answered in the affirmative, explaining that many companies now feel pressured to appear environmentally responsible. This, he said, has led to a significant increase in corporate greenwashing, with businesses presenting false claims about their “green” credentials to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. Cool Earth has done well to steer clear of such firms by partnering only with businesses that share the organisation’s “people-first” culture. For instance, several of Cool Earth’s business partners are actively involved in the charity’s initiatives, either by supporting rainforest communities on the ground or by running training workshops for Cool Earth’s team. Martin's message was that charities and members of the public can navigate the perils of greenwashing by seeking companies who can demonstrate their commitment to driving positive social and environmental change.
OSBE would like to say a huge thank you to Martin for delivering such a thought-provoking presentation, and to everyone who attended for making this such a special event!
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