We recently shared a post from the lovely Scottish-based zero waste shop Grain & Sustain about their experience of working with Faith in Nature and the direction they felt the brand was taking going forward.

It led to a lively and engaging debate, with other zero waste businesses sharing their own thoughts and experiences, alongside those of Faith in Nature customers (which we are too) and our followers more generally.

Dave Christie, Head of Wholesale, was following the thread and got in touch with us. We took the opportunity to ask him a few questions…

For those who don’t know, Faith In Nature was also born in Scotland, way back in 1974. The brand has grown somewhat since those early days and now produces a growing range of naturally derived bathroom products, ranging from soaps to shampoos. You can read more about their journey here.

Please explain Faith In Nature’s use of Palm Oil and the company’s stance on the issue. Are there any plans to further reduce/replace its use in your products?

Our more formal statement on Palm Oil can be found below. From a more informal perspective, our take on the use of Palm Oil derivatives is that sustainable and traceable Palm Oil is currently the most favourable of ingredient due to the high yield in comparison to other sources i.e. Coconut or Rapeseed. Coconut Oil, for example, uses ten times more land than Palm Oil.

As our Palm Oil derivative only constitutes a trace within the product itself, we believe that holding ourselves to a high standard on this element i.e. ensuring our supply is sustainable, is the most ethical stance we can take as a brand. The only further step we could take is to purchase our own protected ethical trade plantation, which is an area we are exploring as a business.

We are very transparent about Palm Oil and encourage other brands to behave in the same way, in order to provide openness and dialogue about the chronic over-dependence our world faces on certain ingredients and together, move forward.”

Faith in Nature’s Official Statement on Palm Oil:

At Faith In Nature, none of our products directly contain Palm Oil, but some Palm Oil derivatives that are notoriously challenging to eradicate from the global industry. As an ethical business we work hard to ensure that any Palm Oil used within our products is sustainably sourced and approved by the Roundtable of Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), a certification that understands the ever-urgent need and growing global concern that products are produced without causing harm to the environment or society. After lengthy consideration of the alternatives, we feel that the sustainable Palm Oil derivative is both the best ecological and ethical solution for our business and the planet.

We don’t include Palm Oil in our ingredient list as it’s not an ingredient we use directly in any of our products – we follow industry guidelines on this. One of the ingredients we use to make our shampoos and body wash products is Ammonium Laureth Sulfate (ALES) – this is the ingredient that makes our products “lather”. The ALES that we use is derived from palm oil, sourced from suppliers who are signed up to the Round Table for Sustainable Palm Oil and, as such, we are supporting the production of Certified Sustainable Palm Oil.

How do you respond to someone who says “but you use plastic bottles and packaging – how are you eco- friendly?”

Eco-friendly is a very broad term and much overused. The only way to be truly ‘eco-friendly’ is obviously to not consume at all. However, our business focuses a lot on the following areas:

  • Green and Clean sourcing – ethical supplier audits, organic ingredients where possible, 99% natural origin, 100% natural fragrance, cruelty free (since day one of our launch) and including no SLS or Parabens in our products.
  • Manufacturing – we’re working very hard on improving this area and are about to move to a new ‘eco-HQ’ with incredible efforts going towards carbon-neutral production. We use bio-mass for energy where possible and obviously 100% recycled and reused plastics. Refills in 5l and 20l and solid bar alternatives without plastics which are tested at length to be just as good as their liquid counterparts.
  • Packaging – this always has been and will be continue to be a massive area of focus. We have explored many alternatives to recycled plastic. Aluminium, glass etc. We have always found more cons than pros from a sustainability perspective for our business. We continue to search for alternatives, but there aren’t really many great alternatives to 100% recycled and recyclable plastic where liquids are concerned. Many brands are starting to use card outers with plant-based but non-recycled/recyclable plastics inside. For us, being transparent about the fact that we do use plastic, but are always searching for alternatives is preferable. We need a variety of different solutions to move away from this dependence and are always looking into such solutions. Currently, this means 100% recycled and recyclable plastics, solid bar alternatives, bigger sizes to reduce consumption are our way of being as eco-friendly as we can be at this time. Ultimately, maximising reuse of materials in plastics and encouraging switching to solids is our current approach. We continuously review this and will make any changes we can once the world has better options which are affordable to customers.

Are you concerned by a growing perception among some zero waste and more ethically minded businesses that you have forgotten about these smaller businesses and are pricing them out of the market?

Yes, its huge concern to us and one of the reasons we reached out to you to address and reassure zero waste businesses. Also, to offer a direct line of communication to the dedicated wholesale team who can answer these questions as they arise with open and honest responses.

This channel and the zero waste stores are an integral part of our business, with many of these stores supporting us from the beginning of our journey. We are still on that journey and like many businesses we have sometimes chosen routes that not everyone agrees with but the end destination is the same. I have referred to pricing two question down but we do offer a competitive (and most of the time stronger financial pricing structure) to zero waste customers.

