New Green Radicals: Louisa Ziane

Louisa Ziane co-founded Toast Ale with Tristram Stuart in 2015, and is now the company’s global brand and sustainability director. Toast brews beer using waste bread, recycles its hops as garden waste, and sends spent grains to a local farmer for cattle feed. Since its launch, Toast estimates it has saved one million slices of bread from landfill.

Do you think it’s important we respond to the climate emergency?

As the proverb says, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second-best time is now. We have known for decades that the climate is changing due to human activity, but have failed to take sufficient action. We are now faced with a climate and ecological emergency that is already impacting the lives of millions. We have to take action, and far faster than we have in the past.

Why do you think we need green radicals at a time like this?

Business as usual, even with adjustment, is not an option. We need systemic change, which requires visionary leadership. We need to be able to understand the root causes of problems and to lead disruptive change. That change is not going to be easy – current systems are deeply entrenched. The industrial food system for example, is designed for profit, not to feed people and nourish the planet. That has to change.

How would you define a green radical?

An individual, or group of individuals, with a clear purpose and single-mindedness to work for that purpose. They fearlessly challenge the status quo and find creative, innovative solutions for the problems we face.

Do you regard yourself as a green radical?

Toast was founded to positively disrupt. We create planet-saving craft beer with surplus fresh bread and reinvest the proceeds into charities fixing the food system. We work with bakeries and brewers, demonstrating how circular business reaches beyond industry boundaries to find innovative solutions.

How has your organisation taken a radical approach to environmental action?

As a purpose-driven certified B Corp, we’ve made a legal commitment to people and the planet. This is core to how we do business. We’ve open-sourced our recipe and collaborate with breweries all over the world to share our expertise and magnify our impact. Food waste is a global problem, so collaboration is critical.

We invest all profits in charities working to solve systemic problems in the food chain; problems that require legal and regulatory change, changes to business policies and practices, and changes to our individual behaviours. We also set up Equity For Good, requiring investors to reinvest net profits in purpose-driven businesses with an environmental mission. We’re radical in our willingness to speak openly and loudly about the need for positive action. And what better way to start a conversation than over a cheeky pint.

How do you build the business case for radical change?

We face an extreme future within our lifetimes. Either extreme changes to the climate, the natural world, and all life on Earth, or extreme changes to the way our societies, including businesses, operate. There is no business case for inertia

What’s the biggest barrier to you making change?

Like most sectors of the economy, our industry is dominated by big business. These businesses control a large part of the market and put pressures on cost for everyone. Unfortunately, the full environmental and social cost is not embedded in their products and services. It can make operating a small purpose-driven business very challenging. Finding an authentic differentiator that resonates with customers is key.

How have customers, employees and stakeholders responded?

People want to work for companies that align with their personal values. Most of our team joined Toast because they felt passionate about our mission (as well as the fun of working for a beer company). We hold each other to account, so we don’t stray from our purpose. We’re not perfect, but we’ve created a working environment that respects everyone and welcomes diverse opinions.

People want to buy from businesses that they can trust to be acting in the best interests of the planet, and who make it easier for them to do their bit. We’ve focused on creating high-quality beers so that drinkers don’t have to make the choice between great taste and a beer that’s doing good in the world. Our customers see it as win-win.

Which area of the economy do you think is most in need of radical change?

Industrial agriculture is dependent on stripping the earth of resources and polluting the soil, air and water systems. Food production is responsible for
80% of deforestation, 70% of freshwater use, 30% of greenhouse gas emissions and is the largest contributor to soil erosion and biodiversity loss. Yet one-third of food goes to waste whilst millions of people are obese or undernourished.

Who are the green radicals that inspire you today?

Tristram Stuart, environmental campaigner and founder of the charity Feedback and Toast Ale. Charmian Love, co-founder of B Corp UK. John Elkington, father of the ‘triple bottom line’ concept. James Thornton, environmental lawyer and founder of Client Earth. Douglas McMaster, founder of zero waste restaurants, Silo and Cub.

What one radical thing would you like people to do right now to change our future?

Call on your local council, employer or pension provider to divest from fossil fuels.

This interview forms part of a series of interviews that were published in a new report, New Green Radicals: The business leaders responding to the climate emergency. The report follows last year’s ‘Meet the Disruptors’ and 2017’s ‘Secrets of the Pioneers’ reports, and this year features interviews with entrepreneurs, leaders and creators who are providing radical solutions to the climate crisis.

The report is produced by Greenhouse PR in association with BusinessGreen and was launched at the BusinessGreen Leaders’ Summit on October 23rd. Follow live on social media with #NewGreenRadicals.

At Greenhouse, we support a wide variety of organisations pioneering climate action. Whether it’s fashion, finance or farming, if you’ve got a great story and need our help to tell it, get in touch with the Greenhouse team on 0117 214 1250 or email info@greenhousepr.co.uk.

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