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A sweet deal

From sustainable sourcing to reducing emissions, Butlers Chocolates' efforts go far beyond Fairtrade

Article appeared in issue 5, 2020

The first product to be Fairtrade certified back in 1994 was a chocolate bar. It was followed in quick succession by coffee, and then tea. It's little wonder, then, that ethical sourcing and responsible environmental practises are core principles for Butlers Chocolates.

“Sustainability is a hugely important driver of everything that we do in Butlers, it has been for many years, and sustainability initiatives are increasingly important as time goes on in informing our thoughts and decisions,” explains marketing director, Aisling Walsh.

The family-owned Butlers Chocolates was established in 1932, and produces chocolate assortments and gift boxes, as well as impulse items such as bars and sugar confectionery, from its operation in Clonshaugh in north Dublin. Butlers Chocolates are available in over 30 countries and the company also has a retail arm, Butlers Chocolate Cafés, with 24 outlets in Ireland, and franchises in the Middle East and South Asia.

All of the company's chocolate is made from sustainably sourced cocoa procured under Cocoa Horizons, a programme that works directly with farmers to ensure they receive a fair premium for their cocoa, and helps them to build better farming communities through sustainable, entrepreneurial farming, improved productivity and community development.

All coffee served in its cafés is Fairtrade accredited and the last couple of years have seen major progress in the area of packaging: all takeaway cups are fully recyclable and discounts are offered to customers who bring a reusable cup. Plus, they are sourced and printed in Ireland. Their signature complimentary chocolate is now presented in a recyclable mini paper bag.

“Our chocolate box packaging is recyclable as much as possible. One major area that saw massive change in 2020 was Easter egg packaging, whereby we moved from recyclable PET holders in our wrapped eggs to recyclable card holders. In addition, these eggs were tied with ribbons created from recycled plastic bottles.”

When it comes to energy saving and emissions, here the company is making great strides, too. “Our factory in Clonshaugh is home to Ireland’s largest solar panel installation in an industrial premises.” The installation covers approximately 28,500 square feet and generates over 350,000kWh of electricity. “Solar power creates in excess of 15% of our annual electricity needs – that’s enough energy to make over three million bars of chocolate. Through the installation of CHP (Combined Heat and Power) and improvement in processes, we have reduced energy and water consumption per kilogramme of chocolate produced.” The company installed new valves and taps which led to a 15% reduction in water usage, and it has achieved zero waste to landfill.

The company is a member of environmental agency Repak, and Origin Green, the food and drink sustainability programme, which pushes it to formally review and set sustainability goals annually which are then independently verified. “Sustainability is important to us because it is the right thing to do,” Aisling concludes. “We care about the environment and our impact on it. We care about our staff, our customers and all those with whom we interact. We also care about the future and recognise that our actions and what we do today contribute to the future, and so thinking about the environment and sustainable practices is something that is part of what we do every day.”