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Nikwax leads with sustainability

One planet – that is all we have. And it’s imperative now, more than ever, that we look after, protect and not pollute our natural environment. At Nikwax, we have, from the very beginning, focused on creating high performance products which have minimal environmental impact and those core values stay with us to this day.

As a passionate hill walker, Nick Brown wanted to help others enjoy their time in nature without the use of  chemicals that could harm the environment. When he created his first ever Waterproofing Wax for Leather, he took care not to use chemicals that could cause harm. We have never used PFCs, nor will we. We strive to help those endangered ecosystems and habitats critical for this world, and we do our best to minimise any impact we could possibly have upon the environment.

We spent some time with UK Climbing, speaking with them about how we have led the way in the outdoor industry for many years, and, will continue to do so…. Take a look at our video now!



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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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Sustainability at Nikwax

Safeguarding the environment and being sustainable for the benefit of the planet is a core value here at Nikwax. Over the years we have undertaken a range of measures, always with the aim to better what we do and encourage others at the same time.

Do you know what we have achieved so far? Let us tell you…

Education & Community Aid
As well as continuously bettering our working practices, we strive to help others improve the environment around them. Previously we have had the opportunity to spend time with school children – educating them on science and the sustainable things Nikwax does, as well as what they can do themselves to help.

Over the years, Nikwax has also been able to provide grants to local projects, to aid them on their environmental and sustainable journeys. These have included funding a mud kitchen at a local nursery, plus a sensory garden at a primary school.

Sustainable working practices
We have been harvesting rainwater at our sites for many years now, for use in the manufacture of our core products; after all, Nikwax aftercare is primarily water-based!

We installed solar panels, which have been providing enough energy to cover the electrical usage of our main office unit. When we converted to renewable energy in 2013, this caused our HQ Co2 emissions to drop by 40% the year we did the switch.

We know how landfill is damaging the environment, so we should all be looking to minimise waste as much as possible. Our waste reduction initiative saw the company’s proportion of waste recycled go from 16% in 2006 to 71% in 2013. We are now waste-to-landfill free, with what cannot be recycled going into energy recovery.

Carbon Balancing with the World Land Trust
Since 2007, we have calculated our primary Co2 emissions and every year since then, we have offset them by donating to the World Land Trust’s Carbon Balanced Programme. We even included an estimate figure for pre-2007, ensuring that we have carbon balanced for over 40 years. The funds we donate are used to regenerate damaged areas of habitat and help preserve endangered ecosystems.

Being recognised by the Queen…
We are incredibly proud of the numerous awards we have won for the work we do. Back in 2014 Nikwax became the only Outdoor company to receive the Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development – a prestigious honour indeed!

The award is the UK’s highest accolade for business success, celebrating the consistent development of products and approaches to management that are commercially successful and have major benefits for the environment, society and British economy.

Receiving the Queen’s Award is testament to our continued commitment to sustainable development over many years, but for us it doesn’t stop there. We continue to research innovative ways to enhance our sustainability, improve our products and protect the planet.

We will be as transparent as possible to both the consumer and others in the industry, and make many of our practises measurable. You can see our performance here .

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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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Nikwax Expands its Environmental Commitment

Here at Nikwax, we have always been committed to protecting the natural world we love and enjoy, and this is where the focus has been over the over the last 40 years since the company’s inception -by manufacturing low impact products. We have consistently measured our environmental footprint, so we have a solid understanding of any impact we may make on the environment and subsequently make improvements. From balancing our carbon emissions to ensuring chemical safety with our products, here at Nikwax we always strive to make a difference – and now we are furthering our efforts!

Based in rural, leafy Wadhurst, East Sussex, we recently purchased a site with 10 acres of land attached to it that had previously been used for grazing sheep. We wished to expand our environmental focus and not let the land to go to waste.

An exciting project is underway, whereby we are developing this land to expand biodiversity through the creation of different habitats. Our aim is to conserve, protect and restore the land’s natural resources, bringing our environmental and sustainability commitments to the local area. At Nikwax, we feel it is our obligation to reduce our impact on a local level; aside from the global stance we have always had on environmental issues of climate change, or PFC pollution. We have an opportunity right here on our doorstep that could help make a difference!

We have just started a woodland area, with 1,000 trees planted by staff over three days! The species planted are ones suitable to thrive in the location and they include: Common Oak, Hornbeam, Walnut, Field Maple, Hazel, Holly, Hawthorne, Dogwood, Sweet Chestnut, Quickthorn, Spindle, Crab Apple, Aspen, Wild Cherry, Alder Buckthorn and Small Leaved Lime. There will also be a small orchard, containing a selection of fruit trees.

During initial investigations into the land, a camera trap was used to see what wildlife visits the area. Footage showed deer, foxes and badgers all frequenting the land and it became clear that work we undertake needs to incorporate a healthy area for these species and others, to still inhabit, as well as encourage new wildlife to the area!

There are things we can do to help different species flourish on the land, including using dead wood to create insect banks; retaining dying trees, where possible, as a means to support insect and fungi communities; and, ensuring no use of chemical pesticides on the land, but instead sourcing alternative methods. Plans are in place to implement and establish both a grassland area and a wildflower meadow, which would be prime to attract insects, butterflies and bees, as well as installing boxes on the site to encourage barn owls on to the site. A further habitat would be the creation of a Scrape: this is a shallow depression in the land with sloping edges that would hold water seasonally and would support a variety of invertebrates (beetles and bugs etc), as well as provide a vital feeding area for wading birds. Some of the species that would be drawn to the addition of a scrape are important in conservation, so research would be done to ensure that water is held in the scrape through the key months of March to June, as they provide a vital food source for the wading birds.

