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questions we get asked about sustainability

what do you mean by 'does good'?

Our brand promise is tastes good, does good. As you'd hope, that means that everything we make will always taste good and do good. It will do you good, because we use healthy, natural ingredients, and it will do good for other people and for the planet, too. We give 10% of our profits to charity every year (mostly to the innocent foundation) and we strive to do business in an enlightened way, taking responsibility for the impact of our business on society and the environment. We talk about this commitment further in our FAQ entitled "what do you mean by sourced sustainably?".

what do you mean by sourced sustainably?

We don’t claim to be perfect, but our "sourced sustainably" promise refers to our entire business commitment to sustainability.

Sustainability underpins our NPD process, as we continue to make products that taste good and do you good. The use of only healthy ingredients sourced with known and manageable impacts on the planet is the bedrock of our sustainability strategy.

It reflects the depth of our commitment to sustainability as a business; the innocent values run through all that we do and our responsible value relates almost solely to sustainability. We have commitment at all levels of the organisation and every innocent employee has sustainability within their day-to-day roles & responsibilities. Our fruit minimum standards programme has been running for almost a decade now, through which we have been risk assessing and auditing our growers so that we’re happy with their commitment to fair social and environmental standards. We sometimes favour certified fruit or alternatively, where we see major challenges, we invest in sustainable agriculture projects. More recently, we have started using the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Platform. You can read more about our work here.

We have been pioneering the use of recycled plastic in our smoothie bottles since 2003 and all our cartons are FSC certified. Our manufacturing partners have also been reporting against sustainability KPIs since 2008.

who are the Rainforest Alliance™?

The Rainforest Alliance™ works to conserve biodiversity and ensure sustainable livelihoods by transforming land-use practices, business practices and consumer behaviour. It not only looks at farm worker's rights and wellbeing, but also protects ecosystems on the farms, which encourages bio diversity. We believe this sustainable approach is the best one. A well run farm with motivated workers means better quality fruit and better productivity, which means we get nicer fruit and the farms are more profitable.

why do you prefer Rainforest Alliance™ over fairtrade or organic?

We think both standards are really valuable. Rainforest Alliance™ is our preferred one given the breadth of the issues that they cover and their suitability for our current purchasing patterns. Fair Trade is most effective for small farms and cooperatives, whilst Organic focuses on environmental issues. Flexibility is also important and we need to make sure we can buy the variety, quality and quantity of ingredients that we need. It isn’t always possible to do this if we align ourselves to just one certification programme.

Our fruit comes from all over the world, from thousands of different farms of all types and sizes — large plantations, co-operative groups, tiny family farms and even from the Amazon rainforest. This means that there is definitely no single certification scheme that will cover all our countries, fruits and the sustainability issues we feel are important. It is a matter of finding a certification scheme that fits us best. Whilst we believe that Fairtrade is a very effective certification, particularly for addressing social issues, it is not widely used for the variety of fruits and the countries that we buy from and as such would significantly limit our purchasing flexibility. We tackle social issues through our SAI minimum standards.

With regards to organic, we do want to minimise pesticide and other agrochemical usage on our fruit, and this is one of the requirements of the innocent SAI minimum standards for our fruit growers. Our standards work to ensure against the use of any of the 'dirty dozen' pesticides as listed by the Pesticide Action Network. To ensure the safety of our drinks we conduct independent tests on our ingredients, at an accredited laboratory, throughout the harvest calendar. Of the test results with anything being detected at all, these detections fall well within the Maximum Residue Limit (MRL) that you are allowed. Each year our policy is reviewed and testing procedures updated.

Are you going to buy more certified fruit?

Potentially, but it just isn't applicable for certain countries and certain fruits. As the Rainforest Alliance expands into new certification territory, like pineapple, we'll be keen to keep on building our relationship with them. As they develop new standards for new fruits, we will assess their suitability for our growers. Outside of the world of fruit they certify coffee, cocoa and forestry. Find out more here. Meanwhile we focus on using our SAI minimum standards to assess practices on the farms we work with which you can read more about here.

do you worry about food miles?

Yes we do. That is why we always transport our fruit by land or sea, rather than air freight it. We get our fruit from lots of different places. We do try to get as much as possible from Europe, but when it comes to tropical fruit like mangoes and passion fruit, we have to look elsewhere. Our policy is one of finding the very best fruit and working out the best way to get it into our bottles so we can be sure our drinks are the very best. Interestingly in our carbon audit we found that food miles contribute less than a third of our overall footprint, and that to achieve the greatest reductions we should be working on areas like packaging and bottling. It doesn't mean we won't keep looking for the most efficient way to transport our fruit though.

do you buy fruit locally?

