Chris Forbes, co-founder of Startups 100 common Cheeky Panda, has been introduced as visitor choose for subsequent yr’s Startups 100 Index.
The eco-friendly entrepreneur is the primary visitor choose to be introduced for this yr’s record, which reopened for entries in April. In collaboration with the Startups’ panel of consultants, Forbes will assist to establish the winner of the Sustainability award from the record of the highest 100.
The chosen firm can be a UK startup which demonstrates excellent proof of prioritising the well being of the planet as a part of its mission assertion.
Talking to Startups concerning the announcement, and sporting his signature panda hat, Forbes tells us: “The Startups 100 has a historical past of discovering those that have gone on to turn out to be massive companies. It is nice to now be a choose and to have the ability to take part from the opposite aspect.”
Who’s Chris Forbes?
Cheeky Panda started as a two-man startup in 2016. It instantly impressed our judges with its modern vary of ultra-sustainable, low carbon, and wholesome bamboo merchandise.
We first featured the cheeky model on the Startups 100 Index approach again in 2017. Since then, having been listed within the index three extra instances, it was valued at an enormous £75m in 2022.
Forbes and his co-founder/spouse, Julia Chen, have grown the model collectively over seven years from seed to capturing success.
“We’ve bought over 50 million items globally”, he says humbly, “and gross sales proceed to develop by 70% year-on-year regardless of provide chain disaster and main inflation. And naturally, we have been licensed as a B company.”
Now accessible in over 10,000 shops within the UK, the model has entered what Forbes describes as ‘scale-up’ territory. The corporate has moved into worldwide markets this yr and has additionally employed an government administration staff, readying for its subsequent section of progress.
It’s this success and expertise that Forbes will convey to the judging desk later this yr to guage the Startups 100 sustainability class.
Inexperienced firms can typically battle to seek out the stability between goal and revenue – however Cheeky Panda is proof that one doesn’t have to come back on the expense of the opposite.
“The enterprise mannequin needs to be sustainable as nicely,” he cautions. “The important thing to our success has been having good merchandise, an excellent narrative round who we’re, and having the suitable funding in place as nicely.”
Being sustainable in 2023: what does it imply?
Sustainability has been on each model’s lips for the previous decade, as extra companies be a part of the struggle towards the local weather disaster. Momentum has continued even all through the price of residing disaster, with customers searching for out “form” corporations even within the face of hiked costs.
Excitingly, Cheeky Panda introduced a brand new partnership earlier this yr. Becoming a member of paws with fellow panda-brand WWF, the enterprise will donate a share of the sale on particular merchandise to help the charity’s work to preserve endangered species.
“For customers, it isn’t nearly what’s least expensive,” says Forbes. “Folks wish to know what’s an excellent product, what’s good for me, and what’s good for the planet?”
Alongside this reputation, nonetheless, has burned one other sizzling matter: greenwashing, or the act of creating deceptive claims about sustainability credentials.
2023 has thus far been the yr of greenwashing scandals, with firms like Ryanair and Unilever each going through scrutiny over unclear environmental claims. Phrases like ‘plastic-free’ or ‘carbon impartial’, common in lots of massive model advertising supplies, have turned out to be false.
As consciousness of the follow has heightened, shopper belief within the manufacturers being praised for his or her sustainability has lowered. It’s an issue Forbes is hoping to repair when judging this yr’s shortlist.
Forbes factors to an awards ceremony he lately attended for instance, the place a widely known aviation firm was named one of the crucial sustainable firms. Forbes was incredulous.
“It was like, ‘how on earth did that occur’?” he remembers. “I feel the judges on that award shouldn’t be judges.
“Seven years’ expertise in a high-profile sustainable scale-up means I’ll spot the distinction between folks doing one thing as a result of it is the suitable factor to do, and those that are leaping on a bandwagon as a result of they assume they will promote goal as a enterprise individual.”
May you be the following Startups 100 sustainable champion?
Cheeky Panda has gained over 30 enterprise trophies in its seven yr lifespan. Forbes himself gained Entrepreneur for Good finally yr’s Nice British Entrepreneur Awards.
Startups asks: from his personal experiences making use of to enterprise indexes and awards, what is going to he be searching for from this yr’s entrants for inexperienced hero? Forbes has one phrase: knowledge.
“The purple flag that you simply search for after I see a inexperienced enterprise isn’t any knowledge,” he states. “It’s very straightforward to create a narrative, however I truly wish to perceive what your influence is. In the event you’re saving carbon, plastic, or power, how are you monitoring and measuring that?”
Hanging proudly on the Cheeky Panda fridge are its personal spectacular statistics: Forbes reveals the agency has thus far saved over 400,000 timber by folks utilizing its bamboo merchandise. It has additionally decreased carbon by 32,000 tons from the tissue and hygiene class.
Alongside inside reporting, Forbes can also be keen on exterior accreditation. For instance, B Corp certification. For inspiration, he factors to fellow Startups 100 alumni, Neat Dwelling Ltd. as an organization that’s doing it nicely.
The corporate makes plastic-free, replenishable cleansing merchandise which might be vegan and cruelty free. In two years, Neat estimates its refills have saved over 40 tonnes of plastic.
“Once we began Cheeky Panda, sustainability wasn’t so excessive on the agenda,” Forbes feedback. “Right this moment, it appears to be one thing that everyone’s centered on. As a visitor choose, I plan to dig into the weeds to identify something that is green-washy and discover the manufacturers which might be actually distinctive.”
Are you an eco-friendly entrepreneur with a blossoming enterprise? Apply to the Startups 100 for an opportunity to be named the highest sustainable UK startup for 2024.
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