kencko | Healthy habits for a healthy planet: our first 2021 sustainability upd

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Healthy habits for a healthy planet: our first 2021 sustainability update

It's been six months since we last updated you on kencko’s efforts to be a responsible business. So what’s up: did our smoothies get any greener?

Raising standards, staying accountable

It’s easy to say you’re working on sustainability - everybody does, these days. But how do you know if a company is really monitoring its impact and holding itself accountable? For us, it was important to find a way to embed our sustainability ethics into our business practices, and keep on raising standards as we grow. In December 2020, we became a Certified B Corporation®, or B-Corp™. 

To become a Certified B Corporation®, a company has to meet stringent standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. There’s a rigorous reporting process covering all areas of operation from office waste to ethical supplier relationships, and our status will be reviewed every three years. 

The purpose of the program is to identify and nurture those companies which are trying to build a new kind of business that balances purpose and profit. The B-Corp community works toward reduced inequality, lower levels of poverty, a healthier environment, stronger communities, and the creation of more high-quality jobs with dignity and purpose. To date, there are more than 3,500 B Corporations in 70 countries around the world; B-Corp brands you may recognize include Patagonia, Ben & Jerry’s, and Danone North America. 

We’re really proud of the huge efforts our team has made - and continues to make - to raise standards and improve internal monitoring systems. We plan to make more of these measurements public in future.

Packaging and waste

Packaging is an environmental headache, and it’s not going away. We have to accept that, as a direct-to-consumer food brand, packets and boxes will always be part of our impact. There is no perfect one-time solution, only a series of trade-offs that help to minimise that impact by increments, through both waste reduction and the use of innovative materials. 

We recently began making our inner boxes from a type of card made from unbleached bagasse, or sugarcane fiber. A natural by-product of the sugar industry, bagasse can be converted into paper or card with minimal chemical additives. It’s easy to compost at home (just tear it up, dampen and mix into your compost bin) but can also be recycled with mixed paper/card. And since our outer mailing boxes, postcards and leaflets are made from 100% recycled paper, we have ensured that no new trees are cut down to make our packaging.

Our individual smoothie packets are made from compostable, plant-based film. The main advantage over traditional plastic is that it’s made from corn starch, a rapidly renewable resource, rather than from fossil fuels. It biodegrades quickly and harmlessly in an industrial composter; there’s also good evidence to suggest it won’t produce the same type of harmful microplastic particles if it escapes into the environment, where it will break down in decades rather than hundreds of years. We get a lot of enquiries about home-composting our packets, and the answer is that unfortunately we don’t yet know how well the packets break down in normal compost - they are only certified compostable in suitable municipal facilities. However, new materials are being developed all the time, and we’re constantly testing alternatives that might prove to be lighter on the environment. Watch this space.

By supplying our smoothies with a reusable bottle and compostable sachets, we’re trying to cut down on the number of single-use bottles and cups people discard when they buy smoothies from the grocery store. If every smoothie we sold last year had come in a single-use bottle, that would have created more than 40 tons of plastic waste. At the moment, our sturdy, reusable bottles are not easily recycled when they reach the end of their life, after many years of faithful smoothie-shaking service. However, the manufacturer of the material we use (Tritan) has developed the technology to recycle the bottles, and more recycling facilities are planned in the next year or two. So keep using your kencko bottles, and we’ll keep you posted. 

Sourcing our fruits and veggies

We buy fruits and vegetables from around the world, and we’re very conscious of our responsibilities to the people who grow them. Because we buy organic, we’re often sourcing crops from small-scale family farms. As part of our road to B-Corp certification, we made sure that fair treatment of everyone in our supply chain is baked into our business processes. And with the help of our wholesale suppliers, we’ve been getting to know some of these farmers - like the Ankole Coffee Co-op in Uganda, and Megha and Raju, who grow coconuts on their family farm in Tamil Nadu. We’ll be introducing more of our amazing farmers on the blog soon.

Our social mission

When we talk about being a business with a purpose, we don’t just mean that kencko is a company that’s careful about its environmental impacts. Our central mission is to help more people reach their five-a-day: the minimum recommended intake of fruits and vegetables for a healthy diet. The latest statistics suggest that 9 out of 10 Americans and 3 out of 4 Europeans don’t eat the 5 servings a day (400g) that multiple research studies have linked to reduced risk of chronic disease and increased lifespan. 

There are a number of reasons why people find it difficult to get their five-a-day. Lack of disposable income and lack of access to fresh produce are massive issues, beyond our current scope to tackle but constantly on our radar. Another barrier is convenience - shopping, prepping and cooking fruits and veggies is time-consuming - and that’s something we are addressing with our products, which make organic produce quicker and easier to prepare and consume. Finally, there’s education: nutrition knowledge needs to be widely shared in a way that empowers people to make healthy food choices. We tackle this via our free nutrition coaching service for members, and through this blog and our social media accounts. It’s an area we’re going to be growing this year, with lots more free resources to help people fit fruits and vegetables into their lives - and inspire them to enjoy it. 

On the ground, our team members in Lisbon have begun volunteering at a local foodbank - a resource that’s been more essential than ever during the coronavirus outbreak. We’ve contributed more than 70 person hours to this vital work over the past few months. We also have a ‘birthday giving’ program, where each staff member gets to celebrate their birthday by nominating a charity to receive a donation from kencko on their behalf.