Meet Simon, our Head of Properness

Posted in Environment, Our Community, Our Growers, Rainforest Alliance.

Meet Simon Hotchkin. He’s our new Sustainability Manager. To be honest, Simon’s job title should really be Head of Properness. His role, at the heart of our Commodities Team, is to ensure that we not only continue to be fair to our suppliers and kind to the environment, but also find ways we can improve further still, right across the business.

So who is Simon? Well, he’s a family man and Yorkshire through and through. Born in sunny Scarborough on the North Yorkshire coast, Simon spent most of his childhood around Beverley and now lives in Wetherby, just down the road from Harrogate. Simon met his wife at University and has three cracking kids.

After a brief stint buying heart valves and pacemakers for the NHS, Simon got a taste for purchasing of a different kind and trained to be a tea and coffee buyer at another UK tea and coffee importer. In his 14 years there, he spent time in operations, manufacturing and new product design before finally spending his last four years there dedicated to sustainability.

Simon is a bit of a catch for us as he’s managed to amass experience right across the business of tea and coffee importing and blending. That’s unusual, but Simon is rather unusual. For example, he’s a bit of an iron man as he swam for Yorkshire, last year started open water swimming (he’s entered the Great North Swim in Windermere this year) and is a keen road and mountain biker. He’s into rubber too and is the only person we know who was in a team that space-hoppered the entire Pennine Way… all 260-odd miles of it. On reflection, unusual might not be the right word to describe him. So what is Simon looking forward to in his new job?

“I’m really proud to be working for the premier Yorkshire brand. It’s all about quality here. My main challenge is to not only carry on with the ethical work Taylors already does, such as developing sustainable sourcing policies with our suppliers, but also to balance that with social and environmental responsibility right through the supply chain. Sustainability through everything we do.”

Simon also mentioned that his other challenge is to not put weight on, as there are some rather tempting and sticky accompaniments to his mug of Yorkshire Tea in the staff canteen at the factory. The cycling and swimming should offset that.

Whilst not exactly offsetting, Simon adds “Here in Harrogate, we already make big efforts to reduce the amount of packaging, our carbon footprint and energy consumption. I’m going to look at every aspect of what we do to see if I can reduce it still further.”

But it’s not all about reducing our impact here, tremendous care and effort goes into ensuring we trade fairly and respectfully with our growers abroad and pay them fair prices. That’s why it’s essential that our buyers, and Simon, travel the world meeting growers at their tea gardens to get a better understanding of their tea, forge meaningful, sustainable long-term partnerships and also secure the best quality tea for our blends. By also having strong partnerships with independent certification schemes such as the Rainforest Alliance, we can quickly help make a real difference to growers and their communities. In fact, we aim to help 100% of our suppliers become Rainforest Alliance certified by 2014.

We’ll let Simon have the final say: “I’m really excited about meeting our growers. I’m fairly well travelled in Africa, India and Sri Lanka, so I’m looking forward to discovering China and South America. In particular, I’m looking forward to launching a couple of exciting new projects which hopefully will be as effective as the one with our Rwanda tea producers which helped improve the lives of 10,000 small-scale farmers and their families.”

At that point we had to cut Simon off and swear him to secrecy, but we’ll be announcing details of our new projects soon. Good luck in your new job Simon – we’re really looking forward to you making a difference. If you’d like to give Simon a good luck message, feel free to leave one below.

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