Our commitment when it comes to fruit is to use the best tasting stuff, and to ensure it is natural. Now of course fruit is natural, but by buying it from areas in the world which are best suited for production of that particular variety we can reduce the inputs needed to grow it (be it energy or agrochemicals). Currently just over half of the fruit we buy comes from Europe, and of course our tropical fruits like mango, pineapple and banana come from a little further afield. With regard to buying fruits grown in the UK we face two main challenges. Firstly that these fruits are primarily grown for the fresh market (the fruit you buy whole in a shop), and as such they often do not have the taste characteristics that are suitable for a smoothie (they can be a bit watery — which is lovely fresh, but not in a smoothie). Secondly, as these fruits are grown for the fresh market they are very expensive, and for example with the amount of strawberries we need for our smoothies, we simply cannot afford them and still make our smoothies at a competitive price.

We also consider the social benefit, by providing a market for products from less developed nations we can provide much needed income to local communities.

what’s your approach for sustainable packaging?

We aim to make our packaging as sustainable as possible. We've realised that one of the best ways to do this is to measure the carbon impact of each of our packs. Our toolkit then for reducing carbon looks a little like this:

Use less: as little material as possible per pack

Don't use up new stuff: as much recycled or renewable material as possible

Close the loop: materials and pack formats that are easy to recycle

Lower its impact: packaging that has a low carbon footprint per ml of product

Obviously, we also try to make sure that it does the job it's supposed to - if doing one of the above resulted in increased waste of the product inside (either through damage in transport, or reduction in shelf-life) it would not be good for sustainability – in our case, the environmental impact of packaging is less than that of the product itself.

To make sure we are always improving, our packaging team sets priority improvement projects each year. Any new piece of packaging is also assessed against these criteria, and this assessment is an important consideration in its design. Finally, we are also now working towards using plant-based plastics in our bottles. You can read more about it on our main website.

 

are your kids' wedges really recyclable?

Despite most people thinking otherwise, our cartons are fully recyclable. The issue is that unfortunately not all UK councils currently recycle them, in the same way that most councils didn't take plastic bottles 5 years ago. However, this situation is definitely improving. Over 85% of all councils in the UK now provide some form of carton recycling facilities. Many facilities are recycling banks (in supermarket car-parks or specific waste sites), but over 50% of councils will now collect them from households. To find out how you can recycle beverage cartons in your area, visit www.recyclenow.com

are your cartons from certified sustainable materials (like fsc)?

We are delighted to say that all of our cartons are made from 100% Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified card. Certification ensures that the paper comes from forests that meet high environmental standards, where forest workers are treated fairly, and the forestry company invests in ensuring the forest is there for the long term.

If you want to read more about the great work of the FSC visit www.fsc-uk.org.

why don't you use reusable glass bottles?

We do remember the good old days of the milk bottle.

While the reusable glass milk bottles look like the right answer, environmentally there are actually a lot of issues for us to consider. Milk bottles are heavy, and take up lots of room in a vehicle as they cannot be flattened. So moving milk bottles around, either when empty or full, takes up lots of vehicle space and uses lots of fuel, creating lots of carbon emissions. There are also significant amounts of energy needed to wash them, and then distribute them back to all the bottling sites for the companies that are using them. Glass also requires a lot of energy to create in the first place and again when it is recycled due to the heat needed to melt it down. Both our cartons and our new plastic bottles are much lighter, use less material to hold the same amount of product, and use less energy to make in the first place. So while they are only used once, unless the glass bottle collection and washing scheme is incredibly efficient, environmental assessments have actually shown the alternatives to be more efficient.

 

what about health and safety of the bottles?

The bottles are perfectly safe. We have EU Directives and legislation that stipulate the processes that can be used and the safety parameters within which any recycled material in contact with food has to perform. This legislation is to ensure that there is no migration of active chemicals through the plastic over the duration of the product life. The use of recycled plastics in contact with foodstuffs in Europe is subject to European Commission Directive 2002/72/EC of 6 August 2002 although some countries have their own guidelines as well e.g. France.

We commissioned PIRA to carry out independent testing to assess the performance of the selected material in our bottle, and also sought legal advice from a law firm who are experts in food legislation to confirm we were legal in all the countries in which we do business.

Got another question about the things we make? Or any suggestions for what we should make next?

Fling an email over to hello@innocentdrinks.co.uk. We'd love to hear from you.