Pukka Herbs: How to grow bigger – and still stay responsible

The purpose of the company, which goes beyond the “mere” tea business, is to bring help to people's daily lives through herbal tea drinks and other herbal preparations – and at the same time promote fair trade, organic farming and knowledge of herbal medicine.
Pukka | Ruohonjuuri.com

Read the views of the founder of Pukka Herbs, Sebastian Pole, in this story on how the company can, despite their immense growth, remain uncompromisingly ethical – and do even more to make the world a better place.

In order to achieve the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement, big companies must also steer their operations in a more environmentally responsible direction. Climate change cannot be curbed just through the hard work of responsible small businesses and individuals.  

Pukka Herbs shows the way not only in the use of herbs in support of well-being but also in climate action. It is one of the first British companies to strive for carbon neutrality.

Sebastian Pole and Tim Westwell founded the company 17 years ago with the goal of promoting the use of responsibly produced herbs in people’s daily lives. Ethics, responsibility and respect for nature have always been an integral part of the company’s operations. Pukka believes in holistic well-being, and there are no quick tricks to achieve it.

“Our purpose is to bring the power and active ingredients of nature's best plants to people in an easy and safe form. A cup of herbal tea is a great way to do this,” Pole says.

Today, Pole’s life is a balancing act between a business worth millions, horticulture and running an herbal clinic. When Pukka Herbs was sold to Unilever, many were upset. However, the deal offered Pukka unprecedented opportunities for growth and thus for promoting even more effective use of health-promoting herbs. With the growth, the company is also better able to support projects to bring about a better world.

Pukka and responsibility

Pukka products have an abundance of badges and certificates as proof of their responsible production. In addition to the organic label, the Fair Trade label and the Fairwild label for responsible wild plant collection, to name but two, are proudly presented on their product labels. Pukka is also one of the B Corp companies. B Corp-certified companies are committed to responsibility in their day-to-day operations rather than maximizing profits. B Corps systematically consider the impact of their decisions on their employees, customers, suppliers, the community, and the environment.

B Corp and 1% For The Planet and similar practices have always been an integral part of Pukka Herbs. It is important to us that our responsible actions are confirmed by an outside party – it is not enough for us to personally declare that what we are doing is ethical,” Sebastian Pole says.

Organic quality is an obvious foundation for our products. Nowadays, in addition to previous certificates there is the Fair For Life certificate, which highlights the importance of fairness in the entire supply chain. The herbal business is not for moneymakers – at least if you do it Pukka-style, striving to make the world a better place and to help people all the way from those cultivating the herbs to people enjoying their herbal drinks. Pukka invests in cooperation and long-term partnerships.

The first teas in the series were Relax, Refresh and Revitalize herbal teas, all of which are based on Ayurvedic knowledge. These three teas continue to be immensely popular with their quality-conscious consumers – and also at Ruohonjuuri.

Each cup of tea from the series makes the world a little better. Growing year after year, Pukka Herbs offers the health supporting effects of herbs in an easy form to more and more people. Growth also enables more plants to be collected responsibly and grown organically – which helps to make the soil healthier.

Although the products seem quite up to date, the company, according to its founder, does not follow trends. The present emphasis on health awareness has undoubtedly been favorable for the company

“We follow the traditional path of herbal medicine with the aim of doing the best possible work in the field of our herbal preparations,” Pole concludes.

“One of the best things about starting a company is bringing together people who promote the things they consider important by giving their all and collaborating,” Pole says.

Pole says that professionals who are passionate about herbs have chosen to work for Pukka. The word pukka means real and authentic:

“Just like our company! We are building a better world, wisely and by increasing well-being with herbs.”

The purpose of the company, which goes beyond the “mere” tea business, is to bring help to people's daily lives through herbal tea drinks and other herbal preparations – and at the same time promote fair trade, organic farming and knowledge of herbal medicine.

Pukka and Unilever – what will change?

It is important for Pole that Pukka as a company is able to really stand behind the values it emphasizes. But did selling to Unilever change the company in some way?

Sebastian Pole says that both his vision and mission remained the same despite the acquisition – good things are still being done, wholeheartedly. Growing bigger means even greater responsibility for Pukka Herbs – and increased opportunities for doing good.

According to Pole, more and more big companies have also begun to take responsible action.

“Big business is changing, many CEOs are waking up in their middle age to the idea that they should leave behind a better world for future generations.”

With its own ambitious example, Pukka wants to show the way for large companies as well. We hope that as many people as possible will take up the challenge!


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