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Introduction to PFCs

Nikwax is committed to maximising enjoyment of the great outdoors with minimal environmental impact, which is why we have never used harmful chemicals in our water-based products. Since we were founded by Nick Brown in 1977, we have always championed a culture of transparency and public scrutiny around PFCs – long before they were on the world’s safety radar. In this month’s blog we delve into what these toxic fluorocarbons are, and why we should all be concerned with them.

What are PFCs?
PFCs is the name given to the broad family of products called perfluorinated compounds: man-made substances containing linked carbon and fluorine atoms (they are also called PFAS, which stands for polyfluoroalkyl substances). The chemical bond between carbon and fluorine is one of the strongest in organic chemistry, making it very attractive for use within different industries. PFCs can appear in all sorts of products – from carpets and clothing, to food packaging and personal care products, and firefighting foams. They are excellent at repelling oils and water and have been used extensively on non-stick pans for example, and on outdoor apparel as a durable water repellent coating.

Why are PFCs so problematic?
Despite their many useful applications, it is precisely their (chemical) repelling properties that make PFCs so hazardous. The strong bond between carbon and fluorine is persistent and can take thousands of years to break down – if it even breaks down at all. As a result, PFCs are often nicknamed ‘forever chemicals’. These forever chemicals are demonstrably harmful to the environment and our own health, which is why Nikwax, as an outdoor brand, has never included them in our cleaning and waterproofing products.

Literally thousands of substances fall under the PFC banner, leaking into the environment via industry air emissions and wastewater discharge, as well as via treated home goods that enter landfill. Some PFCs can also travel easily through soil and water, increasing the risk of groundwater contamination. As they take so long to break down, over time the amount of PFCs in the environment will increase and bioaccumulate (build up) in crops and livestock, which means humans are also at risk of ingesting them. In the UK, the Environment Agency* has found extensive evidence of PFCs in groundwaters, rivers and coastal waters, which has led to widespread contamination of our freshwater and marine life. Early evidence even suggests it can damage the human immune system and impact fertility and you can learn more about this by taking a look at the PFC page on our website here.

© Rijk van de Kaa, Unsplash

How is Nikwax helping to make a difference?
Quite clearly, we all need to be mindful of the choices we make. Over 45 years ago, we chose to prioritise clean chemistry over quick-win PFCs, ensuring our aftercare products are always safe for use in the home, and are always safe for the environment:

·        They are PFC-free

·        They are water-based and degrade into harmless compounds

·        They do not use aerosol propellants, which contain Greenhouses gases

Since 1977 we have been world leaders in the provision of high performance yet low impact cleaning and waterproofing products for outdoor gear, and we are committed to their safety for many more years to come.

*Source; EA report: Poly- and perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS): sources, pathways and environmental data Chief Scientist’s Group report August 2021 chrome-extension://efaidnbmnnnibpcajpcglclefindmkaj/https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1012230/Poly-_and_perfluoroalkyl_substances_-sources_pathways_and_environmental_data_-_report.pdf

 

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Why we need to keep global temperature increases within 1.5°C.

In last month’s blog we covered some of the basic principles around climate change and what causes global warming. Today, we hear a lot about keeping global temperature increases within 1.5°C, and
so, in this blog we are looking at the significance of 1.5°C, why we started talking about it, and why it’s so important.

In 2015, the Paris Agreement was signed at COP21, a global UN climate conference that is held every 2 years. The agreement is a legally binding treaty that aims ‘to hold “the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels” and pursue efforts “to limit the temperature increase to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels’. However, because of findings from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there has been a greater emphasis on keeping temperatures at or below 1.5°C of warming.

The IPCC is composed of global climate experts and scientists who deliver reports to the UN on climate change; they are charged with looking at the causes and effects of climate change, as well as the reduction solutions that will have the greatest impact. A lot of our current understanding of climate change comes from the IPCC’s reports.

Why the emphasis on pre-industrial levels?
Before the industrial revolution, though greenhouse gases (GHGs) were present in the atmosphere, they remained relatively low, due to Earth’s biocapacity (our planet’s ability to absorb and generate ecological resources). It was during the industrial boom (1850-1900) that GHG emissions began to steadily rise and, as industry increased, so did GHGs.  Once these levels became too high, they remained in our atmosphere because this exceeded the Earth’s ability to reabsorb and recapture the emissions. Global temperature rises are therefore measured against this pre-industrial period, as a gauge of how much the Earth is warming and exceeding its biocapacity, because of human activity.

