💥 #1 - Impact Initiative: How TENZING went Local to focus on the Global...

Featuring Emily Gander, Head of Comms and Sustainability. Psst...there's a discount code at the end.

TENZING Natural Energy has been taking on the big dogs of the energy world with their plant-based, low calorie alternatives to mainstream energy drinks since 2016. Now available in over 60,000 stores in the UK, they’ve been one of the fastest growing energy brands in the UK since 2017- with a unique focus on harnessing the ‘power of nature’.

Last month, TENZING kicked off their latest sustainability campaign at Co-op stores, offsetting 1kg of CO2 for every can sold. Yesterday they announced their ‘TENZING Take Action’ initiative, launched with an ice sculpture of Sir David Attenborough representing the 5 cubic metres of Arctic Sea Ice that the average person in the UK is responsible for melting every fortnight. We caught up with Emily Gander, Head of Comms and Sustainability, to hear more about the journey they have been on and how they have renewed their longstanding planet positive focus for 2021.

We’re a community driven brand, so we wanted to do something that could help our community join the carbon neutral movement and lifestyle.

I hope TENZING Take Action and our manifesto shows people, and other brands, that transparency is really the key as we are far from perfect. This whole process has made us realise there are big things that we still need to change, but transparency is the first step to making those changes.

👉 What steps have you taken to lighten your environmental footprint? 

We have a new sustainability initiative called ‘TENZING Take Action’, which we’ve been working on over the last year.. One of the biggest things that we realised is that a lot of other brands are shouting about what they're doing as a business, but not how it necessarily benefits you as a shopper. So ensuring that our community felt they could join us on our mission was crucial to our plan. Our initiative - Take Action - is framed by seven key commitments, four business and three for our community.

What are your four business commitments?

  1. We're now a carbon negative business - we offset more than we emit. In 2020 we reduced our footprint as far as we could, then offset what we couldn’t and invested in additional offsetting projects. This year, we're committing to an additional 20% reduction in our carbon emissions.

  1. We’ve moved to a local production model. Our two biggest markets are the UK and Holland, so we now have a production plant in Holland, which will produce the Dutch cans, and a production plant in the UK, which will produce our UK cans. That in itself has reduced our carbon footprint hugely!

  1. We're creating a local offsetting initiative. Our drinks are made from some of nature’s most powerful plants, which means we can’t always source locally. To minimise and reduce the impact this has, we're working with local offsetting projects right at the source of where we get our ingredients from. 

  1. Carbon Footprint labelling. We’re a member of the CarbonCloud community - a platform that helps us calculate, track and understand our products’ climate footprint. Later this year, our products will have clear carbon footprint labels with the hope it helps people make sustainable decisions.

So if they’re your business commitments, what are your three community commitments? 

  1. We’ve built a carbon footprint calculator. We’re a really community driven brand, so we wanted to do something that could help our community join the carbon neutral movement and lifestyle. It’s just gone live on our website - so that's really, really exciting.

  1. We’re making all our subscribers carbon neutral. The average Brit emits 8.4 tonnes of CO2 per year. For every person who subscribes to a monthly supply of TENZING, we will offset the equivalent 8.4 tonnes of CO2, making them carbon neutral. Not only is this a really forward thinking initiative, but we hope it will encourage our subscribers to make changes too.

  2. We're funding world-leading air quality research in partnership with Kings College London and Imperial College London. We’ve been doing this since 2019, when we created our Clean Air Tracker which helps Londoners find cleaner routes to run, cycle and walk in.

👉 Wow. Where did you start? Did you bring on any partners?

To start, it was very research led. I wanted to actually understand, for example, Scopes 1 2 and 3 - what do they actually mean? What areas could we already identify that would make significant changes? As a small business, we don't own production plants or our own factories or warehouses. However, an area that had a significantly big footprint was the transportation and distribution of our products.

We started by asking ‘if 95% of our business is in the UK, why are we producing 100% of our product in the Netherlands?’.

