Hovis Company Review

January 12, 2017

Welcome to the Hovis company review. In this series of articles, we put the spotlight on businesses that we think are doing ambitious and honourable things for the environment. These features will cover aspects like corporate social responsibility, sustainability, green credentials, carbon reduction measures, recycling, reuse and reduction efforts, supply chain responsibility, and more.

Each category will be scored out of 20, to give a total score out of 100.

Hovis has been baking and milling for more than 130 years. With that wealth of experience has come a loyal customer base, more than 3,500 employees, and more than 1 million loaves of bread being baked every day. With all of that going on, do they have time for sustainability? Are they winning any green awards? What’s their CSR like? Are they attempting to reduce their carbon footprint? Is their packaging recyclable? What happens to byproducts? We will attempt to answer all of this in our Hovis company review.


Score: 12%

Hovis now uses a sugarcane-based renewable polyethylene bag for its Seed Sensations range. The bag, which has a 75% lower carbon footprint than traditional bread bags, was developed by Australian firm Amcor Flexibles. “The Hovis brand has always stood for goodness and healthy products. From its launch, we have focused on the nutritional benefits of the wheat germ” Richard McQuillan, Hovis marketing manager, told Packaging Digest. “When Amcor presented the renewable PE project to us, we saw an obvious fit for Hovis as we look for ways in which we can reduce environmental impacts through packaging format changes.” Their packaging is now 100% recyclable, and is being redesigned to make the recycling logo clearer and more encouraging. Their packaging also indicates freezing guidelines, in a bid to reduce food waste. Bread bag recycling bins set up at many major supermarkets. The biggest question we have is why they only use the sugarcane-based renewable plastic bag for the Seed Sensations range, and not for all of their bread packaging. Is it too expensive? Is it hard to get enough of the material? We can’t answer that because their corporate transparency is low.

Green Credentials

Score: 12%

Signatory of the Climate Change 2017 Part of the Courtauld Commitment 2025 Won training programme of the year 2014 Part of the Food Waste Reduction Roadmap, a group of 90 UK organisations committed to reducing by 50% before 2030.

Corporate Social Responsibility Test

Score: 15%

Working with Zero Waste Scotland on a waste mapping project for their Glasgow bakery. Training more than 600 bakers each year with valuable skills, embracing both the resurgence of baking thanks to ‘The Great British Bake-Off’, and the lack of skilled bakers in the industry. Interestingly, during their Gender Pay Gap report for 2017, it found that whilst just 9% of their employees were female, they were paid on average 8.3% more than men. After significant profit losses in recent years, the company decided to sell two of their mills and close another one. This reorganisation of mills managed to save many jobs, but some were lost in the process. Hovis took action to support colleagues who had lost their jobs helping to minimize the impacts on them. These decisions saved the company, and losses have been massively reduced. Targeted by ‘Real Bread Campaign’ for misleading TV advertising that showed small-scale bakeries producing the rolls that we see in the shops, instead of the truth, that they are industrial loaves. This complaint was rejected by the Advertising Standards Authority, but we believe it was justified. Most staff are permanent and locally sourced, with few temporary staff and 3rd party services used.

Carbon Footprint

Score: 13%

The first Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) brand to introduce all-electric vehicles to their fleet, with the deployment of two FUSO eCanter light lorries from Daimler. They have improved vehicle routing and load management to remove more than two million road miles from logistics operations as of March 2018. Attempted to reach 100% British wheat supply, but consecutive poor harvests meant this was not possible. Most materials are sourced in the UK and EU. New packaging has a 75% lower carbon footprint than previous options. The Climate Change Agreements and the Food and Drinks Agency took legal action against Hovis in 2016 for failing to meet their carbon reduction targets. Upon further inspection, the penalty was overturned, as it was revealed that the prosecution had miscalculated energy savings data. Lawyer John Cooper said: "We are pleased to have succeeded in securing a positive outcome for Hovis in this appeal. Hovis takes its climate change obligations very seriously and is fully compliant with them, and the Environment Agency's penalty notice never had any legal justification.”

Recycling, Reuse, Reduction

Score: 9%

Extract from BBC: Hovis bread carried out a project in 2008 in conjunction with Wrap to see why people wasted pre-packed bread and bakery goods. Ian Bowles, group head of Sustainability at Premier Foods, which owns Hovis, says the figures suggest people buy more than they need. "It's a reasonably low-priced commodity and rather than run out, they prefer to have too much than too little. It's like milk on a morning, you don't really want to run out of milk and so you always make sure you've got plenty in. It's just the staples that people don't want to run out of." Complete packaging overhaul in order to make the bread bags recyclable, as previously they were not. Packaging made from a sugarcane-based material.

Total Eco Score

Score: 61%