Doing Things Properly
Doing things properly is something we work by, as well as talk about outwardly. It means taking time to get things right - sometimes that means it takes longer, or is a path of more resistance, but it means nothing is by accident. It might seem simple but there’s an honesty and authenticity to it that has earned us the trust of our customers and partners, and it becomes increasingly important as we grow that it remains at the heart of how we do things.
Though we are a small business, we hope to have a big future ahead of us and we therefore take seriously our role in protecting that future. We are keenly aware of the reality that every bag of tea we sell leaves its mark: from the leaves being plucked, processed, packaged, shipped, stored, blended and ultimately consumed, there is an impact, whether environmental or social, every step of the way. As a business, it is our responsibility to reduce any negative environmental footprint, as well as ensure that any social impact is a positive one. In short, we hope to ensure that the net result of us doing business is a positive one, beyond just providing our customers with a delicious cup of tea.
So what does that mean?
'Doing things properly' means focusing on 2 areas:
Direct Impact: Perhaps the easier part of the equation, this means having sustainability at the core of our day-to- day decision making. Managing our direct impact is, as a small business, well within our grasp – it is the easiest to action, the simplest to measure and almost certainly the part that our customers best understand and therefore demand.
Indirect Impact: More complex, this is about managing the indirect impact that our business has further down the line. This means interrogating our entire value chain to ensure we are confident that from when the tea is plucked at origin to when it arrives in our warehouse, things are done properly (when it comes to people, planet and product) along the way. This is made easier by the fact we know exactly where every single sack of tea comes from.
Whether direct or indirect, at the end of the day it all comes to down to looking after People, Product and Planet. This will be the focus of all our Sustainability plans moving forward.
See our Sustainability Roadmap for where we are now with our plans.
Carefully sourcing our tea has naturally always been central to our ethos of doing things properly, and we work exclusively with trusted producers, partners and suppliers who share our values of quality, sustainability and social responsibility.
We pay a fair price to our producers for all of our teas, well above Fairtrade. Though we source according to a criteria of quality and a holistic view of sustainability, rather than external accreditation, many of our producers are certified as Fairtrade, Organic or Rainforest Alliance. We are also proud to have numerous long-standing relationships directly with tea producers themselves, allowing us a greater ability to grow businesses at origin so that they are able to invest in sustainable production.
Currently, we source from over thirteen tea-producing countries. As you might imagine, the different social and environmental challenges across these origins is heavily nuanced and complex. We therefore feel our efforts have the greatest impact when executed on a proactive, case-by-case basis, taking into account the nuances of the region, the specific producers and the challenges they face.
For example, a challenge faced by tea growers in Malawi is that the market for true tea is heavily commoditised - yet as it is a traditional crop smallholders continue to grow it, even though it fails to provide a living wage for them. By moving our entire supply of Hibiscus herbal tea to a group of Malawian smallholders we have embedded a higher-value crop within the rural economy, enabling the smallholders to achieve a living income. Our annual demand of Hibiscus is equivalent to over 40% of all of the Hibiscus produced in Malawi, which will in turn encourage more smallholders to produce it and receive a better wage as a result. The success of this initiative is something we hope to recreate across other areas of our sourcing.
Choosing packaging for our tea has been a challenging, yet ultimately very rewarding, process, as we look to balance the needs of keeping our teas tasting delicious while ensuring our packaging has minimal environmental impact.
We are extremely proud to have been producing 100% plastic-free tea bags for years now, having found the perfect tea bag material in the form of Soilon. This is a non-toxic material made from corn starch, which is easily biodegradable, making the whole tea bag (including the string and tag!) compostable. Back in 2019, we were delighted to share the news that our tea bag boxes had been formally certified as 100% Plastic-Free by environmental NGO A Plastic Planet, and since then you'll have seen the official Plastic-Free trustmark proudly displayed on the front of each pack.
For the inner bags of our retail tea boxes we use a material called Natureflex, which is heat and moisture resistant, as well as airtight once heat-sealed. This was an ideal solution for us, because to make sure our tea tastes as good as it should when it reaches you it needs to be protected from oxygen, heat and moisture. Though it has incredible plastic-like properties, Natureflex is derived from a renewable wood pulp, which makes our inner bags fully compostable and therefore suitable to go in your food waste bin. All of our inner bags are packaged within cartons that are made from FSC certified cardboard, making them recyclable.
These Natureflex inner bags have been in use across the whole of our retail tea bag range and our tea samples for a while now, but as part of our ongoing review of the packaging that we use we have now more recently tackled the challenge of our loose leaf tea packaging (30+ teas to switch over!). As of February 2021, we are delighted to have launched our brand new, plastic-free loose leaf packaging.
All our customers’ tea orders are shipped from our warehouse and HQ in SE London, which is exclusively powered by renewable energy. With a lot of goods moving in and out of the warehouse daily, we are proud to have exacting standards when it comes to reusing and recycling. Wholesale orders are shipped in previously used but undamaged cardboard boxes as part of our ‘Forgive me, I’m an ugly box’ initiative, extending the lifespan of the cardboard and reducing waste. For all other orders leaving the warehouse, we use either compostable mailers or make use of boxes that are not only made from a minimum of 75% recycled paperboard, but that are also recyclable at the end of their life. All cardboard coming into the Warehouse is sorted to be reused or recycled. Finally, we now also offer a collection service for local customers so that they can order our tea while minimising the environmental impact of shipping.
Ultimately the ambition is for Good & Proper to become a driver for change in the tea industry. We have a long way to go before realising that ambition or making a meaningful impact on the issues that the industry face. We do, however, pride ourselves on being aware of the problems and are committed to actively and steadily working towards it, thanks to an ongoing effort of improving, sharing, and learning.
See our Sustainability plans on our newly published Sustainability Roadmap here.