Me and My Brand: Ruth Forbes of JTI

Responsible business is about creating a sustainable environment for future generations, says Ruth Forbes, Head of Responsible Business Projects at JTI, as she explains the ways in which the company is progressing

Ruth Forbes

Can you please give an overview of JTI UK’s sustainability ambitions?

As the UK’s leading total tobacco company, JTI is committed to fostering a sustainable environment for future generations. Last year, we launched our UK Environmental Plan, which includes several ambitious sustainability targets across five key focus areas: emissions, energy, waste, water and stakeholder engagement.

This includes pledging to become Net Zero in our UK operations by 2030 – 20 years ahead of the Government’s current deadline (2050). We are also committing to increasing recycling rates of general waste to 75% and reducing general waste by 20% – helping to save 22.8 tonnes of waste being generated and recycling an additional 21.2 tonnes each year by 2030. By the end of this decade, we will also have transitioned our sales fleet to electric vehicles – helping to save 776 tonnes of CO2e emissions – the equivalent to 155 hot air balloons per year.

Why is sustainability so important to JTI?

 It has never been more important for companies to think and act sustainably, not just for the good of the industry, but for society. Businesses across sectors need to bring greenhouse gas emissions to net-zero by the government’s 2050 deadline. While this is still some time away, the issue demands attention now and at JTI UK we are committed to leading the way.

How are your sustainability plans progressing across the JTI product portfolio business?

We have built a new Global Sustainability Programme Team of experts across different functions, including scientific, R&D, marketing, and procurement. The team helps accelerate our progress towards becoming a more sustainable business and its primary role is to reduce the environmental impact of our product portfolio. This new approach has seen our tobacco business committing to reducing its packaging (including plastic), ensuring it’s 85% reusable or recyclable by 2025, rising to 100% by 2030.

How is JTI  and the tobacco market currently performing (post pandemic)?

Despite a challenging year, the overall tobacco market still continues to be one of the biggest and most resilient FMCG categories in the UK and a category that drives footfall and revenue for retailers nationwide. JTI is currently the No.1 tobacco manufacturer in the UK with a combined market share of 46.1%.  JTI’s RMC share stands at 44.8% and 47.7% for RYO.

Does JTI have any new product development that aligns with your sustainability goals?

In 2020, we executed our most environmentally friendly launch to date to introduce Ploom to the UK market. We married up a premium product proposition with truly sustainable launch materials to create a compelling revenue opportunity for retailers. For example, all secondary packaging produced for Ploom S within the UK is made from recycled materials or can easily be recycled at the end of life. This includes product presentation boxes and infills, which are 100% recyclable.

The latest addition to the Sterling family, Sterling Rolling Tobacco Essential 30g, comes in paper insert pouch packaging that contains less aluminium. The blend generates less leaf waste compared to other RYO brands due to its unique whole leaf blend. Any Sterling Rolling Tobacco Essential POSM that customers will have received will have been printed on recycled FSC-accredited paper.

How have you supported environmental sustainability to date?

Sustainability is high on our agenda. Last year, we announced the launch of our new UK Environmental Plan 2030 and informed retailers of the targets we have set to improve the social and environmental impact of our operations. By communicating our commitments, we hope to encourage retailers to start their own journey towards becoming a more environmentally sustainable business.

We also have an exciting project in the pipeline which will see us working closer with some of our customers to help improve their in-store and in-depot sustainability credentials. We’ll announce further details in due course.

How important are independent retailers to your business and why should they care about sustainability?

We know that shoppers are becoming more environmentally conscious, being a more sustainable business will not only help retailers stand out from the crowd and attract environmentally conscious customers to their stores, but it can also reduce monthly outgoings. There’s no better time than now to start operating more sustainably.

We are committed to supporting the environmental sustainability of our retail customers. Sustainability is a factor in our day-to-day decisions and that’s why we’re making changes – such as offering independent retailers digital receipts and ensuring only FSC-accredited paper and card is used in our POSM.

What are JTI doing to support the wider industry?

As a global company, we understand that climate change represents a truly global threat to the future of our businesses and communities worldwide. We can make the most significant positive difference if we all work together to protect the environment. Recently, JTI has been working on a new Partner to Trade sustainability project with the UK’s leading Responsible Business Network, Business in the Community (BITC). The project involves working with retailers and wholesalers to spread the word on practical steps towards becoming more sustainable in a retail environment.

Describe your brand in three words…

 Responsible, innovative, leaders.