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World Environment Day 5th June 2020 by Anne Veck and Keith Mellen of Anne Veck Salons, Oxford

June 04, 2020

The UN declared 2020 as the start of the Decade of Action; a global campaign to rescue the planet, end poverty and build a more peaceful, conscious world.

It outlines the fact that over the next decade, we need to find real, lasting solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing the planet – including climate change, inequality and sustainability.

This might be the official start of the Decade of Action – but for us it’s a continuation of our long-held belief in the importance of sustainability within the profession of hairdressing.

Hairdressing is an industry that can really make a difference; it’s a significant user of energy and chemicals and is also a sector that has historically been undervalued and faced issues with fair pay, legislation, professionalism and employment.

We recognised this a long time ago and have slowly but surely been working to make our salon the most sustainable business it can be – from making conscious environmental decisions, to committing to fair pay and personal development for our team.

The changes we have made have not just had a positive impact on the world, but on our business too. For us, success means being profitable, while being sustainable.

We like to think that Anne Veck Limited is a model for the salon business of the future– in a world where being kind resonates with customers and is key to success.

How we bring our belief system to life…

… In the salon

Our sustainable salon makeover is detailed in our case study, but we have worked hard as a business to rethink all aspects of the traditional salon experience and propose ethical, green and sustainable alternatives.

This has earned us the prestigious Carbon Footprint Standard; certifying us as the UK’s first and only carbon-neutral hairdresser. This year, we achieved our second certification and have since been named Carbon Neutral +, which means we now offset more CO2 than we produce.

The Carbon Footprint Standard is globally acknowledged as an independent certification of a company’s energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions. It demonstrates to the industry and wider world that we have not only adopted best practice, but also shown real achievements in managing and reducing our carbon emissions and usage.

We are very proud to receive this certification, but we also know that the work does not stop here. We will continue to reduce our environmental impact even further and help showcase the positive difference the entire hairdressing industry can make to the environment.

World Environment Day 5th June 2020 by Anne Veck and Keith Mellen of Anne Veck Salons, Oxford

Environmental fact:

Average carbon emissions for a business: 3.5 tonnes per employee

Anne Veck carbon emissions: 1.2 tonnes per employee

…. with our team

Sustainability doesn’t just extend to the planet; it impacts people too. That’s why we’re so proud to be the first certified Living Wage Employer in the industry.

We pay the Living Wage because it is the right thing to do and because it helps us recruit and retain great people. It tells our employees that we value them, and it helps them meet Oxford’s high living costs.

We pay all our employees over the age of 18 (except apprentices), the real Living Wage of £9.30/hour. Of course, our professionals earn a lot more than this, but it is a very attractive proposition for potential new recruits who are concerned about total earnings early on when they are building a client base and commissions will be lower. 

In order to pay competitive wages, hairdressing prices have to reflect the real cost of the service. Hairdressing is a high value service, and should be carried out by highly-qualified professionals who are officially licensed, well-paid and who contribute to healthy profits for salon owners – or if independent contractors or freelancers, for themselves. Offer higher wages, get great employees. What’s not to like?

With the Covid-19 crisis, we also committed to retaining every one of our team by using the Government’s furlough payments of 80% to help get us through to reopening. There will be no redundancies. Being ethical doesn’t stop when things get tough, and it’s important for our team to know that.

… in the industry

It’s important for us that our creative work is in line with our beliefs and continues to spread our message of sustainability. This is a lifelong commitment and personal belief system, so it goes without saying that it should be reflected in the work we create.

We also aim to motivate the wider industry into more sustainable choices through sharing our beliefs in an accessible, inspirational way. We know that the topic can be heavy and wanted to produce a visual metaphor for the challenges the planet is facing in a way that was impactful and made others think.

Our Toxic Fashion collection highlights the environmental and ethical damage caused by the fashion industry today; modern slavery, deadly working conditions, pollution, the destruction of the planet and climate change. We created a series of images and a film to inspire other salon owners and hairdressers to get real about the mess we’re creating and to take personal responsibility for fixing it.

As an ethical, sustainable hairdresser, Anne loves finding and making things with upcycled materials. For this collection, she challenged herself to create a shoot using only found materials sourced through beachcombing and clearing a local fly tipping spot.