© Michal Pech, Unsplash

It’s helpful to think of it like a budget; every year the Earth has a ‘budget’ in which the carbon and GHGs we emit can be regulated and removed from the atmosphere by natural resources, such as rainforests and the oceans. Once we’ve used up our budget, these GHGs remain in our atmosphere, warming the planet. It’s at this point that our ecological footprint exceeds the planet’s biocapacity and is often referred to as ‘Earth Overshoot Day’. In the early 1970s, this fell towards the end of the year, in late December. This year ‘Overshoot Day’ will fall on the 2nd August, meaning we are using the natural resources equivalent to 1.75 Earths.

Why 1.5°C?
To avoid climate disaster, the IPCC recommends limiting warming to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. 1.5°C doesn’t seem like a big increase, especially as we see fluctuations in local temperatures much higher than this day-to-day. However, as the overall temperature of our planet shifts, we can quite quickly see some changes that vary significantly for different regions and communities. For example, a 1.5°C increase globally might mean more extreme monsoon seasons in one region and extreme drought in another. Currently, we are at 1.1°C of warming against pre-industrial levels and we are already seeing the effects of this via hotter days, droughts, flooding, wildfires, and warmer and more acidic oceans.

© Matt Palmer, Unsplash

As it currently stands, if we were to take an optimistic approach and assume that those who have set Net Zero targets meet them, we would hit 1.8°C of warming.  

So, it’s clear that that we have a lot of work to do, and both governments and organisations alike are setting ambitious targets.

What is Nikwax doing to help?
At Nikwax, we have pledged to reduce our scope 1 and 2 emissions by 30% by 2025. We have submitted our reduction targets to the Science Based Targets Initiative for validation, to ensure that we reducing our impact in line with the 1.5°C pathway.

To help promote the Earth’s natural resources and increase its biocapacity, we have worked with the World Land Trust since 2007 through its Carbon Balanced programme and Action Fund. We have helped to fund projects that protect and expand essential carbon sinks and biodiversity hotspots in both South America and Southeast Asia.

 

© World Land Trust

© Header Image: Javier Miranda, Unsplash
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What is Climate Change?

Nikwax has championed environmental action since the brand’s inception in 1977. Our founder, Nick Brown, committed from day one to the production of high performance, low impact waterproofing products – decades before the terms ‘global warming’ and ‘carbon footprint’ became part of the public discussion. 46 years on, Nikwax is globally respected for its environmentally friendly products and sustainable practices, and we’re excited to share with you our climate achievements and goals in forthcoming newsletters and blogs.

To kick things off, we’re going back to basics and talking about what climate change actually is. Put simply, it refers to large-scale, long-term shifts in our planet’s weather patterns and temperatures. The world is warming faster now than at any point in recorded history and we are all feeling its effects – hotter summers, warmer winters, wildfires, flooding, and droughts can all be attributed to climate change. Unsurprisingly, human activities are its main drivers, and companies and individuals must act immediately to help make a difference by reducing their carbon emissions.

©Amelia Bates, Unsplash

Climate change vernacular peppers the media and our conversations, but what does it all mean? There are several key terms everyone should be aware of to understand the basic science and political sphere of global warming:

GHGs: Greenhouse Gases are gases in Earth’s atmosphere that trap heat, slowly increasing the temperature over time. They let sunlight pass through the atmosphere, yet prevent the sun’s heat from leaving it. Common greenhouse gases are water vapour, carbon dioxide, methane, ozone, nitrous oxide and chlorofluorocarbons (man-made chemicals). GHGs themselves are not inherently bad; without them in the atmosphere Earth would be extremely cold, however due to human activity the levels of GHGs in the atmosphere have increased to an unsustainable amount.

Emissions: Greenhouse gases, such as those listed above, released into the air that are produced by activities including the burning of fossil fuels, industrial agriculture and melting permafrost. Categorising emissions into scopes is a key part of corporate carbon management and reporting:

  • GHG Scope 1 Emissions: direct emissions from company-owned and controlled resources.
  • GHG Scope 2 Emissions: indirect emissions released into the atmosphere from the consumption of purchased electricity, steam, heat and cooling.
  • GHG Scope 3 Emissions: other indirect emissions linked to a company’s operations such as business travel, employee commuting, waste generated, purchased goods and services, transportation and distribution.

