Why we became a B Corp: T2
10 November 2021 at 3:29 pm
Over the past few years, T2 has committed to creating a business that puts people and planet first. This included them recently becoming a B Corp. We sat down for a chat with Kathryn Goodwin, T2’s sustainability manager, to talk about why B Corp accreditation was so important.
It’s hard to be a tea drinker in Australia and not have heard of, or sampled, T2. The company’s bright orange boxes are instantly recognisable and since T2 became available in both Coles and Woolies, it’s never been easier to get your hands on a brew.
Since it launched in 1996, from a small shop in Fitzroy, Melbourne, T2 has pushed the boundaries of how we experience tea. With its unique flavours, the company has taken the simple concept of a nice cuppa global, with standalone stores in London, New York and Singapore.
After spending the best part of 25 years expanding its footprint, the company recently brought its focus to becoming more of a sustainable business.
From beginning to record its carbon footprint in 2018, opening its first Green Star Store in 2020 to recently becoming a B Corp, T2 has not only recognised the power businesses can have in driving positive planetary change, it has committed to action and being part of the solution.
We sat down for a chat with Kathryn Goodwin, T2’s sustainability manager, to talk about the decision behind going for B Corp accreditation, why it was important to the business and what the process taught them along the way.
When and why did T2 begin the process of becoming a B Corp?
We had been looking at the B Corp path for years because the business was becoming increasingly purpose-led. We could also see that our main customer groups, as well as T2 team members, were Gen Z’s and millennials. These are groups that engage passionately with brands that have a strong framework of social and environmental governance. It took a few years to make the transition to B Corp, and we became certified in early 2020.
Was becoming a B Corp an easy process?
While T2 started in Melbourne it was acquired by Unilever in 2013. Unilever had been driving a lot of work around sustainability, so we were able to parallel the policies Unilever uses to help us create a framework for sustainable sourcing. This helped support our transition to becoming a B Corp.
Prior to going through certification, we had a small organic range of tea with only two per cent of our overall portfolio being certified as sustainably sourced so we had to do a lot of work around third-party certification. There was a real push to have our teas 100 per cent sustainably sourced and we achieved that in June of this year.
How long did it take to get T2’s teas 100 per cent sustainably sourced?
It took three years — from 2018 to early 2021. We have a tea sommelier, Michelle, who did an incredible job. It wasn’t easy to make that transition because we have so many ingredients.
She and her team had to make sure each ingredient was sustainably sourced under approved third-party verification, such as organic, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance, whilst still maintaining their flavour profile.
Michelle worked through hundreds of samples of sustainable alternatives for our range of over 110 core teas. Each step towards converting blends required multiple tasting sessions, tweaks, feedback, and re-sampling to ensure that we maintained the flavour and personality of the tea with ingredients from new, sustainable sources.
There is so much respect for her in the organisation, we couldn’t have made the transition without her.
Other than switching to 100 per cent sustainably sourced tea, did the business have to change anything else along the way to certification?
At the same time, we embarked on a program to ensure all of our teawares and accessories were ethically sourced. This also used external certification programs, such as the SMETA 6.1 (Sedex Members Ethical Trade Audit) and BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative), that provided guidance, frameworks and governance for suppliers to ensure fair working conditions throughout the T2 supply chain
How does the business track its positive impact?
We know that what isn’t measured can’t be managed, so it is important that we are using data to understand our impact and make changes to reduce our footprint. To do this we use more formal tracking systems such as measuring our operational carbon footprint and waste management practices and we use third-party auditors to verify and complete this work.
We also use the UN sustainable development goals to help shape and drive our initiatives, and we report out on the key goals where our business is making the biggest difference.
One of the other fun and fantastic partnerships we have is with Greener, an app that supports consumers in reducing their carbon footprint. As part of the Greener community, we are helping drive a new economy, one that brings Greener businesses and consumers together to repair the planet. The Greener app supports our customers to reduce their carbon footprint by making every T2 purchase carbon neutral. We know that we have the potential to take 2 million cars of emissions of the road if our customers purchase through Greener.
What’s T2 looking to improve on over the next couple of years?
One of the changes we’re going through right now, which is required of all B Corps, is the addition of the legal statement within the constitution. It essentially means that if you have changes in boards, or people transition in the organisation, the legacy and work of being a B Corp continues to grow. Essentially, it’s embedded into your business process. So that’s the one that we’ve really been focusing on to make sure we hit that compliance because it will be mandatory by the time we get to 2023.
Moving forward, we will begin to review additional carbon reduction opportunities and look to formalise time-based targets to support the goal of net-zero by 2030.
We’ve also done a lot of groundwork around zero waste and internal resources, and my hope is we can roll this out once lockdown ends, and hit zero waste at our distribution centre, HQ and retail stores in the next 12 to 18 months.
The other area of our business, and pillar of sustainability that T2 is very invested in, and will continue to focus on, is our people. The diversity of our people is one of our greatest strengths.
Our diversity and inclusion policy helps us to support and facilitate a diverse and inclusive workplace. We are committed to being a culturally safe global workplace that fosters diversity and inclusion. Our people are as diverse as our teas and the people who enjoy them, and our aim is to embrace all that makes us different and unique.
We also have some exciting collaborations coming up next year, so keep your eyes peeled.
How is the business tackling its environmental responsibility of being a B Corp?
We measure our operational carbon footprint and use this as a guide to better understand the areas where we can reduce our environmental footprint. One of the key areas that resulted from this work was the transition to renewable power at around 50 per cent of our retail locations, the installation of solar panels on our HQ and upgrades to retail lighting systems.
We are continuing to swap over to renewable power options as they become available to us, and we offset any power that we don’t have a renewable option for at this time.
We also do a lot of work in the sustainable packaging space. We were an early adopter of the Australasian Recycling Label (ARL), which helps to increase recycling behaviour through easy to understand on-pack labelling, and we’re always on the hunt for new innovations and opportunities to find materials that not only keep our teas as fresh as possible but also have a viable end-of-life solution. This year we partnered with REDcycle to find a closed-loop recycling option for our foils and individual tea envelopes.
We’re also focused on removing any unnecessary packaging from our products and consumables, using only recyclable, reusable or compostable packing and we always aim to use recycled content and source materials from responsibly managed forests.
T2 recently opened its first Green Star store in Bondi, will all new stores be designed and built as five-star green star stores?
What started as a project to develop our first Green Star store in Bondi led T2 to shift into a completely integrated sustainable mindset approach for all new store designs and openings. To do this we are focusing on four key areas: sustainable materials, product features, design for diversity and biophilic store design.
As we transition into the next phase of our store design and refurbishments, we are taking a truly holistic approach, focusing on both reducing our environmental footprint while creating a positive impact by purchasing our materials through local Australian suppliers.
Do you think being a B Corp is important to your customers?
We’ve got such an amazing customer base and, yes, I think our customers are really invested in knowing where their tea comes from. They understand the organic and rainforest alliance certifications that we have, and as the B Corp movement continues to grow I think the importance of being B Corp certified will be understood more. It’s a gold standard for sustainable business.
From a brand perspective, we know that Millennials and Gen Z care more about buying from sustainable brands. One of the key themes that has emerged in the pandemic, is an increased interest and focus on sustainably sourced products from consumers. I think as retailers, we’re going to see continued awareness and expectations from our consumers to provide products that are both environmentally and socially responsible. Which is great!