In November 2021 we made the decision to donate all of our end of year profits directly to UK conservation projects. This is not a substitute for growing the business – we invest in the business throughout the year – instead it is a commitment to lead by example in our sector and put the planet before profit. Ordinarily a business’s end of year profits are retained by the business or paid to the directors as dividends (sometimes both), the directors at Petalon are motivated not by profit but by taking every possible opportunity to help futureproof our planet. Find out more about who we’ve supported here.
To elaborate, as of February 2023, we were the very first B Corp certified florist in the UK, the first one certified in Europe, indeed only the second certified B Corp florist in the world. We are very proud of this fact.
Certified B Corporations, or B Corps, are companies verified by B Lab to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. Businesses go through a grueling assessment – which in our case took over a year and a half – to analyse the different facets of their organisation and their strengths and weaknesses when it comes to each of these factors. Scores are attributed to each area and then combined to see whether the total score meets the B Corp threshold. This is the technical explanation, but for us the more important layman’s terms definition is that B Corp certification is a means of not having to take an organisation’s word for it that they’re doing business the right way. We aim to lead by example.
There is no place for plastic packaging near flowers, or arguably anywhere, anymore. Wrapping our flowers in biodegradable materials has been a no brainer for us from day one. Yes, it can be more expensive, but we think the planet is worth it. We have experimented with many different recyclable and biodegradable wrapping materials over the years and are very proud to say that today, every single piece of our packaging can be put in your compost bin.
Here on the farm in Cornwall we have three large composting bays where we compost absolutely every single bit of green waste we make, together with the cardboard flower boxes we receive from our suppliers. Not only does this create something really valuable for us – wonderfully nutrient-rich compost – it also helps us reduce our greenhouse emissions. How exactly? Chucking something like a bunch of flowers in the bin doesn’t feel like a big deal for the environment, because it breaks down, right? Well, yes, but greenhouse gas emissions actually increase when organic matter is buried in landfill, because without air, the decomposing process produces methane. Methane is a greenhouse gas, meaning its presence in the atmosphere contributes to the earth’s temperature and climate system. Methane is able to absorb far more heat than CO2, making it 25% more powerful than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere, with a global warming potential 84 times greater than CO2 in a 20 year time frame. Which is why you’ll never find us sending our green waste to landfill and we hope to encourage our customers to do the same.
We see a responsibility to increase ecological complexity and wildlife on the land we manage, not destroy it. Of the 85 acres of land we currently manage, half of it is left to local wildlife. On the land we use to grow, we have spent enormous amounts of time and effort (literal blood, sweat and tears) developing ways of scaling flower farming in a responsible and sustainable way. We only use no-dig practices on our flower beds, which avoids turning over the soil, preserving fungi and bacteria which helps promote biodiversity and sequesters carbon. By building beds on top of what’s already there we preserve this soil life and even feed it from above. This method involves putting a layer of biodegradable material like cardboard on top of the soil and then adding a layer of soil-feeding green waste on top. The cardboard then breaks down enough for the flowers’ roots to reach the soil below but remains intact enough to suppress weeds and grass.
We use a reactive strategy for pests as opposed to a preventative one and when treatment is needed this is done entirely free from harmful chemicals and pesticides, using certified organic nematodes. Our mixed herd graze the land and fertilise the soil in a sustainable way.
As of October 2021 our business and all of our products are certified carbon neutral with ClimatePartner. Once we have grown our flowers and packaged them up for delivery, there’s no getting around the fact that we need vehicles to deliver them across the UK. We engaged ClimatePartner to help us calculate all of the business’s emissions. This involved looking at all our various actions on site but also at where our imported flowers come from and crucially, where they end up. We can’t just assume that because the product is all compostable that everyone is actually composting them. Instead we assume the average behaviour and offset those monsters who put their cardboard in the black bin.With the calculations made we chose two projects to offset the carbon we are currently producing (plus an extra 10%, for good measure). In Britain we’re supporting a variety of afforestation programs across the country while in Nicaragua we’re supporting the planting of native giant clumping bamboo.
Our products can be divided in to two offerings: our Signature Bouquets and our Field Flowers. Our Field Flowers are seasonal, homegrown flowers, grown by us on our farm and available roughly April – November or as long as the field is still giving us flowers. Our Signature Bouquets are available all year round and during our season April – November we strive to make as many stems in those bouquets homegrown too. Just three years after we began growing our own flowers, we’ve been able to offer 100% Cornish grown signature bouquets and we continue to expand our growing operation to ensure we can do this as much as possible and for as long as possible throughout the year, which has the dual benefit of reducing our reliance on imported flowers as well as our carbon footprint. In order for us to offer our bouquets and employment all-year round, we import flowers from places where they grow plentifully through winter in heated glasshouses or warmer climates. We do this to supplement our bouquets when we don’t have the availability of homegrown flowers, to create the standard and size of bouquet our customers expect, or we use wholly imported flowers during the winter months when we are unable to grow flowers in Cornwall.