Carbon Dioxide: The primary greenhouse gas and driver of climate change. Human activities are severely impacting the carbon cycle by burning fossil fuels and pumping more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and by reducing the ability of natural sinks such as the ocean, soil and forests, to remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Methane: Though produced in smaller amounts, the warming potential of methane is significantly higher than that of CO2 (up to 34 x). Fossil fuels (in particular, natural gas) are the main contributors of methane followed by agriculture. This is important because many fossil fuel companies will market natural gas as a more sustainable fuel as it emits less CO2, but fail to mention the impact of methane.

© Chris LeBoutillier, Unsplash 

Fossil Fuels: Sources of non-renewable energy formed from the remains of living organisms buried millions of years ago. Burning fossil fuels such as gas, coal and oil to produce energy is where most greenhouse gases originate – as the demand for energy has grown, we’ve burned more fossil fuels. Fossil fuels are also used to make many materials and products, including plastic.

Greenwashing: When a company makes an environmental claim about something they are doing that is intended to promote a sense of environmental impact, but which doesn’t really exist. The green claim is typically about some form of positive effect on the environment, and industry giants Shell, Respol, and Petronas have recently had adverts banned by the Advertising Standards Authority for their misleading messaging, which promoted “green” offers and plans such as renewable energy and net zero goals without any mention of their larger polluting operations.

Renewable Energy: This derives from Earth’s naturally replenished resources, including sunlight, wind, waves and geothermal heat. Switching from fossil fuels to renewables to power our lives will put us on the path to a safe, sustainable planet for future generations.

Of course, climate change lexicon extends well beyond the above but, familiarising yourself with these basic terms is a good starting point for understanding what our planet is facing and how things need to change.

© American Public Power Association, Unsplash

In over four decades of business, Nikwax has worked hard to reduce its environmental impact and has promoted a culture of transparency and public scrutiny in the global warming arena. We also believe consumers should have a healthy scepticism when it comes to companies’ environmental claims (see greenwashing example above), which is why we share our performance data online.

Our commitment to the health of our planet is firmer than ever and you can now look forward to monthly updates on our conservation, sustainability, campaigning and education plans and achievements.

Header image: © Li-An Lim, Unsplash

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Rewild your outdoor space

At Nikwax, we do more than just providing care products to keep you dry and comfortable in the great outdoors all year round…Behind the scenes we also help care for, and preserve, the natural environment we know and love.

Over half our species are in decline in Britain and only 2.5% of our land is now covered by native, ancient woodland. Rewilding is one way to try and counteract the risk to these habitats and help tackle the continuing climate crisis. Rewilding is not just about restoring woodland, heathland, water habitats and more; it can also take place on a smaller level – and still make a positive impact.

At our premises, in rural East Sussex, we have been working on expanding biodiversity through the planting of a range of trees, including Common Oak, Hornbeam, Walnut, Field Maple, Hazel, and more. We have planted new hedgerows along historic boundaries and, most recently, have created an allotment for use by staff. Growing your own produce can encourage species, such as ladybirds or hoverflies, that will feed on pests or aphids. Plus, growing your own food helps reduce your carbon footprint – now that is definitely good for our environment!

Even in places where you might least expect it, the natural world is becoming a key focus…The Tower of London has transformed its famous moat into a natural haven – SuperBloom – filling it with over 29 species of flowers from over 20 million seeds, to mark the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. When the display ends in late 2022, the new landscape created to support it will remain in the moat as a permanent Platinum Jubilee legacy – and help vital ecosystems in the process.

What can you do to help make a difference? Here are some simple tips whether you have a small or large outdoor space…

Create a wildlife ‘highway’
Do you have fencing around your garden? Establish your own animal highway by creating a couple of access holes that hedgehogs can get through. Blocking their access to habitats can also restrict their chance to get food, or find a place to breed safely. It will bring a lot of joy to see these little fellows snuffling around your space – you could even install a wildlife camera to capture their activity overnight!


© Rainer Bleek, Unsplash

Rewild in small spaces
Some of us love having a tidy and ‘manicured’ space, however, rewilding does not have to take up your entire outdoor area. By taking one corner of your garden and letting things become more ‘natural’ can encourage a wealth of species to start enjoying the surroundings. Undisturbed corners can become homes for insects, whilst leaves would be utilised for bedding when it comes to hibernation for smaller creatures from late autumn onwards.

