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By Benedict Orchard, also posted in News on 22/11/18
In June 2015, Adnams introduced a 5p charge for plastic carrier bags in our shops. In March 2018, we increased the charge to 10p per bag to increase the incentive to reuse further. We donate the whole charge directly to the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, which has now reached a total of £12,750. As a result, we now issue 80% fewer carrier bags across our shops; a trend seen across other UK retailers following changes in the law encouraged them to follow suit.
This reduction also lowers our operating costs and helps to keep our prices low. We introduced the charge as a way of encouraging customers to consider whether a new carrier bag is needed every time they shopped, thus helping the shift from unsustainable, wasteful consumption habits. However, we all know that there will still be occasions when we forget to bring our own bag. By donating the bag charge to charity, we’re adding value to an item that was previously considered useful, but valueless and disposable.
As with many sustainability projects, the value that we’re creating is extensive and diverse. By working with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust, we’re helping local wildlife, promoting sustainable operations and supporting an extensive and valuable network of volunteering. A brilliantly clear example of social, environmental and financial sustainability interacting together.
Adnams operations include sustainability at the heart, and this covers everything from our energy-efficient brewery and distribution centre, our grain to glass approach to distilling and our investment in the local community to ensure longevity in a changing climate. Enabling our customers to do likewise is something we’re very keen on, which is why our customers can reuse our sturdy carrier bags many times. Even better, you can reuse one of our cardboard wine boxes or purchase a very strong bag-for-life, which is made using 100% recycled plastic bottles.
What do Suffolk Wildlife Trust do with the money?
Over the last three years, the Suffolk Wildlife Trust have invested the money raised into local nature reserves. Earlier this week, Richard and I had the pleasure of revisiting the Hen Reedbeds, situated less than a mile from our Distribution Centre, with Alan Miller and Michael Strand from The Suffolk Wildlife Trust to catch up on how the funds have been helping. We last visited back in 2016 which you can read about here.
At the Hen Reedbeds, money has been spent across a range of projects including continuing invertebrate studies to understand the impact of saline intrusion on this fresh water reedbed habitat. After the 2013 storm surge in our area, the reserve was flooded with saline water, which heavily impacted the ecology of the reserve. Surveys show the reserve returning to near-similar conditions as before the surge, but this has taken five years - and in some areas changed the biodiversity permanently. This is one of the stark impacts of extreme weather events that are becoming more frequent due to climate change and something we need to act on to minimise irreparable damage.
More recently, funds have gone towards building a new bird hide on the reserve. Reserve Warden Alan Miller rallied a troop of volunteers to help build this wonderful new hide entirely from wood (including some non-slip mesh offcuts, destined for waste) for the stairs. The sense of community and involvement was immense, as demonstrated by a couple of the volunteers that happened to be working at the site when we visited. We also revisited the herd of White British cattle, which has more than doubled since the initial three we funded for natural grazing at the reserve.
Finally, some of the money we have donated has gone towards building a new waterless, composting toilet for staff and volunteers at Church Farm nature reserve, near Wenhaston. This snazzy natural loo draws in air to help evaporate liquids and aerobically digest the solids so that after two years they can be safely spread on land as compost. Helping the Suffolk Wildlife Trust support their volunteers is a really important element of our sustainability strategy which greatly enhances the social wellbeing of our region.
Seeing these actions in place was uplifting: they are vitally important in improving the local biodiversity and our knowledge and understanding of it, as well as improving accessibility and getting people closer to nature. I often get asked about the business case for investing in biodiversity (one of the four core pillars of our strategy).
To me, action in this area brings immediate and immense benefit to a business. I feel engaged, inspired, curious, empowered, more productive and mentally healthier being able to step back and enjoy our natural world with more ease. And I’m not alone in this; several universities are carrying out research projects that draw the same conclusion. We saw this benefit, primarily in staff engagement and interest, after we introduced our hives of honey bees at our Distribution Centre. Staff have been able to relate to the importance of bees after seeing them day in day out - and in some cases even putting on a bee suit and helping our bee keeper.
This brings real perspective to a day spent at a computer screen! Charging for our plastic carrier bags is just one of many projects we’re working on to help tackle the environmental challenges facing the world today. We need to ensure responsible and sustainable use of resources to reduce some of the devasting impacts we’re already seeing. I want to sincerely thank everyone that is already on the journey with us.