In Conversation With… Tom Raffield
How would you describe Tom Raffield in 3 words?
Innovative. Sustainable. Handcrafted.
Can you tell us a bit more about your recently launched Green Range.
Through our craft we aim to create new ways of living with unique, quality homewares that are inspired by nature. We set out to create several new designs within our Green Range that were beautiful, useful and versatile, lending themselves to any interior. Each piece is multifunctional and inspired by minimalist Scandinavian design principles - crafting products from natural materials (ceramic, wood and leather) is very rewarding. Whether you are seeking a home for your favourite fresh herbs for home cooking, or a sustainable gift for a loved one, our Green Range pieces are handcrafted, artisan accessories suited to any home.
Where do you source the wood for your products?
We’re committed to using sustainably sourced timber from responsibly managed forests growing FSC and PEFC wood, whilst weighing up credentials, carbon footprints and woodland techniques to inform what we buy and where. I would stress that it is always best to buy local but, and there is a big but here, only if the quality of the wood is fit for purpose and it is from a sustainably managed source. Unfortunately there are a lack of sustainably managed woodlands in the UK, so we made the decision to source our wood from further afield - places such as France and Northern Italy. Although the raw material has travelled further, the quality of timber is significantly better in order to reduce waste in our processes and also ensure the longevity of the product once it reaches our customer. The wood is faster growing and has a far straighter grain, making it more suitable to steam bend, resulting in less breaks during the process. We weigh up all of these factors to ensure we produce the most sustainable and highest quality products as possible.
We know that as a team you are committed to protecting the natural world through sustainable practices – what have been the most significant changes you’ve made this year?
It has been an unprecedented time lately and all small businesses will have faced challenges to stay afloat. We have worked hard to adapt and be flexible to ensure we remain a truly sustainable business throughout and beyond the pandemic, putting the planet and our team first. We are extremely grateful for the dedication of our team and the support from our customers.
Beyond this, joining the WWF 2030 Circle was a proud moment and a big milestone for us. We are honoured to be a partner of WWF and their ‘Trillion Trees’ programme, specifically dedicated to restoring natural habitats and ecosystems that have been lost over the last several decades due to human intrusion and destruction. Our annual philanthropic pledge is collectively helping to raise £10 million by 2030 for this project. This vital funding will help re-establish the right trees in the right places to conserve biodiversity, sustain ecosystems, capture enough carbon to tackle climate change, and lift people out of poverty and food insecurity.
We also have set a series of CSR goals over the next few years and continue to work hard behind the scenes to ensure we are as sustainable as possible.
Do you have any advice for brands looking to cut plastic out of their supply chain?
To just do it - small steps are the only way to move forward. It may seem daunting, but every elimination of plastic is vital. I think there is often a misconception that it is easier, and maybe cheaper, to opt for less environmentally-friendly options, however this just isn’t the case. There are so many wonderful plastic-free alternatives out there, like Flexi-Hex®, that make choosing sustainable packaging materials easy and accessible. Investing in good quality packaging has meant our return rates have always been low due to reducing the number breakages in transit, making the overall business model more cost effective, and of course, sustainable.
Also, work with your suppliers to ensure parts or deliveries received are plastic-free. We have really good relationships with our suppliers, meaning we can work together to develop alternatives to plastic, that they have now adopted and rolled out across their other clients.
You are currently working to become a carbon neutral business. How are you finding that process?
We started this long before the word “sustainability” was fashionable. For us, this is a calling and not just a business. A calling that we put our heart and soul into, and have done for over a decade. Becoming carbon neutral is one of several goals we are working towards, and so far, the process has been really interesting and informative, and actually very rewarding to see how our values have meant that we’re starting from a good place. There is still some work to do but we are really excited to make the necessary changes.
Whilst we are working to reduce as much of our business emissions as we can, we also wanted to consider our workforce’s impact. So, we decided to partner with Ecologi to offset the emissions from our team's personal and professional lives, whilst also helping to fight various climate projects around the world.
"Since adopting Flexi-Hex packaging it’s rare for us to get a returned mirror - so I’d say we chose Flexi-Hex for its quality, problem-solving ability!"
Why did you choose Flexi-Hex and what have been the main benefits?
The Flexi-Hex packaging has enabled us to continue our plastic-free packaging journey with ease. Glass, being a delicate and notoriously difficult material to transport globally, used to be a concern for our logistics team. No matter how well packaged, we were still experiencing breakages in transit. Since adopting the Flexi-Hex packaging it’s rare for us to get a returned mirror - so I’d say we chose Flexi-Hex for its quality, problem-solving ability! Our customers often comment how impressed they are by our packaging solutions. We also love that Flexi-Hex are local, not far from our Falmouth workshop. We are great advocates of supporting and championing like-minded Cornish businesses, as this not only makes our carbon footprint smaller, but means we get to support our local communities.
Any tips for sustainable Christmas decorations?
To think natural, in all senses of the word. Sustainably crafted Christmas decorations still bring festive joy, whilst being kind to the planet. Use natural foliage (instead of faux) and search for windfallen branches instead of chopping and damaging trees. Another tip is to buy a potted Christmas tree that you can plant out in the garden and then bring back inside the following season.