Use natural materials in your outside space
Create a stack from old, dying wood – not only will it look effective, but the wood will also be buzzing with life and provide food for many different species. Think of it as the Savoy Hotel for the insect world! Rocks can add depth and different height to your garden whilst creating lovely habitats for creatures. If you like water features, then a pond is a real bonus. Create shallow edges so birds and other animals can get a drink, whilst water plants and small logs provide shelter for frogs and their offspring. You may even be lucky and get dragonflies hunting around during the summer.  

Love flowers? Think meadow…
Fields full of poppies, daisies, cornflowers and grasses are beautiful and you can recreate this at home, no matter the size of space you have. With a large plot, take an underused section and plant wildflower seeds – the larger the plot the more flowers. The internet is full of guidance on prepping the land and the work will be worth it when you have flowers all colours of the rainbow that grow back each year. If you lack space, there are wildflowers you can easily plant into containers, allowing the countryside into your garden. Soon enough you will have important pollinators, including butterflies and bees regularly visiting.

Stay away from chemicals
We all know that pesticides and chemical feed for plants will have a negative impact on the natural world. Instead, create your own compost heap that you can use to feed flower beds and enrich the soil for future plant growth. The plants you then grow in the future can often attract the right kind of insects that will feed on the pests you don’t want in your garden.

No Mow May
Becoming more popular each year, this campaign first began in 2019 – encouraging people to not reach for their mowers during the month of May. Why? You will be encouraging wildflowers and plants to grow, plus providing an increase in nectar that is vital to many species. Many of us look to remove dandelions when they first appear in spring – but we should leave them be as they are one of the first, critical, food sources for bees. Over time you may discover that more plant species start to bloom when you leave your lawnmower or strimmer packed away in the shed for a while longer…

Whatever space we have at home, just making a few little changes can be the beginning of making a massive change for the environment as we know it and as each year passes you can see how much benefit your actions are making. Let’s make a difference together!

 

 

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Plastic – An Environmental Perspective

Interview with Sustainability Director, Maïté Angleys

Why is it so difficult to say one material is more sustainable than the other?
The environmental impact associated with all the stages of a product’s life are assessed with a Life Cycle Assessment (LCA). The problem is that you have to compare very specific scenarios in which a material is used (aka: is material x in this country, in this use case, in this disposal method, less impactful than material). This is why you cannot say glass is better than plastic – the answer is: it depends!

How sustainable is plastic?
There is a widely spread misconception around plastic and that is “it is unsustainable and replacing it will solve all problems around it”. But that is not simply not true. The single-use Plastic Project by European Outdoor Group (EOG) has found (after a year-long review of studies) that you have to differentiate between A) the resource of plastic, B) its lifespan and, C) its end of life. The main problem with plastic is its end of life and our recycling structures are a huge part of the problem! 

But what about other materials like bio-plastic and glass?
During production, transportation and use, virgin plastic outperforms materials such as bio-based plastic, paper, cotton and glass. It is in the end of life where the problem starts. We have primarily a waste problem. There is one exception: recycled plastic and recycled aluminium. We have currently opted for recycled plastic but are actively researching recycled aluminium.

So what is the solution?
To solve the problem of plastic pollution we need to keep plastic in the loop. This means: use recycled plastic and ensure recyclability. We have developed a plastic strategy with a goal set to increase our intake of recycled plastic and ensure recyclability until 2023. In addition to that, Nikwax has been an active member of the pan-European Single Use Plastic project right from the start. The project brings like-minded outdoor brands and retailers together to collaborate and create an industry-wide solution for the single use plastic in the outdoor industry.

Here are some details on the Nikwax Plastic Strategy.
Nikwax Plastic Strategy
During production, transportation and use, virgin plastic out-performs materials such as:
• bio-based plastic
• paper
• cotton
• glass
• aluminium

The main problem with plastic is its end of life. We have developed a plastic strategy to minimise the use of virgin plastic and keep recycled plastic in the loop as long as possible.

Nikwax bottles are already made from 100% recycled plastic.
Our goals regarding single use plastic are:
• 90% of all single use plastic we buy is made from recycled plastic by the end of 2023.
• Ensure 99% of all single use plastic we buy is recyclable by the end of 2023.

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Leading brand in PFC-free aftercare products – NIKWAX – launches its Sustainability Roadmap 2025

We are excited to share the findings of our first sustainability report. Here we provide an insight into some of the 20 projects we have committed to throughout the business, to help achieve our sustainability goals by 2025.

