Corporate, Sustainability & Environmental Responsibility
1. Our Approach
Our approach is simple. We believe business should be a force for good and being socially responsible encompasses a whole host of good things. We’re on a journey, we don’t pretend to be perfect and we strive to do the best we can, knowing this involves constant review of the status quo.
Our approach is holistic, encompassing all aspects of our business. Committed to constantly improving, here are a few of the things we’re already doing…
2. Our People
Who we are as an employer
It is important our teams feel respected and valued. Our ‘team working recipe’ is to be inclusive and to embrace and celebrate everyone’s differences. We wholeheartedly believe in creating a happy, honest and inspiring working environment providing everyone with the opportunity to contribute, make a difference and be themselves.
SOHO Stars Programme
We’re a growing business with big plans and offer great opportunities for talented people-lovers to join us on our journey. And because we’re privately owned, we can plot our own path, nurture homegrown talent and we love promoting from within. Our ‘SOHO Stars Initiative’ training programme is all about identifying raw talent and developing all the skills and qualifications these highflyers need to be the great managers of the future. See our Gender Pay Gap Report in the tabs above.
3. Our Triple Certified Coffee
It’s how many of us start our day, so we want everyone to have the best kick-start to their morning. Since day one, our aim has always been to offer the most ethical and sustainable coffee we can source. That’s why back in the day our coffee was Fairtrade and Organic. Now, we’re really pleased to be able to say our coffee is also from Rainforest Alliance CertifiedTMfarms that help protect the environment and ensure sustainable livelihoods. Coffee is a precious commodity and we never take for granted the care and attention that goes into responsibly growing, harvesting and roasting every single full-bodied drop.
4. Our Food
As part of our pledge to support sound environmental practices, all our dairy milk comes from British, free-ranging, Red Tractor certified, pasture-fed cows producing the very best milk, supplied to us by a family-run dairy. It also goes without saying that all our eggs come fresh from free-range hens.
As we all become more informed about the environment and the consequences of climate change, increasingly, more of us are seeking “conscious eating”, reducing our meat intake and choosing more plant-based food.
We already have a wide variety of vegan and veggie options, but it is our pledge to increasingly develop our menu so that it allows us all to make sound choices. Handmade in our kitchens everyday using the freshest ingredients, we continue to ensure that we source as much as possible in keeping with our ethical principles.
5. Our Partners
It’s really important to us that our partners share our vision and ethos.
We’re proud to partner with a local bakery and cake-maker who provide us with our daily bread and delicious cakes, made to our own recipe, and delivered in biodegradable sheep’s wool insulated packs by low-emission vans.
Where we can, we like to support local growers and producers. Our spring water is drawn from protected land in Herefordshire, within an hour from us. And in the same county, our potatoes are grown especially for us by a family run business in its 4thgeneration, whose solar panels generate the electricity for their cold store facilities.
Ethical sourcing, environmental responsibility and traceability are key components for our partners. As part of this, a drive to reduce carbon footprints and increase efficient business practices is at the forefront of all our minds.
6. Doing the right thing starts at home…
- Our kitchen is highly insulated so the energy we use only goes on what we need.
- Our vans have speed limiters on them, reducing fuel usage and, rather than multiple deliveries, our drivers do round robin trips with everything our stores need in one drop.
- 100% of our cardboard is recycled via Hereford Paper for another life cycle in packaging and we recycle our milk carton tops to convert to scarves in association with Lush.
- All our lights at Head Office are PIR so they only come on when we need them, and they’re LED when they do.
- We save non-recyclable plastic mushroom trays from the skip, giving them a second life when we deliver them to John, our local PYO fruit and vegetable grower.
- All our on-site waste is either recycled, composted or incinerated. Zero waste goes to landfill. This includes plastic and metals.
- We’re in the process of organising our kitchen scraps going to anaerobic digestion, to generate energy and then be turned into compost…watch this space.
We’re committed to making it as easy as possible for us all to do the right thing.
Decisions made with the best of intentions can sometimes lead to unforeseen unintended consequences. We think carefully before making changes. So, rather than introduce portable cutlery sets, made of bamboo and imported all the way from China, we would rather find a closer-to-home solution.
The boxes for our take-away SOHO spuds close the sustainability loop nicely. Being made of corn waste, a by-product of sugar cane crops, also means they’re fully biodegradable once you’ve enjoyed lunch.
We introduced fully biodegradable sandwich packs last year – yes, even the acetate window is biodegradable! and a compostable tray for our large salads.
For some time now, we have offered a discount to customers who bring in their own re-usable cups with an obvious ambition to drive the consumption of disposable products down. This allows customers freedom of decision and positively encourages the greener choice. We have also introduced our own reusable cups for purchase in all our stores to help make this easier. We have moved our disposable consumption downwards by more than 35% in the last two years. #choosetoreuse #noexcuseforsingleuse
Our greatest challenge! Unfortunately, plastic is still the easiest and most practical way to package our food so it remains fresh and easy for you to grab on-the-go. We have made sure that all our plastic packaging is made of the same type of plastic which is easily recycled at home or work, keeping it out of the waste stream. And, bit by bit, we’re increasingly using recycled plastic that has already had a previous life.
We’re well on our way to achieving the targets we’ve set ourselves – in line with the international Plastics Pact to achieve the following by 2025:
- 100% of plastic packaging to be reusable, recyclable or compostable
- 70% of plastic packaging effectively recycled or composted
- To take actions to eliminate problematic or unnecessary single use packaging items
- 30% average recycled content across all plastic packaging
The great news is that we’re all in this together. We believe in the ripple effect – that individual actions can collectively bring about the changes we so badly want to see. As we seek to improve the way we do things, the other moving parts are efficient nation-wide recycling facilities and you, our mindful customers.
We’re constantly encouraging our teams through training and engagement not to offer items unless they’re asked for. Please help us to do the right thing by not asking for a take away if you’re staying with us or a straw when it isn’t necessary.
Our Pledge: to continue to review the host of different materials coming onto the market and do our best to make sure that any alternative we go with is widely supported by easy collection and accessible recycling or waste facilities, at home and out and about, so that doing the right thing is easy for us all, wherever we are.
8. Another big issue… food waste
There’s a delicate balance between maintaining the right level of fresh food on the shelves and not over stocking, leading to food waste.
We’ve been conscious of this since we opened our first store back in 1999. Then, as we do now, any left-over food has been going to the Trinity Church in Cheltenham to be distributed to the homeless. As we grow, and wherever we can, we aim to partner with a local charity to have any excess food re-distributed to those in need.
We’ve also recently partnered with the Felix Project in London to trial collections. Food is distributed to The Salvation Army and other charities. #felixprojectuk #helpforhunger #foodwaste #wastenot
9. What’s next?
We’re on the journey and we believe that open minds and a creative approach will ensure we continue to progress. We know we’ve still got a long way to go and we’re looking at new ideas all the time.
We welcome any suggestions you may have on how you think we could improve. Email us at email@example.com, or on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook using the hashtags: #goodideas #breakfreefromplastic #sustainableliving #reusablerevolution