Pukka Herbs Sustainability Manager Vicky Murray shares some of her favourite stories behind the brand’s wild ingredients, scientific studies and sustainability goals.
About the author
Vicky Murray has been Sustainability Manager at Pukka Herbs since 2015. Her previous roles range from mapping coral reefs destroyed by dynamite fishing for WWF to shaping sustainability strategies with Forum for the Future. Vicky is based at Pukka’s Herb House HQ near Bristol in the UK.
Pukka is so much more than pretty packaging. Some people might choose us because our packs are beautiful. People keep buying us because our products make them feel great. And when they find out more about what we do behind the scenes, that’s when they really fall in love.
Pukka is a certified B Corp, and we invest 1% of our sales – not just our profit – in environmental causes and charities around the world. Like everyone here, I love the fact that we are part of a movement and driven by a mission. I’m proud that we’ve improved our B Corp impact scores year-on-year and have just been awarded ‘Changemakers – Best for the World’ in this year’s B Corp awards. Hopefully, we’re demonstrating that business can be a force for good.
We’ve mapped the carbon impact Pukka has on the planet, collecting data on everything we do from crop to cup. It means we’ve been able to work out how to keep our carbon footprint small and getting smaller. We’ve even set a science-based carbon reduction target, which was validated by the Science Based Target initiative at the end of last year.
We learned that 50% of our carbon emissions come from people boiling their kettles to make our tea. Next time you click yours on, please make sure you’re only boiling as much water as you intend to use. It’s the easiest way to reduce wasted energy. Even better, switch your power to renewable energy.
Our brand brings together so much around health and wellbeing. It combines ancient Ayurvedic wisdom, 100% organic ingredients and we are working with leading universities on ground-breaking herbal research. By demanding sustainability throughout our supply chain, we’re able to make a real impact on the lives of people who grow our ingredients too.
Our suppliers are what inspire me the most about working for Pukka. Without our organic practitioner-grade herbs, we’re nothing. But in a world where the climate crisis is making weather and conditions unpredictable and extreme, our farmers are facing enormous challenges.
On a recent visit to our aloe vera growers in Mexico, we found they’d had their first-ever frost. Aloe vera isn’t a plant that can tolerate low temperatures, but until now that’s never been an issue in Mexico. Elsewhere in the world, farmers are facing problems such as water shortages and floods too. We’re helping them to use techniques like better composting and agroforestry to build resilience.
As part of our work to support our farmers, we’ve become one of the world’s biggest buyers of FairWild-certified ingredients. FairWild collectors commit to not over-harvesting a plant, so that it can regenerate naturally, safeguarding its future. We pay collectors a premium price for their work, plus an amount to support projects benefiting the local community.
Without FairWild, these collectors would often be marginalised. Their work tends to be seasonal, casual labour, and the skills are passed down through families. Such communities need protecting and FairWild is a great way to ensure they have a steady, fair income.
One of our FairWild crops is the bibhitaki fruit, used in our Triphala Formula. The bibhitaki tree is one of the only trees large enough to provide a home for nesting Great Pied Hornbills, beautiful birds which mate for life in India’s Western Ghats region. These majestic trees are under threat as they produce valuable timber. But by launching a FairWild partnership with local growers, we have been able to provide them with a sustainable income to harvest the fruit, protect the trees, and ensure the hornbills’ home is safe.
In Europe, we source elderflower for our Love Tea from Bosnian villages that were devastated by the war in the 1990s. Elder trees have flourished in the ruins, and our FairWild partnership was established to create employment for people who lost everything in the conflict. Now more than 700 families there collect a range of wild herbs, using practices that are fair and sustainable.
Meanwhile, our fennel comes from Turkey and the organic farming we do means the fields are buzzing with life. Biodiversity has had a chance to flourish without the use of pesticides. And on the other side of the world, our green tea comes from trees high in the mountains of Vietnam, where it’s hand-picked by workers and carried down in baskets on their backs.
We want to connect people to the power of plants and to do that, we have just introduced Pukka’s three-year Regenerative Strategy. One part of that strategy is supporting our farmers to build resilience in our supply chain. Another is about sharing what we’re doing so we can encourage other businesses to become a bit more Pukka. And the third element is about a herbal health revolution, and how we see wellbeing as a way to address the crisis around human health.
People are living longer but they’re not necessarily healthier. We urgently need to explore alternatives to antibiotics, and we must ease the strain on healthcare providers by preventing illness and helping aid quick recovery. We believe plants have a role to play in that.
It makes sense that plants can support our health and wellbeing, and we’re gathering research to explore the potential of some amazing ingredients. Sebastian Pole, one of our co-founders, is an Ayurvedic practitioner and a plant-powered holistic approach is what our business was built on.
We’ve got some very cool trials underway, exploring how herbs and plants can make a positive impact on everything from colds to stress. We’re working with some brilliant research partners and universities, and I can’t wait to see the results.