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It’s been just over a year since we won our Queen’s Award for Sustainable Development, one of our proudest achievements as a company - and now that the dust has well and truly settled, we thought it might be interesting to go back through our application to let you know how we did it.
So what are the Queen’s Awards?
Full name ‘The Queen’s Awards for Enterprise’, they represent the most prestigious honour for UK businesses, awarded each year by a panel of distinguished judges for the "highest levels of excellence" and “outstanding achievement” in their field.
In 2020 we were one of just 19 winners in the Sustainable Development category, awarded for commercially successful products, services and management that benefit the environment, society and the economy.
We are going to have to both paraphrase and summarise here, but as part of the rigorous (and lengthy) application process we submitted information, as below, into these three sections:
Naturalmat's products are made entirely of sustainable materials:
• Organic wool - which we buy direct from farms in our surrounding areas of Devon, Cornwall and Somerset that are either Soil Association Certified or Organic Farmers and Growers Certified
• Fairtrade coconut fibre - a waste product of the coconut industry, which we buy direct from certified organic plantations, used in place of or alongside metal springs to provide bounce to a mattress.
• Organic cotton - Soil Association and Global Organic Textile Standard Certified, used across all of our products.
• Natural latex - Rainforest Alliance Certified, used as a springy foam filling in our mattresses and toppers.
• Wood - FSC Approved, used to build bed frames, headboards and finishing touches such as bed legs.
• Organic denim - Waste offcuts from the fashion industry, which we use as padding.
We adopt a zero waste approach to our manufacturing process and in doing so we support UN SD (United Nations Sustainable Development) Goals 12.2 and 12.5, regarding the sustainable and efficient use of natural resources, and the reduction of waste generation. We also power every element of the production process in our workshop using solar energy.
We offer a mattress recycling service to our customers - approximately 167,000 tonnes of mattresses arise as waste per year in the UK alone. Our full circle zero waste approach aims to provide a way for consumers and businesses to avoid contributing to this figure.
Naturalmat work very closely with the Soil Association to ensure our ways of working remain at the forefront of sustainable practice. We are leaders in our field, with well-established partnerships with key organisations such as the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS), Control Union and the Rainforest Alliance.
The business grew from the founders’ own desire to avoid toxic chemicals and chemical fire retardants and today all of our mattresses use wool instead of fire retardant chemicals.
The Environmental Audit Committee have launched an inquiry into the impact of toxic fire retardant chemicals in everyday life on human health and the environment, citing mattresses as a particular area of concern due to the heavy use of organophosphates in the industry.
Naturalmat's work has many impacts. On a local level, by supporting our local farming communities, we are helping to maintain Southwest herds and rare breeds, as well as making organic farming a viable and attractive option for farmers.
As our business grows it drives wealth back into the rural community around us, as well as providing work for the upholsterers, carpenters and other tradespeople we employ locally. Further afield, by buying the coconut fibre we are providing additional revenue to a Fairtrade plantation cooperative in Sri Lanka and reducing waste byproducts.
The anticipated longer term outcome of our efforts is that year on year, incrementally more people will go to sleep on chemical free, organic beds and mattresses, providing a healthier sleep for those people. As those beds and mattresses reach the end of their lives, they can be recycled or disposed of in ways that are not harmful to the environment.
Ultimately for each mattress we sell there is one less toxic mattress being slept on, ending up in landfill and causing air and water pollution.
Sustainability is so deeply embedded into Naturalmat's culture and values that without it our business would be completely unrecognisable. Naturalmat's environmental policy is shared with everyone who joins the team, new recruits are given a thorough induction into our materials, sourcing, manufacturing and delivery process. It is vital that everybody is on the same page in terms of our ethos of sustainability.
Our business is dependent upon maintaining our sustainable credentials and organic supply chains. We promote the materials used, and where they are sourced from and where possible we work with organisations such as British Wool Week and Campaign For Wool to promote the benefits of organic wool
Longer term our development plans revolve around always optimising our offering. We are exploring new materials to see how the latest fibre technologies could be applied to beds and mattresses to enhance user experience, aesthetics and eco footprint. We have been searching for a way to wrap our mattresses that is strong enough to withhold the weight of them, survive shipping, and is waterproof. Our solution is bespoke tough fabric bags*, which the products will zip into for delivery and then be returned to us for reuse, eliminating single use materials from the packaging and delivery process.
*Which since our application we are now using, meaning that our entire product catalogue is delivered to our customers in either recyclable, compostable or reusable packaging.