In the long-term, we hope the site can develop to house a variety of natural zones that will educate and inspire people, with a view that down the line we can look to incorporate the wider community in some way.

Nikwax Sustainability Director, Maite Angleys, said, “Not only our products, logistics and operations form part of our holistic approach on sustainability. When looking at the concept of planetary boundaries, biodiversity is one of the crucial aspects we have to consider. Public discussion aims mainly at a reduction of CO2 emissions, which is an important aspect but the disastrous results of loss of biodiversity are by far underrated. By restoring the natural habitats and woodland we are taking a first step to strengthen local biodiversity and continue our tradition as sustainable, innovative business.”   

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Nikwax celebrates presentation of Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development 2014

On Friday 7th November Nikwax was officially presented with a Queen’s Award for Enterprise: Sustainable Development 2014, in a ceremony led by HM Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, on behalf of her Majesty the Queen.

The photo above shows our Managing Director, Nick Brown, being presented the award by HM Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field.

All 165 employees, plus our distributors from across the globe, were invited to the award ceremony, held at Salomons Estate in Kent, close to the Nikwax Head Office.

Nikwax Event - The Queen's Award for Enterprise Sustainable Deve

(Above) Group shot of employees and distributors that attended the ceremony

The prestigious award reflects the company’s achievements within Sustainable Development, which include: reducing environmental impact, educating local schools on sustainability, and providing a grants programme to aid environmental projects.

Nikwax Event - The Queen's Award for Enterprise Sustainable Deve

(Above) THE Award!

It is the fourth Queen’s Award that Nikwax has won. This award is particularly meaningful because we do everything we can to protect our outdoor environment for all to enjoy both now and in the future. The award recognises our hard work, effort and continued commitment towards this. Our previous Queen’s Awards were for International Trade (2004), and Export Achievement (1996 & 1999).

Nikwax Event - The Queen's Award for Enterprise Sustainable Deve

(Above left to right) Chairman of East Sussex County Council, Councillor Colin Belsey; the Deputy Lieutenant, Mr Michael Chowen; Nikwax Managing Director, Nick Brown; Environmental Director, Jon Nash; and HM Lord Lieutenant of East Sussex, Peter Field

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How to win a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development

Nikwax has won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development! We’re amongst just 13 companies across the country this year to have received an award in this environmental category, so we’re immensely proud of all our hard work that led to this achievement.

We make every effort to minimise our impact on the environment and people’s health, and this Queen’s Award has been achieved through our demonstration of sustainable practices over the past five years.

Here are a few of the things we’ve been doing to help contribute towards a greener future:

Restricted chemicals policy

In our fight against the harmful chemicals used by other brands in the waterproofing of outdoor gear, all Nikwax products are WaterBased, solvent free, non-flammable and do not use aerosols. And, did you know, we’re the only aftercare company in the world never to have used fluorocarbons (PFCs), as these hazardous chemicals persist in the environment and can have serious health implications for humans.

Our products have consistently been shown to outperform the competition, demonstrating that solvents and harmful chemicals are simply not required.

We go over and above the current legal restrictions on chemical use and publish a list on our website of the chemicals we prohibit.

Waste recycling

Our waste reduction programme has seen the amount of waste we recycle go from 16% in 2006 to 71% in 2013! We have a target this year of 80%.

Renewable energy generation

We continually strive to increase our renewable energy generation and in 2011 we installed a 7.7 kwh solar panel system to our main office unit. During the summer months this provides that building’s entire electrical usage. We also harvest rainwater from our manufacturing plants roof space to use in the production of some of our products.

Carbon off-setting

Nikwax is carbon-balanced through the World Land Trust (WLT). We’ve been calculating our primary carbon dioxide emissions since 2007 and every year since then we’ve offset those emissions, plus an estimated figure for pre-2007. So far, we’ve contributed around £50,000 to carbon-balanced WLT projects and that has supported the purchase and protection of several threatened habitats across the world.

In addition to a donation to cover our carbon footprint, we make a matching donation for use in the WLT’s most urgent appeals.

European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA)

Nikwax founder, Nick Brown, is Vice President of the European Outdoor Conservation Association (EOCA). As part of this Nick campaigns for environmental responsibility and best practice within the industry, by supporting conservation funds, raising awareness of climate change and challenging the continued use of hazardous chemicals.

Work in the community

We like to support our local community where possible, giving lessons in schools on science and sustainable business and recently donated £3,000 to a nearby primary school to enable them to build an outdoor science classroom.

We also offer grants to environmental projects in the UK and abroad.

Live reporting of our corporate social responsibility

We don’t like to hide anything, so we post reports on our website each month that include figures for our energy use, packaging and carbon output, dating back to 2009.

Achieving a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in Sustainable Development is testament to both our superiority in environmentally-friendly waterproofing technology and its commitment to delivering sustainable business practices. But it doesn’t end there! We have a goal to become waste and landfill free in five years and plan to further develop our rainwater harvesting to encompass a larger percentage of produced materials.