As the leading brand in PFC-free aftercare products, here at Nikwax, we strongly believe that we have a fundamental responsibility to lead by example with regards to preserving the natural environment and preventing further damage to the planet.  The brand was founded on these principles by Nick Brown 45 years ago, when he created the first Nikwax product in his flat using a Primus stove.  Now as a global business, selling products in over 50 countries, our core values and principles remain the same.

Following on from a materiality assessment, which helped to identify and prioritise sustainability issues in the business, a strategic roadmap was developed. It encompasses over 20 projects that will help us to fulfil our goals and have a positive impact on people and the planet. 



The sustainability report is a celebration of what has been achieved at Nikwax; highlighting our journey from inception in 1977 and also includes a sustainability roadmap – essentially a plan of action for the next three years. The roadmap has six clear fields of action:  Clean Chemistry, Climate Action, Conservation, Circularity, Ethical & Fair and Experts & Partners.

The six fields of action are as follows:

  • Clean chemistry: Nikwax aftercare products are water-based, PFC-free and we have never used aerosols.
    Goal:  To continue to produce high performance products that don’t harm people or the planet by adhering to a Chemical Management System, in-line with the guidelines provided by the ZDHC (Zero Discharge of Hazardous Chemicals) non-governmental organisation.
  • Climate Action: Nikwax’s operational emissions have been carbon balanced from day one and a climate action plan is in place to do more.  It is dedicated to take action and combat further climate change and its negative impact on the planet and people. 
    Goal:  To reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2025.

  • Conservation: Nikwax currently partners with conservation organisations to help to conserve the natural world and is active on a local, national and global level on initiatives to help to protect and preserve nature for future generations.
    Goal:  To donate 1% of turnover to ecological and social causes.
  • Circularity: To combat the global waste problem, it’s vital to keep materials in the loop for as long as possible by buying quality, ethically sourced and produced gear, with regular care applied to extend its life.  Nikwax products enhance the performance and extend the life of outdoor clothing, footwear and gear.  80% of Nikwax waste is recycled and the remainder is sent for energy recovery via incineration.  Nikwax bottles are made from 100% post-consumer recycled plastic.
    Goal:  By the end of 2023 90% of all single use plastic purchased by Nikwax will be made from recycled plastic.

  • Ethical and Fair: As a values-orientated organisation, Nikwax believes in treating the people it works with fairly and equally. 
    Goal:  To become an Employee Owned Trust in 2022 and donate 1% of revenue to social and environmental causes. 

  • Experts & Partners: Nikwax believes in collaboration and sharing its knowledge and expertise on the premise that together we can achieve more.
    Goal:  To continue to work with brands to help to extend the life of outdoor products.

Founder Nick Brown, comments: “When we launched Nikwax in 1977, the environmental movement, as we know it today, was still in its infancy:  The term ‘global warming’ had only just been coined and it would be almost two decades before people started talking about their ‘carbon footprint’.  Against this background, for us to make environmental protection a specific business objective and stated brand value was positively radical, but those were the values upon which the company was founded.  45 years on, I’m proud to say that protecting our planet is still very much at the heart of Nikwax’s goals.  Our first sustainability report documents the journey we have been on and outlines our goals for the next three years.

Maïté Angleys, Nikwax’s Director of Sustainability, concludes: “One clear message from COP26 was the urgency with which we all need to act.  As businesses and individuals, we can always do more.  We’re pleased to share the findings of our sustainability report and the steps we are taking to reduce our impact on the natural world further still; while creating a more positive impact on people.” 

You can read our full report HERE

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The climate emergency is here, what can we do to make a difference?

There is no getting away from it, we are in the grip of serious climate change and urgent action is required from each one of us to avoid irreversible environmental damage. With the latest warning signs – extreme weather conditions – dominating global news, the forthcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) will be accelerating action to stem the crisis.

As Nikwax is well known for its commitment to environmental stewardship and remains dedicated to helping fight climate change, we’re championing five small acts we can each apply to our lives that will help to make a difference…

Eat less meat and dairy
Animal agriculture creates vast amounts of harmful greenhouse gases and reducing your consumption of meat and dairy products is one of the biggest ways to reduce your environmental footprint on the planet (a 2020 Oxford University study found it is impossible to keep global heating to the lowest safe limit without a shift to a more plant-based diet). A good place to start is ‘Meat Free Monday’, a global initiative championing the difference just one plant-based day a week can make. When you consider that livestock production is responsible for at least 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions (and possibly as much as 51%), a collective shift in our eating habits is critical.