This was our first action and it made a huge difference; every single journey from Holland to our UK warehouse was emitting 774 kilos of CO2, and we did that 33 times in 2020. We’ve now moved our production to Yorkshire and transport our products less than 90 miles to our central warehouse in the midlands. 

I then reached out to Planet Mark (who I’d heard great things about) to understand how we could benefit from working with a certification like theirs. To start with I felt that we needed the certification as proof for what we're doing, but I soon realised we needed their support and expertise because we were far from experts. They knew how to measure our impact and what data we needed. Without a long term partner like Planet Mark, there's no chance that anyone can do this. It's been an investment, but gosh it's been worthwhile.

👉 How did you measure your impact? Did you focus on doing a product footprint, an organisational footprint or a Life Cycle Assessment? 

We focused mainly on mapping out our organisational footprint, which Planet Mark helped with. This accounts for Scope 1 and 2, which covers direct emissions from company facilities and vehicles (Scope 1) and any indirect emissions from things like purchased electricity (Scope 2). Planet Mark also helped us measure parts of our downstream Scope 3, like our business travel, operational waste and transport distribution - this area makes up 80% of our organisational footprint. Parts of our upstream emissions, so anything prior to Tenzing as you know it, isn’t included. 

What standards did you follow?

We followed GHG Protocol Corporate Standard, ISO 14001 and ISO 14064-3. 

Did you consider a product footprint?

A product footprint was too expensive when we initially looked into it, but we’re now using a platform called Carbon Cloud to calculate an individual carbon footprint for every single one of our blends. They’re a super forward thinking startup based in Sweden, who uses algorithms and scientific data to create an accurate analysis of your footprint for a much smaller investment and much more time-effective. They also worked with Oatly last year as part of their “Show us your numbers” campaign. It’s really been a lifesaver for me and the brand.

Cool! Are you going to put the carbon footprint label on the cans?

We sure are! They won’t appear on our cans straightaway, but at some point this year, when you walk past the energy drinks fridge, you’ll see a shiny climate number jumping out at you.

Did you consider a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) of each product?

The quotes we got for a Life Cycle Assessment were between £12,000 and £50,000 for each SKU. We currently have 3 SKUs, with the potential to top 8 by the end of the year. On top of that, it would be a 9 - 12 month process. which made it totally unattainable for a small business like us. 

👉 How come your current organisational footprint calculations don’t include the whole of Scope 3? 

We need much more information about our emissions, and it’s complicated, especially if you haven't been tracking it as you go, and you outsource everything like most small businesses do. Outsourcing makes you reliant on third parties to provide you with accurate information, and that's why it's a lengthy process. That is one of the things that we learned very early on; if you want to do the entirety of Scope 3, upstream and downstream, for the first time then it’s a 9 to 12 month project. When we decided last June that we wanted to make this happen, we knew we weren't going to have the resources to do it immediately. So, the upstream and downstream emissions in Scope 3 (inclusive of everything) we hope will be finalised by the end of Q1. 

👉 One of your business commitments is a local offsetting initiative - can you give more detail on how you’re doing this?

We obviously knew that we weren't going to have zero footprint, so offsetting was going to have to be on the cards as well. Planet Mark recommended Ecologi, who are now our official offsetting partner! A lot of companies just purchase offsetting credits, and they'll have little idea as to where or what. We wanted to do something that we had more connection with. 

We locally source as many ingredients as we can, but some we get from countries like Brazil, India and Kenya. I searched for offsetting projects local to the regions we source our ingredients from and found a selection of projects that would really make a difference.

In Brazil, the origin of our Guarana, we're supporting the Ceará Renewable Energy project. In India, the home of our green coffee, we're supporting a Wind farm in Andhra Pradesh and in Kenya, which is where we get our tea from, we're supporting the Kenya Biogas Programme. 

Supporting wind energy in India is done via Ecologi, and then everything else is through Gold Standards which we purchased directly. It’s incredibly exciting, and feels like a huge step as it was one of the most time consuming elements of our new initiative. Something I learnt along the way is the difference between tree planting vs. offsetting - supporting a wind energy farm is helping to reduce emission right now, whereas when you plant trees the effect on carbon reduction are not felt until long into the future. That’s not to say planting trees is ineffective, we’ve just ensured to invest in both types of projects.   

