The Sustainability Series – Part 1: Sarah Rotheram
"At Miller Harris, we strongly believe that our future is the greatest luxury that we all have and that it is available to everyone. Over the past three years, we have embarked on a journey towards a more sustainable future, from introducing fragrance bottle recycling in our stores and incorporating recycled materials into our packaging, to launching our new sustainable Bath & Body collection.
As a brand, we want to continue to challenge ourselves to be better and part of this means gaining insight from other industries. In this series, we’ll be talking about all things sustainability with some inspiring individuals from an array of backgrounds who are pushing the conversation around sustainability forward."
CEO of Miller Harris, Sarah Rotheram, explains more about their journey towards sustainability.
Where did the journey begin?
When I joined Miller Harris about three years ago, in my personal life I was busy sorting through things in my home that I felt weren’t very sustainable, so it didn’t feel right to be selling products that didn’t align with my personal values. So from day one, I bought everybody in the office a reusable water bottle and banned single-use plastic and that was the start of setting a mindset of how we were going to approach this as a brand.
We first began looking at where our paper was sourced from, ensuring it was FSC certified. Then two years ago I learned the hideous fact that there are 136,000 miles of wrapping paper in the UK alone on Christmas day that is thrown away. So, I took this to my design team and said we need to challenge this for Christmas and find another way of creating a luxury product in the beauty industry that doesn’t use so much packaging.
In response to this, we launched silk scarves as a way of wrapping product rather than using paper, with the idea that in years to come hopefully these silk scarves will still be loved rather than end up in landfill.
Tell us about the new Bath & Body collection
The Bath & Body range is another step forward on our sustainable journey. We have decided to put our hands up and shout about the things we are doing because our entire Bath & Body collection supply chain is now incorporating sustainable materials. On this journey which we have been working on for nearly two years, we wanted to challenge ourselves to make a sustainable bath & body range; not only from the formulas you find inside but to include the packaging and the entire journey. It has been two years of love, pain and finding out an awful lot about what is best for the planet.
What are some facts that people may not know?
Some really geeky facts: Our plastic bottles are made from 50% post-consumer recycled (PCR) material. This is plastic from UK kerbside waste and reduces the amount of new plastic being made. We are currently working to increase this to 100% PCR.
We’ve learnt that small items (less than 5cm) are often not recycled as they cannot be picked up by scanners at the recycling centres. So we’re advising our customers to leave caps and pumps on the plastic bottles to increase their chances of being recycled. We’ve chosen aluminium for our hand cream tubes. Aluminium is great for recycling and saves 95% of the energy needed to make the metal from raw materials. Glass from bottles and jars can be recycled or re-used. We’ve also reduced the weight of our packaging and avoided boxes where possible so it is super lightweight and therefore responsible for fewer carbon emissions when being distributed. Where we do use boxes to protect the product, we’re using less paper. We’ve also avoided adding foil or laminates so the paper can be recycled as easily as possible. Every part of the journey has been considered. Our shipping boxes use recycled board. And the packing chips we use are made from starch which is biodegradable and can be dissolved in water.
What are you most proud of?
I think the thing that we are most proud of is having sustainable raw materials. We do use palm oil but sustainable palm oil. We learnt that oil palms are highly efficient and can produce up to 7 times more oil per hectare of land than other oil-producing crops e.g. soy. So if palm oil was boycotted, it could actually take up more land and lead to more deforestation to move to other oil-producing crops. Palm oil is also very important to the livelihood of the farmers and economies of the countries where it is grown. This is why we are using sustainable palm oil (RSPO) which supports farmers, ensuring they are paid a fair price and preventing more deforestation. There has been a lot of decision making to make sure our products are as authentic as possible at the moment. And we are standing up and doing what we think is right for our customer.
What would you say is your biggest learning throughout all of this?
I think that the biggest learning is not to be polarised into waiting until your perfect and that every small step makes a difference. We decided to have this mantra early on and talk about this a lot in the office. I really do believe that a thousand small steps can cover miles.
You can view our full Sustainable Bath & Body collection on our website.