If plant-based inspiration is lacking, there are plenty of delicious fuss-free recipes on Meat Free Monday

 

Avoid wish-cycling
Wish-cycling is the practice of recycling items that cannot be recycled, stemming from the best intentions. In short, it feels better to put our rubbish in the green bin instead of sending it to landfill, even if it is not suitable for recycling. Last year (2019-20) 525,000 tonnes of household recycling was rejected at the point of sorting, according to the Local Government Association, which highlights the scale of the problem. Soiled food containers, bottles with liquid in them and used tissues, kitchen roll and foil are just some of the everyday waste items commonly mistaken as recyclable. Some quick, effective ways to turn things around include swotting up on your council’s recycling rules, knowing your materials (read the packaging carefully, or google it) and cleaning and drying items well before putting them in your recycling bin.

 

Repair and reuse
Everything we use as consumers has a carbon footprint and repairing our old, damaged goods rather than buying new contributes to cutting consumption and waste. With global waste set to grow by 70% by 2050 unless urgent action is taken, getting in to good habits now is critical. Whilst we don’t have repair shops on our high street (yet!) YouTube is full of tutorials on how to fix household items, from coffee machines to lamps to hairdryers, and it’s often easier than you think to breathe new life in to them.

Reusing is equally as important as repairing so avoid single-use items where possible, even if they are recyclable. Taking your own reusable cup to your favourite coffee shop is a good place to start, as is investing in beeswax food wraps to replace your Clingfilm and foil.  Making small changes now will reap rewards in the future.

Save energy at home
15% of the UK’s plant-warming gases come from heating our houses and this figure is set to rise with the move to home-working for so many of us. Simply putting on an extra layer of clothing when we feel chilly, and turning down the heating by a degree or two can make all the difference.

It’s an obvious one but turning off lights and appliances when you don’t need them also helps, as does replacing your light bulbs with LEDs or other low-energy lights. Simple changes, made collectively, will have a big impact.

It’s also worth checking out the new £2 billion Green Homes Grant scheme, which allows homeowners to apply for vouchers worth up to two thirds of the cost of upgrading the energy efficiency of their home (you can also check whether your household is eligible for the low income scheme, which covers up to 100% of the cost).

Plant trees!
Trees are our best friends in the fight against climate change, using photosynthesis to capture and store carbon dioxide. They help clean the air, stabilize the soil, protect biodiversity, offset carbon, and so much more. It’s easy to think that people planting trees in their garden or local woodland won’t make much of an impact when globally we need billions to address the crisis, however if 12 million people committed to planting just one tree, they will certainly make a difference. Larger planting initiatives are also gaining ground in the UK, such as the Northern Forest, which will be made up of 25 million trees spanning the north of England from Liverpool to Hull. To read more and get involved visit thenorthernforest.org.uk.

Did you know….?

  • At HQ we have been using certified renewable energy since 2013
  • In partnership with World Land Trust we have carbon balanced all operative emissions at HQ since foundation
  • We are in the process of converting our car fleet to electric or hybrid cars
  • We are currently developing a climate action plan in line with science-based targets
  • Nikwax has its very own 10 acre woodland in East Sussex. In 2019 staff planted 1,000 trees including Common Oak, Hornbeam, Walnut, Field Maple and Hazel.

 

 

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Interview: we talk environment, sustainability and lockdown, with Nikwax’s Sustainability Director

Here at Nikwax, our passion for the great outdoors and protection of the environment is at the heart of what we do. We constantly strive to improve our sustainability and environmental credentials throughout the business, and with that focus, we employed our own Director of Sustainability.

We speak to Maïté Angleys about Nikwax, the outdoor industry, and the impact of lockdown.

So then Maïté, how did you become Director of Sustainability?
I undertook a Bachelor’s Degree in Intercultural Business Studies and during this course, I started to ask questions about business ethics. Much of what we were taught included telling us ‘this is how businesses should run’ … I began to question that information, or simply did not agree with what I was being told. When the questions became more pressing from me, it led to me moving on to do a Masters in Sustainability Management. I wanted to learn how you lead a business in a sustainable way.  