The shoot has been shared within the industry at shows, in print and during education seminars, but we’ve also looked outside hairdressing to share the message. The collection is shortlisted for The Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition and was exhibited (online!) as part of Oxfordshire Art Week.

It is our core belief that businesses should operate sustainably, and that doing this is good for business. 

One of our key approaches to becoming more sustainable was a full-scale salon makeover to implement equipment, suppliers and practices that would drastically reduce our impact on the planet. 

Here are some of the innovations we’ve brought to the salon which have drastically improved our environmental footprint and allowed us to achieve carbon neutral certification. It’s important to say that these sustainable practices still allow us to offer a luxury salon experience – just without a cost to the planet.

World Environment Day 5th June 2020 by Anne Veck and Keith Mellen of Anne Veck Salons, Oxford 1

Energy and carbon emissions

We think that because of hairdressing’s high use of energy, reducing this should be a priority for every salon.

We buy our gas and electricity from Ecotricity. Their gas is generated from waste and algae and their electricity comes entirely from their own company-owned renewable sources.

Our BlueGen ceramic fuel cell is a clever bit of kit which essentially acts as a mini power station, converting gas to electricity and heating both water and the salon at an extremely high efficiency rate.

Installing this has reduced the salon’s energy consumption and carbon emissions by 50% and 40% (4 tonnes CO2/year) respectively and saves £3,000 on the bottom line annually. It is recognised by the government as a producer of greener electricity, qualifying us to receive Feed-In-Tariff payments, totalling £2,500/year.

It also produces one cylinder’s worth of hot water (200 litres) each day as bi product, further reducing our energy consumption. All of our water pipes are insulated, to conserve energy.

We use LED lighting both inside and out, reducing our carbon emissions by 10% (1 tonne CO2 /year.) In the loo we have motion-activated lights, which saves more electricity.

We buy our telephone and broadband from Green Minutes, who use green energy and offsetting to reduce their carbon emissions to zero.

Sustainable suppliers

We have switched as many of the salon’s suppliers as possible to green options.

This year, we chose not to renew our contract with our main manufacturer (with the ambassadorship and financial benefits that came with it), and instead stock the eco-friendly brand, Davines; not as a profile account but as a regular customer buying from the wholesaler. It is more important for us as a business to have a full offering of sustainable and ethical products in line with our core values, than a profile with a different manufacturer.

Since moving to Davines, haircare sales are up 23% and colour services have increased 6%*. (*Comparing Feb 19 with Feb 20).

We use Balmain hair extensions, which have recycled packaging and eco-friendly wet products. We use Paper Not Foil; the sustainable, recycled paper alternative to foils.

We have EasyDry bio-degradeable towels, which saves the salon 58,500 litres of water/year and our Scirocco water extractor – also known as the ‘hair hoover’ – drastically reduces cotton towel usage and the associated laundry costs and energy use. Combined, we have reduced use of towels to almost zero.

We use Seacourt Ltd for closed cycle, water free printing – although we aim to be paper-free where possible (e.g. no printed price lists).

Finally, we use Who Gives a Crap recycled bamboo loo paper, with no ink, dyes or scents and a 50% contribution to the construction of toilets in developing countries.

World Environment Day 5th June 2020 by Anne Veck and Keith Mellen of Anne Veck Salons, Oxford 2
Sustainable salon life

Elsewhere in the salon, we have found plenty of other small ways to make a difference.

  • The Ecosia internet search engine uses profits to plant trees.
  • We try to reduce use of emails as much as possible (64 million unnecessary emails  are sent each day in the UK, contributing 23,475 tonnes CO2/year).
  • We use eco cleaning products and provide only Fairtrade refreshments.
  • We use Ecoheads backwash filters to reduce pollution and water use, as well as enhancing the client experience.
  • All waste is recycled where possible. Organic waste goes to the local anaerobic digester, which generates energy. Non-recyclables are incinerated for energy (not ideal, but better than landfill).
  • We have soap, not handwash.
  • The salon is a Refill Centre, offering free water refills to the public to cut down on single use plastic.
  • Each team member is given a bag for life, made from recycled ocean plastic and containing sustainable lifestyle products.
  • Each stylist and apprentice has completed the Southampton University Sustainable Stylist certificate.
  • We are a Good Salon Guide approved Eco Salon.
  • We encourage team members to walk, cycle or use public transport – and only one now drives.
  • We are a corporate sponsor of the local wildlife trust, working to save nature.