Are refillables an option that you don’t see as scalable and sustainable (practically and otherwise) going forward?

Quite the opposite. Refillables as an option are a key focus of our business and the main focus of the channel. The only places you can currently refill is at zero waste and independent stores. We have our refill station locator on our website and have just delivered 100 FSDU filling stations to stores across the country, as well as introducing additional lines to the range and 20 Litre versions.

We do however want to encourage new consumers to the category and that’s why our 400mls are positioned throughout the country to do exactly that. These products should be available to all so everyone can do their bit, if they want to do more and refill then that’s fantastic and we drive those customers to independent stores.

Why is your pricing seemingly different in large stores vs zero waste ones? 

On very rare occasions we have to make business decisions that may not sit well with everyone. However, at the same time we have increased our offering to the channel and zero waste stores dramatically, and this is always running.

In the last six months we have run several price promotions through wholesalers as well as created and sent out a multitude of point of sale, competition bundles and with free samples to help stores engage their customers.

We don’t have access to all the forums to spread this message directly but we do have a dedicated team in the office that uses email, magazines and certain other platforms to drive this support and awareness. Any store can email us at independents@faithinnature.co.uk and they will receive these monthly offers.

Covid and online stores have highlighted the ability to promote to consumers. We have been offering this to the channel and to zero waste stores for many years. We need to encourage stores to pass these onto consumers and then they will be as competitive and, in most cases, more so. If for any reason stores can’t pass this on (it’s been difficult times for everyone recently) then we can have our monthly direct offers and support to offer further activity.

Various recollections of conversations with Faith In Nature have been shared online focusing on how the company’s supply chain and back-end processes operate. Please clarify for us – what are the larger containers made from, what sizes do they come in and what happens when they are empty and returned by a business?

Our bigger containers come in 5 litre and 20 litre sizes, and we’re looking at new sizes to encourage an overall reduction in plastic consumption. These bottles are made from 100% recycled and recyclable plastic. We also offer a freepost address so that consumers and customers can send their bottles back to us.

For the 5 litre bottles, where possible and where the bottle is not damaged, we wash them out and reintroduce them into our supply chain. This is our current approach, but it is under review as quality for us is equally a priority, along with water usage. Washing out the 5 litre bottles consumes a lot of water and the testing for us to carry out quality checks is stringent and difficult to pass, meaning that this approach overall is pretty inefficient.

For 20 litre containers, these are also returned back to us via freepost. We then work with a UK based plastics manufacturer to regrind them, along with their feed-stock of 100% recycled plastic. These are made into new bottles every time.

We are confident that this is a sustainable and efficient approach that delivers perfect quality to our customers every time. Especially post-Covid – this is really important.

We respect other brands that are approaching this differently, but this for us and our business is currently the right circular and closed loop approach. Again, these processes are always under review and we are moving towards further reducing our climate impact where possible.

It is an interesting area, and again we encourage retailers and customers to remain open and to talk about the various pros and cons of each approach. Transparency is something that’s very important to us.

Can you explain why it’s a good thing that Faith In Nature is becoming more mainstream?

Our ethos has always been that nature is for everyone. We see being more visible in mainstream markets as an education piece for less ethical consumers. Our aim, and something we have seen come into fruition time and time over, is that our listings in bigger retailers act as a brand awareness piece. Once shoppers are aware of our brand and our ethos, through seeing us on the high street, they’re encouraged by us to buy our products locally within independent stores as we too, are an independent business, and our independents channel is at the core of everything we believe in.

We avoid sharing with our customers the larger retailers in which they’re able to purchase our products and purposefully and consistently promote the incredible independently owned stores across the UK that they’re often able to find on their doorstep. Our social media team often receive messages from regular shoppers at independent stores thanking our brand for making them aware of the sustainable shopping options in their local area, and for encouraging them into ethical consumerism.

Our thanks to Dave Christie and Faith in Nature for getting in touch and taking the time to talk to us. We always appreciate it when brands aim to be open and engage with their customers (and us) and we have always liked this and many other things about the brand.

We understand certain zero waste business owners’ (and customers’) questions and concerns and would encourage them to engage and get answers to any they still have before making any decisions. If you don’t have any joy, let us know.

As we have shared recently, we continue to recommend Faith in Nature and its products. It’s a brand we’ve always admired, long before some of the newer comers appeared. Are they perfect? No. But in the overall spectrum, they’re most definitely trying hard, feel like they genuinely care and are doing a pretty good job – as they have done for longer than most (since 1974 remember).

If you have any further questions, do contact us and we’d be happy to put them to Faith in Nature and to come back to you.

You can find us on Facebook by searching for Plastic Free Home or at http://www.facebook.com/plasticfreehomeuk.

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