Plant-based milk brand goes carbon neutral

| 3rd September 2019
Probably not how most people now get their milk
Rebel Kitchen predicted that becoming carbon neutral would take five years, but they did it in six months.

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It has never been business as usual for Rebel Kitchen. At the heart of this plant-based brand is their Purpose Manifesto, a pledge to show that business can be, and should be, a force for good.

In an effort to be transparent and to encourage others to act consciously, the rebellious company made a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2025. They managed it in six months!

Only last year, Rebel Kitchen underwent the mammoth task of measuring their carbon footprint. In order to do this, the team in London joined forces with Provenance, a platform that empowers brands to take steps towards transparency, and Carbon Analytics, a company that helps businesses measure their entire carbon output, and so began their journey to CO2 self-discovery. 

Carbon intensity

The challenges for a Food & Drink business to go carbon neutral can seem to be never-ending but being sustainable has never been more important.

Business operations, in any sector, vary in legal and organisational setups making it difficult to determine where the lines of responsibility should be drawn and how best to go about collecting the required data. Plus, having a footprint measurement that you can trust is just the beginning. What you do with this information is the main question. 

When analysing a business-wide carbon footprint, not one item of business expenditure is left out of the carbon equation. With the help of Carbon Analytics, the team at Rebel Kitchen were able to allocate a carbon value to absolutely everything. This included the obvious like purchasing ingredients, transporting good and manufacturing, to the forgotten factors such as the coffee cups used at trade shows. 

As you may expect, as the business grew, so did their carbon usage. But Rebel Kitchen’s carbon intensity did not increase, and between 2018 and 2019 their carbon intensity actually decreased by 14 percent.

What does that mean? In a nutshell, carbon intensity is a way of comparing carbon use as a percentage of revenue, business-to-business and sector-by-sector. Rebel Kitchen, whose carbon intensity averaged 35 percent lower in the Food & Drink sector also used this measurement to determine if their carbon use is in line relative to their growth. 

Vital resource

The company’s carbon footprint for 2018/19 is 4,041.82 with a reduction in carbon intensity of 14 percent. To put that into human terms, that’s the equivalent of a Boeing 747 flying non-stop for 5.32 days straight or driving the average car 24/7 for 17.93 years. 

But it isn’t as easy as it sounds. There are added complexities for SMEs as the numbers can be deceiving if you’re looking for clear linear reductions, particularly when it comes to innovating new products.

For example, if a business develops a product one year, but that product doesn’t go to market until the next, it’s likely to impact their year-on-year improvement by affecting the carbon to revenue in a way that’s not a straight decline. 

Despite the challenges and the uncertainty of the future, Rebel Kitchen believe that having the ability to track and analyse carbon use on a monthly basis is an invaluable step in the right direction towards sustainability.

The brand has tracked  four years of historical data so far, and this has become a vital resource to help determine their strategic direction.

Ripple effect

The environmental impact of the dairy and beef industries is now common knowledge, but Rebel Kitchen want to use their recent achievement to shine a light on plant-based ingredients too.

Dairy alternatives are receiving negative backlash, particularly when it comes to ingredients sourcing. Some other forward-thinking brands have started to share their climate impact, including noting their carbon footprint on their packaging. 

Rebel Kitchen wanted to take this further. They were never interested in simply stating the problem, they set out to solve it. They predicted that becoming carbon neutral would take five years, but they did it in six months.

The alternative milk brand offset its entire business-wide footprint for 2018-19 immediately and have now officially been certified as carbon neutral by Carbon Analytics. 

The London based company also wanted to keep connected to carbon offsetting projects to build relationships and ensure efficacy. They partnered with PUR Project and Ecosphere, two Verified Carbon Standard projects based in Peru. Both organisations work tirelessly to protect high-value Amazon rainforest under threat, regenerate degraded ecosystems and support community-driven programmes. 

Conscious packaging

But what if other businesses could do the same? Rebel Kitchen is the very first plant-based alternative brand in the UK to take this step but they are part of a growing network of businesses across the world who all see the importance of going carbon neutral.

A commitment to go further by one business could be the beginning of others exploring the edge of what’s possible. 

Rebel Kitchen is radically honest. They don’t shy away from the fact that their ingredients are sourced from around the world, but through sheer determination to take ownership of their impact, the brand has achieved carbon neutrality four and half years earlier than planned.

Not happy to settle, the team have set to work on their next venture, conscious packaging, as their next step to keep improving. Their mission is to revolutionise the food system and bring as many others on the journey with them as possible. 

This Author 

Anna Van Der Hurd, oversees Rebel Kitchen’s social and environmental performance, supporting the integration of sustainability and ethics into the fabric of every business decision the company makes.

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