How we’re driving sustainability within the business… with Deap Khambay, Head of Sustainability, Seasalt Cornwall

As sustainability becomes a growing focus for many of our members, knowledge of how to be a sustainable company is becoming increasingly valuable. We recently hosted a Café on the topic, which was led by Deap and proved to be one of our most insightful to date!

We asked Deap to share some of her expert experience and advice for approaching and overcoming roadblocks when driving the sustainability agenda within retail.

Thank you for taking the time to share what you’ve been doing at Seasalt, Deap! Firstly, what’s your approach to sustainability at Seasalt Cornwall?

Key to sustainability at Seasalt is buy in from the top.  I have provided the business with a roadmap for sustainability, and this has been critical in helping the senior team understand the business case for sustainability and the risks of not growing our sustainability considerations in line with company growth. Key to my success has been the ability to join all the dots to formulate a clear directional roadmap which has included a clear business case with practical options to consider, continuing the journey to a growing, thriving, sustainable business.

Collaboration with departments across the business has also been key. I have taken the time to understand their strategic direction, challenges and opportunities which has enabled me to show them how more efficient operations/processes can lead to significant cost savings or potential new innovations, which in turn can reveal new revenue streams as well as enabling the business to lower its carbon emissions.

I have also established a governance structure with an environmental and ethics committee made up of directors and heads of department. We report progress on a quarterly basis that then gets centrally reported into our management board members and this has helped keep momentum across the business.

Key to my success has been the ability to join all the dots to formulate a clear directional roadmap which has included a clear business case with practical options to consider, continuing the journey to a growing, thriving, sustainable business

Have you encountered any internal roadblocks and how have you overcome them? 

Seasalt has always had a strong heritage of doing the right thing, for example we were pioneers and adopters of GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard). However, the business has grown significantly over a relatively short space of time and this growth created more complexity which triggered the need for a more structured and formal approach to sustainability. Buy in from the board has always been there but there was an initial challenge of getting the wider business to adapt and understand the need for this more formal approach. There was also a transition period in ensuring any initiatives were aligned to achieve maximum impact.

Significant growth in a short space of time created more complexity which triggered the need for a more structured and formal approach to sustainability

What commitments is Seasalt Cornwall making to sustainability?

We have recently announced our new sustainability commitments, and our strategy is built around 4 pillars – product, environment, innovation, and community.  Over the next 4 years we have been deliberately ambitious with our commitments and targets which include:

  • Product: We will grow transparency and accountability across our supply chain and convert more materials into more sustainable fibres.
  • Environment: We will achieve carbon net zero resulting in no harm to the environment throughout our operations.
  • Innovation – We will continue to integrate circular principles with our business model.
  • Community – We are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of our people, suppliers, and the wider communities we impact.

We are increasing the use of leather sourced from Leather Working Group (LWG) tanneries to ensure environmental and sustainable best practice is followed in the tanning process. You can find out more in our recently published sustainability report.

Our strategy is built around 4 pillars – product, environment, innovation, and community

 

What impact are you hoping these commitments will have?

These commitments are very much a strategic approach based on our brand values and customer base.  The commitments also support the company to improve efficiencies of our materials, people, and our costs throughout our operations including our supply chain. However, we must balance these initiatives with the need to never compromise on the high-quality standards of our product as we believe our product is built for longevity and can be enjoyed season to season.

To continually grow and thrive it is essential for us to put things in place now to build a sustainable future. Our recent launch of our commitments and targets is just the start of being able to quantitatively measure our performance. It’s also important to note we have a lot of passionate people within Seasalt who care about our people and our planet and this roadmap enables them to understand where we are going and how we will get there adding another level of purpose across the business.  

We have a lot of passionate people within Seasalt who care about our people and our planet and this roadmap enables them to understand where we are going and how we will get there adding another level of purpose across the business

 

What would be your advice for retailers who don’t have specific sustainability teams/roles, to empower them to drive the sustainability agenda?

It does not matter what role you play in the business there are always opportunities to identify efficiencies taking environmental considerations yourself.  You can have a conversation with your senior team and can play a role in helping them start to connect the dots. However, as you grow and your sustainability initiatives grow, I would recommend you seek professional support – whether that is hiring a sustainability professional in-house or seeking consulting advice.  Tapping into collaborative networks within your industry is also a great source of information and support, and the recent Hive Café on sustainability demonstrated this!

Tapping into collaborative networks within your industry is a great source of information and support

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