The mission continues
13th September 2017
In the last few days there have been some questions about our relationship with Unilever. This article aims to answer some of these.
What will happen to Pukka now you are owned by Unilever?
Pukka will keep on doing what we do best; driving positive change through the power of herbs. We will still have the same incredible team and we still will be located in Bristol. In fact, we’ve just signed a ten year lease for a new home. Tim and Sebastian will still be part of Pukka. We will be forever 100% organic, continue to donate at least 1% of our annual sales (yes, that’s sales, not profit) to environmental charities, be committed to sustainable wild harvesting with FairWild and be a champion of fair trading with Fair for Life. And of course we will continue to be part of the B Company movement – enshrining our commitment to serving society and the environment.
Why do you need investment?
You may have thought of Pukka as a small UK business. We’re not anymore. We’ve got 120 employees, we sell in over 40 countries and indirectly we employ thousands more across the globe through our work with farmers, wild harvesters, blenders and many others in our organic value chain. We need investment to enable us to continue our mission. Investment to not only sustain us but allow us to think long-term, helping to fuel our global growth ambitions to take organic herbs to as many people as we can whilst maintaining our high standards.
Why couldn’t Pukka find investors rather than selling?
Unilever gives us the sustained reach we need to take the power of plants truly global. With Unilever we can maintain our philosophy and approach; it’d have been harder to do that via the private equity route. We also explored the employee ownership route but felt that it wouldn’t be fair to saddle everyone with debt, nor would it offer us the opportunity for sustainable scale we want. Plus, this way, Tim and Sebastian remain at the helm.
Will Pukka’s founders, Tim and Sebastian, leave Pukka?
No. Tim and Sebastian will stay at forefront of Pukka, sitting on the Pukka Board, driving and shaping the organisation to achieve the same mission they set Pukka up with of 15 years ago. As our Master Herbsmith, Sebastian will keep formulating our herbal teas and wellbeing supplements and, as our CEO, Tim will keep promoting our vision around the world.
Doesn’t the Unilever acquisition compromise Pukka’s values?
No. Pukka’s values will not in any way be compromised. Whilst Pukka is a deep idea for social and planetary change through the power of herbs, it’s also run by the Pukka people who work here, more than 100 of us – a strong group of committed environmentalists. We also have a cast iron commitment that we will always be organic and we will always champion ethical and sustainable business practices. So this means more – much more - organic land certified and sustainable FairWild herbs sourced; more money to environmental charities through our commitment to 1% for the Planet; and a greater support to marginalised communities through our trailblazing initiative with Fair for Life. And, of course this commitment is also enshrined in our active participation with B-Company.
What sort of due diligence did you do before deciding to partner with Unilever?
Obviously, this isn’t a decision we have made lightly. We – along with a whole team of experts including leading environmentalists - made it our mission to get under the hood of Unilever. As it happens they have the most ambitious sustainability plans of any large company in the world: to halve their environmental impact and be socially and environmentally net positive by 2030 as well as improve the livelihoods of millions of people less materially fortunate than ourselves.
A lot of people have approached us - and we mean a lot. Unilever were by far and away our first choice as a partner because of their ambitions.
Yes, Unilever aren’t perfect. And that’s another reason why they want to buy Pukka. As a beacon for ethical and sustainable business we will be at the table to help them in their pursuit to do even more good. Our founders Tim and Sebastian, will support them on their Global Tea Group and influence from within.
Isn’t big bad?
Well, it depends on what you do with it. To have significant impact you need significant scale – if what you do is positive then that impact will be positive. That’s our modus operandi and our vision for the future. Businesses – from SMEs to the biggest in the world - have recognised that governments, who are short term in their nature, aren’t doing enough to fight climate change. That’s why Unilever are leading the charge for sustainable business practices at a macro level. Unilever’s commitment to this comes right from the top, through their Chair, Paul Polman, who has made it his mission for Unilever to be a responsible business.
Unilever has a growing portfolio of brands which are organic certified and/or a B Corp – Pukka is honoured to be part of this growing group of change disruptors.
What reassurances have you got from Unilever that it won’t change Pukka?
We’re going in with open eyes, open arms and with binding covenants to protect our commitment to organic, Fair for Life, FairWild, 1% for the Planet and B-Company. We are establishing a Mission Group - headed up by Jonathon Porritt (ex Director of Friends of The Earth, Green Party activist and co-founder of Forum For The Future) to facilitate knowledge, exchange and deepen both companies' environmental and social activities.
Will you continue to make supplements?
Yes. Our supplements are very important to Pukka, the jewel on the crown as they really demonstrate the power of herbs in a concentrated form. We are one of the few companies with 100% of our wellbeing supplements being certified organic, using the highest grade of herbs available.
Won’t your products become diluted?
Absolutely not. All our sourcing and quality and herbal blends will be done by us at pukka. Our teas and supplements are world leading using pharmacopoeial grade herbs. And we are one of the most ethical herbal tea and supplements companies in the world. Unilever recognises this is part of the recipe of our success to date. We won’t change the winning formula that has been our good friend for so long.
How can Pukka influence Unilever?
Our expertise in herbalism, our passion for regenerative business, our approach to research and development, our approach to our philosophy, and our approach to philanthropy. And also through our ‘challenger’ approach to disrupting the status quo to deliver organic herbs on a much wider scale than ever seen before. Unilever has been around for 150 years; it has survived and thrived because it never stands still. It wants to work with the best and learn from the best. It embraces inside out influence and we are going to be there to offer our enthusiasm and influence to them.
Are Unilever owned by Monsanto?
No. Contrary to what some people have been saying on social media, Unilever are not owned nor are they a part of Monsanto.
What about animal testing?
We remain fully committed to no animal testing, and this won’t change. You can read about Unilever’s position here.
Do Unilever use palm oil?
Yes. But they are committed to source 100% sustainably certified palm oil by 2019 and they are leading the drive to change in the industry.
Pukka never and never will use palm oil.