As part of my Masters, I ended up doing an internship with Páramo – this went really well and I actually went on to do my thesis with Páramo. I analysed sustainability management tools and held a meeting, which Nick Brown (CEO) sat in on. He seemed impressed and went on to ask if I would like to start in a role as Director of Sustainability at Nikwax!

Nikwax has achieved a vast amount over the last 44 years and continues to do so. Since joining the company, what has been a key moment for you within your role as Sustainability Director?
Firstly, it is the creation of the role of Sustainability Director, not because of me having this role! The fact that Nikwax chose to have this role embedded high within the company structure, solely dedicated to this topic, is key. To me, it says a lot about how Nikwax takes this issue seriously – many other companies do not have such a role in their organisation.

We have also just completed the development of our sustainability strategy for 2025. We have seen that across the entire company people have put in extra hours, interest and creativity to the development of this strategy. This is remarkable and cannot be taken for granted. 

What are the current key focuses for Nikwax, in terms of sustainability and the environment?
The most pressing issue is the climate crisis and loss of biodiversity, so we are focusing on our climate action programme, where we work towards energy reduction and reduction of GHG emissions.

With biodiversity loss, we have been re-naturalising the farmland behind one of our business locations in rural Sussex. We are trying to heighten biodiversity right on our doorstep and want to ensure the beautiful landscape continues to exist.

Lastly, our chemical management system, where we are developing a comprehensive and holistic system to ensure nothing hazardous comes in or leaves our production. The chemical management system helps us to constantly develop further and lessen the environmental impact of our products and our production.

Nikwax has forged relationships with a number of environmental organisations, can you tell us a little about these?
Since 2007, we have had a key relationship with the World Land Trust (WLT) through Carbon Balancing. We compensate our operative emissions and our contribution helps to protect and regenerate vital ecosystems. WLT focus on using donations to purchase land in order to conserve fragile habitats, rather than, for example, undertaking reforestation to compensate for C02 emissions. After all, you cannot simply replace one ecosystem with another!

We have worked with the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) since its foundation in 2006. The great thing with EOCA is that they raise funds from members of the outdoor industry and they have supported some vast conservation projects, which get voted for by members and the public. Our CEO, Nick, was actually the Vice-President for some time on the board of EOCA.

One of their recent campaigns was to plant 2 million trees – which is a lot! – a target they achieved in two years. The Plastic Free: Mountain to Sea project followed, focusing on plastic removal from the environment (rivers, forests and mountains). They smashed their 2-year target of clearing 3,000km of waste, instead clearing a total of 4,183km of plastic pollution! Bringing outdoor members together, they maximise the impact they would have, compared to if each organisation just campaigned by themselves.

Lastly is the Green Commerce and Chemistry Council (GC3). They are US-focused and hold an annual roundtable for green chemistry, which again involves some big industry players. They are dedicated towards developing sustainable chemistry and chemical solutions. There are companies involved such as DuPont and Dow, large-scale companies that may not focus so much on sustainability compared to others. However, in order to evoke change, these are the people to speak to, because the impact they can have due is enormous.

Where would you like to see the outdoor industry in the next 5 years, in terms of sustainability?
For it to be completely PFC-free! This is something that should have happened five years ago – there is no excuse for bigger industry players to proclaim that there is such a thing as “harmless PFCs”, we know there isn’t. To be fully PFC-free definitely needs to happen.

I would like to see the industry well on its way to achieving a Net Zero Co2 emissions target, in line with science-based targets.  Targets are considered ‘science-based’ if they are in line with what the latest climate science deems necessary to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement – limiting global warming to well-below 2°C above pre-industrial levels.

What key things do you feel people could do to help make their lives more sustainable for the planet?
Everybody should always try to consume/purchase less, which is not easy, but with each purchase we make, stop and ask yourself “Do I really need this?”

Secondly, try to purchase better quality products in order to make things last longer. If you purchase items that are better quality, then a) you would have more money and b) things would last longer.

Lastly, think about the impact that advertising has on you. What is causing that need to have something new, to have something else, which can lead to being wasteful? We underestimate how many companies put these thoughts in to our heads, with subtle techniques to keep buying. This need to purchase is often planted into our brains by companies who may not have a very sustainable business model. It is about an awareness that we should try and have.

Do you feel that the past year, with people experiencing lockdown and the pandemic, has had any impact on the environment, or how people just think about the outdoors?
Yes, I think there is a certain change. We can see this across all of Europe – people are becoming more aware of what natural environment is right there on their doorsteps. There is a great meme about the pandemic, ‘Covid or The Great Walk’ – people are walking around their houses and local areas because they cannot travel further afield, so have to explore their immediate location.

