Ethical sourcing: making every purchase count

July 9, 2024

Keel toys available from the Gift Shop at Marwell Zoo

Dr Duncan East, Marwell Wildlife’s Head of Sustainability, talks about how the charity is delivering on its sustainability ambitions across the organisation. 

Marwell have been practising ethical and sustainable sourcing of gifts, food and materials for many years and this has been gradually expanding into all areas of our organisation. We were early adopters of certification schemes like Fair Trade and Rainforest Alliance for tea, coffee and snacks. Meanwhile, our gift shop has been striving to source gifts which put money back into the communities which produce them – working with suppliers like Sunlover, a fair trade gift supplier of handmade artisan goods who also support local charities in the regions they source their gifts from.  

Soft toys are our most popular gift but these are mostly made from synthetic fabrics. Over the last couple of years, we have been changing over to a range of soft toys made from recycled plastic bottles. Approximately two thirds of our soft toys sold are made from recycled fabric and we are replacing more with recycled alternatives as they become available.  

New in 2023 we started selling gift packs of beer and true to our ethos of supporting local businesses we chose Flower Pots Brewery as our supplier, who are located only 7 miles from Marwell. Neatly packaged in cardboard carrying cases they help us to minimise packaging waste as well as delivery miles. 

Ethical sourcing is also embedded through our catering outlets. Alongside the Fair Trade teas and coffee, our catering and retail teams have added Fair Trade chocolates and this year are introducing a range of cakes freshly made in-house with Fair Trade sugar and UK-sourced free range eggs and flour. For other ingredients, our fish is from sustainable sources certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), our meat comes from a local butcher who delivers in an electric van and we also serve a range of plant-based options for those aiming to reduce their carbon footprint further.

Selection of food available from Cafe Graze at Marwell Zoo. Credit Paul Collins
Family eating at Cafe Graze Marwell Zoo Credit Paul Collins

As a conservation charity we are concerned for the welfare of the animals in our supply chain as well as those here at Marwell and those in the wild. We therefore aim for the highest standards we can when ordering meat for our catering outlets and for feeding our animals. The fish for our penguins Spheniscus humboldti and otters Aonyx cinerea is also from sustainable sources and the vet team have a detailed set of criteria to ensure meat we feed to the carnivores has come from animals which have not been mistreated or intensively farmed.  

Penguin eating a fish at Marwell Zoo
Otter eating at Marwell Zoo

We are currently creating a sustainable and ethical purchasing team across all departments to see which areas can be improved further and where we can introduce more reuse options for non-perishable goods, such as more reusable cups and bottles.