👉 Your goal of an additional 20% reduction in total carbon footprint in 2021 - how do you plan on doing that?

So we started UK production in December 2020, meaning it's almost a clean slate from 2021 onwards. One thing that COVID-19 has taught us is that face to face contact is not necessary. We have employees spread all over the UK and Netherlands, and prior to the pandemic, we did a lot of business travel, so once we return to normality, making sure that we evaluate each and every journey to see if it's necessary is crucial. 

We'll also be encouraging our employees to switch to renewable energy sources at home, which should reduce our operational footprint as 55% of our total emissions are created by our employees' working from home. In the meantime, we’ve made our employee’s carbon neutral, and planting trees for them each month with help from Ecologi. Oh, and when we return to office life, we’re aiming to find a Net Zero office.

👉 How much has this journey cost you?

To have Planet Mark as a partner, it was a £4,000 initial investment, which includes two workshops, the annual certification (£1500), data collection, the creation of a carbon management plan and total marketing support. The initial investment for us included their support on the creation of our Carbon Calculator.  

Offsetting was of course a cost too, which will be an ongoing investment. What we haven’t been able to reduce we’ve offset, this means; our operational emissions, employees emissions, product emissions and now it’ll be our subscribers emissions too! This is by far the largest cost, but one that we know is worth it to save our planet. 

On top of that, we've had to pay a web developer to bring the calculator to life and give our website a reshuffle.

👉 Did you see any direct return on the investments you’ve made?

 It’s too soon to say in terms of financial returns, but we have been able to use this as a catalyst and a communication tool when speaking with partners and suppliers. We’ve recently partnered with Co-op to launch an in-store promotion where we offset 1kg of CO2 for each can sold up to the 9th February. Co-op are very like minded to us in terms of their environmental promises.

👉 What challenges did you face, and what are your main learnings?

Well, one of the biggest challenges, and now biggest learnings, was that we weren't set up and equipped with the data that we needed, which is going to be a huge thing for us going forward. Now we know what we need to measure. Now we know that we can't just leave it until the end of the financial year to do that, we have to do it continuously. 

What was the hardest area to get data on?

Getting our transportation and distribution data was really tough. We had no way of knowing distances of each journey being taken and each journey completed from our warehouse to our suppliers - it wasn't logged by our supplier. So, trying to work out a way that we weren't going to be able to establish that data at all was a real handful. The other huge hiccup we faced was identifying the energy usage by our third party suppliers - something we’re still working on as we speak! 

Do you have any other learnings?

I don't know whether it was a learning or shock, but how valuable your employees find these sustainability initiatives. I knew it would be good for the community and the business, but our employees really care that they're working for a brand with real purpose. It’s given them a great positive outlook.

I’m so proud of what we’ve done. Being planet conscious has always been at the centre of TENZING, but we realised that we weren’t doing enough. Now I feel like we're on the road to doing enough.

We hope to inspire individuals and other brands and show them that there is a mountain to climb, but the climb is worth it because you can make a difference. I hope that when shoppers think of a brand doing good for the planet, they think of TENZING. 

👉 Finally… What’s next for TENZING and for your sustainability journey? 

This year we’re turning our attention to understanding the impact of every single area of the business. I think we probably understand 70%, and there's this gaping hole for the rest. There's also a lot of innovation coming your way - we like to think of it as “innovation for a new generation”. 

I love that.

It's not just about being healthy for you, but healthy for the planet and we know that’s what this new generation stands for and I hope that we do too.

💥 Impact Resources 💥

  1. We worked with Pedal Me for all of our London deliveries. Using Pedal Me versus DPD, which we've previously used, makes a big difference. 

  2. A great guide to Gold Standard Offsetting can be found here

  3. Check out Planet Mark Business Certifications! They also do Product Certifications and Real Estate Certifications.

  4. More about ISO 14000 standards can be found here

What next?