Sadly, this is potentially not very long lasting because there is the chance that once this pandemic is over, people could return to their old habits very quickly. I would like to see people learn from this current situation because there is a lot we can compare between the pandemic and the climate crisis. It is something where we have to look reality in the eye, as the climate crisis is so real and right on our doorsteps.

What is your favourite outdoor pastime in Germany and why?
Cycling through Munich. I cycle everywhere – I never used to cycle, it was not something my family really did. I always found it too cold and rainy. However, now I cycle everywhere – you get to see all parts of where you live – you can cycle through the seasons and see your surroundings change around you. I get to experience changes in my neighbourhood and it just makes me feel happy.

Can you give us one happy tip to help people get through this current time when we are experiencing lockdown life?
During lockdown, I have found group Zooms are fun. After a day working online you often wish to escape from your PC, however, meeting online allows you to socialise with a group of people you have not seen for some time, and who have all come together for downtime and some fun. It’s a great mood lifter and a means to interact with friends!

 

 

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Help Syrian Brown Bears in Armenia

Twice a year the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA) hold a public and members vote, from which conservation projects around the world can apply to receive funding to help their cause. From each voting session (spring and autumn) three organisations will then receive funds from EOCA to further their projects and help key environmental / conservational causes.

The submitted projects are split into three categories: Landscape & Wildlife, Mountain & Forest, and, Plastic Clean Up.

Nikwax, as a member of EOCA, is proud to have nominated the following project to have the chance to win vital funds within the autumn public vote.

Please can you take a moment to read the project detail below and then click HERE to give them your vote! Voting is open 7th – 21st October 2019

Organisation: Foundation for the Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets (FPWC).

FPWC works for wildlife protection, environmental education and sustainable development, engaging rural populations in the sustainable development of their communities.

Their project:
The Syrian Brown Bear has been the victim of uncontrolled hunting, trapping and persecution since the break-up of the Soviet Union, which has rapidly driven down its numbers as well as populations of many other species. FPWC privately protects about 30,000 hectares of land, creating a buffer zone near the main reserve of Armenia, Khosrov and safe corridors for wild animals’ passage.

FPWC, in cooperation with International Animal Rescue, started the first centre in the country that rehabilitates and eventually releases rescued captive bears back into the wild. The population of the species is now growing and the project will be working on finding solutions to prevent human-bear conflict, restoring habitat destroyed by illegal logging and forest fires, planting native fruit seedlings outside conflict zones, in order to keep bears away from areas of habitation. The project will also investigate the conflict cases, map the conflict zones and install mobile electric fences in the most vulnerable places, run anti-poaching / logging patrols and encourage hiking, biking and wildlife watching activities as well as visits to the bear rescue centre.

 

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Become a #PlogForPlastic Partner!

Nikwax have launched an exciting new initiative to remove plastic from the outdoor environment. The Nikwax #PlogForPlastic campaign encourages people to remove plastic and other litter from our outdoor spaces by litter collecting while running or walking.

As an industry of outdoor enthusiasts, we are in a unique position to address the issue of plastic pollution through proactive collaboration. We’ve already got some great outdoor brands signed up to #PlogForPlastic, but we’re asking yourselves as sellers and distributors of Nikwax to join the #PlogForPlastic initiative and help to clean up your favourite local outdoor spaces.

Join us today and become a #PlogForPlastic Partner and we’ll support your event by:

  • Promoting your event on plogforplastic.com
  • Promoting your event on the Nikwax Facebook page
  • Providing support materials to help you promote your event
  • Sending you biodegradable rubbish collection bags
  • Sending you Nikwax BaseFresh® for participants, as a thank you for taking part.

Your Guide to running a #PlogForPlastic event:
Organising your own #PlogForPlastic event is easy, anyone can do it – you can make a real difference. All you need is:

  • An outdoor space that needs clearing of litter
  • One free hour
  • A willing volunteer to organise and lead your #PlogForPlastic event.

…And Nikwax are here to help support your event!

Click here for the How to run a #PlogForPlastic event guide.

If you would like to host a #PlogForPlastic event or series of events please contact Nikwax Head of PR, Tom Willox on +44 (0) 1892 786 464 or Email: tom.willox@nikwax.co.uk.