We are a partner in the EU funded Horizon 2020 project CIRC4Life, which aims to demonstrate business models of a circular economy that work better for people, the planet and profit.
Here we explain more about what Circular Economy is and how our business is changing because of it.
What we’ve done so far in the project
- Engaged with our customers to understand their wants from our business
- Measured and understood the envrionmental and social impacts of Scilly Organics
- Improved our waste and recycling systems
- Trialled new packaging
- Created new products and income streams
- Communicate with customers the environmental and social benefits of our products
Producing the food we eat makes up a significant part of our carbon and ecological footprints. However there are real opportunities in farming, growing and the food system to minimise these impacts.
We have undertaken a comprehensive assessment of our management and practices, through a carbon footprint report and a Life Cycle Analysis – both the environmental impacts and social impacts (see below for more on the social sustainability).
The upshot is that we run a business that absorbs more carbon than it emits, which is a fantastic position to be in. Improvements can certainly be made, but all in all we believe the business is leading the way in carbon efficiency.
Engaging with customers
We have run a survey with our customers to engage with them on our sustainable practices, as well as to assess their understanding of our new labels (like this one).
We have already done extensive survey work with our business customers to work with them on improving the environmental and social impacts of their own businesses. This work is on going.
Waste and recycling
A big issue for any business is how they manage resources. The first main category is organic wastes, and on the farm we recycle these by turning them in to compost, which in turn is reused on the land to build fertility.
The second category is material wastes. We now have comprehensive recycling systems for:
- Paper and card
- Hard plastics
- Batteries, tyres and electrical items
- Cardboard punnets (e.g. for tomatoes) – these are 100% recycled and 100% recyclable, or compostable
- Paper bags (e.g. for potatoes) – these are 100% recycled and 100% recyclable or compostable
- Compostable bags (e.g. for salad) – made from plant based plastics, these are 100% compostable. Currently undergoing trials.
- None – some crops don’t need any packaging! For example courgettes, sweetcorn and cucumbers.
- Plastic bags (e.g. for salad) – these are made from LDPE plastic and currently not easily recyclable. We are bringing in plant-based plastic, 100% home compostable bags
Social Life Cycle Analysis (S-LCA) is a relatively new concept that is an extension of a traditional Environmental Life Cycle Analysis to cover the social sustainability and ethics of products and services. The CIRC4Life project is using the S-LCA approach to measure, understand and communicate the social impact of products being tested in the project, and describe how it could be adopted by other businesses.
Ethics of products are increasingly sought after by UK consumers, sales of ethical food and drink reaching nearly £12bn in 2018, growing at a rate of over 6% per year. People want to understand the environmental and social impact of the food they buy.
The Social LCA of Scilly Organics found that the company scores well on its treatment of employees, including on gender pay gap, paying a fair salary and on health and safety issues. It outperforms the industry average on each of these issues in 11 of the 24 indicators evaluated, including 23% on equal opportunities and 18% on health and safety.
You can see a summary of the S-LCA study of Scilly Organics here.
Values and work practices at Scilly Organics
The company has one employee per year (as well as the business owner), which is also very much a learning opportunity. As either an Apprentice or Assistant Grower, the employee learns the craft of growing organic fruit and vegetables in a supportive environment to further their skills and confidence in order to take on greater responsibility and further their career.
The company has a gender-neutral policy for employees, equally considering men and women for employment opportunities and appointing on merit.
The farm is situated on the small island of St Martin’s, in the very picturesque and tranquil Isles of Scilly. It is a high quality and peaceful environment to live and work, offering employees an experience beyond just growing vegetables, but being immersed in a stunning natural environment.
Workplace safety is taken very seriously, and no significant workplace injuries have been recorded.
Employees receive free organic fruit and vegetables from the farm, and have their own cooking facilities at their accommodation. The business owner is passionate about good quality food and encourages people to eat well and healthily.
The business owner Jonathan Smith is very active in the local community, volunteering for Transition Scilly, a group promoting a low carbon and sustainable future. He has co-founded the Scilly Local Food initiative to champion and support food and drinks produced on Scilly. The social impacts of Scilly Organics within the local community is very beneficial.
Principles for other businesses to adopt
In seeking to enhance the social sustainability of products and services, businesses can consider the following principles to adopt or enhance:
- Gender balance
Create a greater gender balance of your workforce. Especially concentrate on management and decision making roles, which are often dominated by men.
- Pay rates
Minimum wage must be adhered to by law, but pay as much as your business can afford in order to benefit your employees – especially those that are on the lowest pay grades. Some countries have a recommended ‘Living Wage’ that is considered the minimum needed for people to live comfortably.
- Workplace learning
Ensure employees receive constant training to further their understanding of the job. Support any employees who require wider educational support due to previous lack of attainment in formal education. Investment in your workforce will bring better productivity and more engaged employees, as well as a culture of continuous employment.
- Safe and supportive working environment
Safety in the workplace is paramount, and the health and wellbeing of employees must be your number one priority. However further than that a culture of thinking about safety as a part of the culture of the job is engenered, and responsibility placed on every person in the business to look out for themselves and others.
- Eat well
Food and drink are the most basic requirements for good health and happiness, yet many workplaces do not offer the opportunity to eat well. Look at opportunities for employees to eat and drink healthy options at work, through whatever means possible, and adequate breaks for people to feel refreshed and ready for the next part of their shift.
- Mental wellness
Mental health of employees is hugely important for both the wellbeing of individuals, and the productivity of companies. Workplaces can be good or bad places to work according to the attitude and culture of co-workers. Engender a positive workplace culture, have a zero tolerance to bullying, and ensure there are no biases according to race, gender, beliefs or sexual orientation.