For over 170 years, Boots has had a unique place in the heart of communities, known for its social purpose and the positive impact it has on the world. Sustainability is a key part of how Boots operates, and with environmental issues impacting people’s health, it has never been more important than it is today.
Boots’ reputation for innovation in sustainability stretches as far back as the 1930s where we invested in machinery to improve efficiency of paper and packaging recycling. Now, Boots has committed to removing all plastic wet wipes from our shelves by the end of 2022 – and we are encouraging other retailers join us on this journey.
It has never been more important to our customers, planet or business, that we operate in a way that cares for the environment. We continue to find ways to make our Bootprint as light as possible.
We spoke to Jenna Ward, Head of Beauty – Boots Brands and Exclusives who is responsible for all own brand beauty products at Boots to find out why taking this step was so important to her, to Boots, and for the industry.
Making impactful change
“To me, sustainability means doing the best you can in your day-to-day life to leave the planet in a better place that you found it,” explains Jenna. She thinks that, especially for big businesses, finding the ‘right’ area of sustainability to focus on isn’t always easy, but it’s not impossible.
“Some people in retail and business are really keen to reduce carbon. Others are more focussed on reducing plastic. I’d say I sit in the middle, where I’d like to do better on everything, and be more informed about the choices I’m making. Our goal is to half the impact of our own brand products by 2030.”
Jenna explains that taking this approach makes sure that the right decisions are being made to change Boots products in a more sustainable and sensible way that works for customers and suppliers. Missteps can be expensive and can even lead to unforeseen environmental issues further down the road.
“Passionate people inspire me every day to push to understand and do more around sustainability – whether that’s an expert in their field, an influencer I follow on social media, or someone I know who has made a personal change and is keen to share it. I love understanding how people are behaving, what we can do differently, and always trying to improve our product range.”
Where to begin?
Jenna believes that that stats don’t lie, and spotting where the biggest difference can be made usually requires some hard research.
“For example, in Boots own brand baby wipes alone, we knew that if we removed plastic, that was 220 million individual wipes per year,” says Jenna. “But people still want wet wipes. They are a safe, convenient and sanitary way to clean your face, baby or surfaces, so it’s more complicated than removing them entirely. That path could also have longer term consequence on other factors such as water and carbon usage.”
Boots is responsible for 800 million wet wipes every year across all the products it sells, accounting for up to 15% of all wipes bought in the UK. Knowing statistics like these allows teams at Boots to identify the areas where the greatest impact can be made continuously working with NGOs and governmental bodies on the key areas that matters
These facts allow the teams at Boots to engage with suppliers and partner with customers to encourage them to make switches that will collectively make a big difference. Jenna adds: “I feel extremely lucky to have a role that can really impact what millions of customers do each year.
“When we make a product more sustainable but just as affordable, we are driving huge change across the products we sell, and driving market-wide change too. Our biodegradable wipes are a great example of this”
“The team are always on the hunt for the next big problematic format we can help to improve,” says Jenna, “all whilst keeping our products at the same quality and value customers love. That makes me want to come in to work every day.”
Building on success
Not only has Boots committed to eliminating plastic in wet wipes, it also has expanded its ranges of reusable and refillable alternatives in the last two years, including offering reusable make-up remover pads, cleansing pads, baby reusable wipes and refillable cleansing products.
This pledge is the latest change Boots has introduced as part of its sustainability commitments:
- 100% of Boots seasonal gift range was free from secondary plastic last Christmas, removing over 2,020 tonnes of plastic
- In 2021, Boots successfully removed all plastic packaging from its online deliveries – equating to eliminating 157 tonnes of plastic*
Customers using the innovative ‘Recycle at Boots’ scheme have deposited over one million hard to recycle beauty, health and wellness products. It’s the first scheme of its kind in the UK, accepting all products including those not purchased at Boots, utilising Scan2Recycle technology to encourage more sustainable habits. Since September 2020 over 19 tonnes of plastics have been recycled.
“Successes like our wipes commitment really energises us to continue to make the changes to Boots products that matter most to Boots customers,” says Jenna. “We can’t wait to get to work on the next big Boots innovation that helps to lower our Bootprint.”