Baby Spice, we talk to Emma Bunton about her foray into the business of sustainable baby kit...
In early press shots, Emma Bunton is all smiles. And when you cast your mind back to the (suddenly surprisingly distant) mid-90s, the heyday of Bunton’s band the Spice Girls, it’s easy to see why: not only was the group conquering the globe with its mix of catchy, character-driven pop and “girl power”, but Bunton was everyone’s favourite member. She was, after all, Baby Spice – sweetly innocent, innocuous, everyone’s kid sister or best friend. She wasn’t mouthy, like Ginger or Scary, nor moody, like Posh. She wasn’t against-the-grain, like Sporty Spice. Emma was Baby, and no one in Britain seemed to find anything bad to say or think about her whatsoever.
So it makes sense that Ms Bunton would still be happy now. Over 20 years have passed since the Spice Girls first hit the charts, and Baby Spice is now a happily married mother of two, with an offshoot career as a radio DJ (she co-hosts the Heart FM breakfast show with Jamie Theakston), a much-anticipated new tour with the band, and a burgeoning business of her own eco-friendly nappies.
Nappies, wipes, nappy bags and skincare to be exact, all of which are produced by Bunton’s company, Kit & Kin, according to the highest principles of sustainability and eco-consciousness. Kit & Kin products are almost entirely biodegradable, which makes them better for the planet, and they’re also dermatologically tested – so they’re just as kind to little ones’ skin. The company hopes to redefine a market hitherto dominated by some very environmentally unfriendly major players, and in doing so to raise awareness of the many ecological issues confronting our planet. We caught up with Bunton to get all the goss on the brand’s formation, intentions and success so far.
Q. We’ve written before about Kit & Kin and your desire to introduce a sustainable alternative to mass-market nappy brands. How is everything going with the business?
A. It’s all going really well! Since launching in March last year, we’ve had such brilliant feedback from our customers who not only love our products but also believe in our mission to reduce the environmental impact of everyday essential items for the family. The business is happily growing and we are now available in Boots, Tesco and Ocado in the UK, as well as nine additional countries worldwide. I have been totally overwhelmed by the huge levels of support we’ve received and we’ve also won 16 industry awards for our hypoallergenic nappy range and certified natural skincare collection. Moving forward, I’m excited to say we’re soon launching a brand-new product range as well as expanding our current range so it’s an incredibly busy time for us and we can’t wait to see what the new year brings!
Q. The last year has seen a lot of focus on environmental issues, with more and more people joining the call for plastic-free, eco-conscious products. Why do you think people are speaking up now? And do you think the moment can be sustained?
A. I think consumers are becoming more aware of the effect our everyday decisions are having on our planet. It’s been a real talking point particularly when it comes to baby wipes, as there’s been a strong focus on the damaging effects of standard wipes made from plastics like polyester, which clog up sewers and end up on riverbeds around the country. I know lots of parents who are now switching to 100% biodegradable versions, like Kit & Kin’s, as it’s such an easy way to reduce your environmental footprint. I believe the shift in public awareness can be attributed partly to the incredible work of individuals like Sir David Attenborough, who brought to the attention of huge audiences the threat to the oceans from plastic waste through his documentary series Blue Planet II. Not only that, but he also tirelessly campaigns for nature conservation and is a patron of the World Land Trust (WLT), a fantastic organisation protecting threatened habitats worldwide, which we support through our Giving Back programme. The movement as a whole has gained great momentum and I definitely think it’s here to stay, which is hugely positive.
Q. Kit & Kin products aren’t just kind to the environment – they’re kinder to babies’ skin. Was that an important objective when developing the brand?
A. This was one of the most important reasons for creating Kit & Kin. Both mine and my co-founder Chris Money’s children struggled with very sensitive skin and eczema. We were shocked by how incomprehensible the ingredients were on the back of bottles! We started to realise that many standard products were full of chemicals that were irritating their skin. As parents, you want the very best for your little ones and we were both frustrated at the lack of natural and sustainable brands on the shelves and wanted to provide an alternative option for families.
Q. What was the development process? Your co-founder, Christopher Money, has a lot of experience in the baby sector. Can you tell us about how you work together?
A. Chris and I worked very closely together throughout the development process, which took more than two years to get everything just as we wanted. Chris has been in the mother and baby industry for the past 15 years working with some of the biggest brands, and his experience and knowledge of the business is brilliant!
Q. One of your initiatives is to use profits to fund the purchase of tropical rainforest by the World Land Trust. Do you feel that using commercial partnerships to drive support for good causes is the way forward for the charitable sector (and for brands)?
A. I passionately believe that brands nowadays absolutely can and should be a force for good. There are huge opportunities to make significant changes around the world through charity partnerships.
Q.Kit and Kin is quite active on Instagram, too. How important is social media to your brand strategy?
A. Social media is hugely important to us at Kit & Kin. We are a young company, with the majority of our sales from online sources. It gives us a voice and is a fast and effective way to engage and connect with our customers, as well as keeping them informed of latest developments and news. I love seeing all the customer posts we get tagged in, and I’m constantly re-posting pictures of cute animal bottoms!
Q. A lot of parents don’t realise the environmental impact of raising kids until they’re knee-deep in plastic kit and environmentally unfriendly nappies, etc. Did you start out pretty informed when you had your kids, or has this been a journey of discovery?
A. For me it was definitely a journey of discovery. I remember what it was like being a nervous first-time parent and it’s sometimes easier to go for the standard household brands, something you remember from your childhood perhaps. However, I wasn’t fully aware then of just how damaging these products can be to the environment. I was shocked when I found out that we throw away eight million nappies every day in the UK alone and these all just pile up in landfill sites, which was why we specially developed the Kit & Kin nappy using sustainable, natural materials to reduce the time it takes to biodegrade. Compared to when my eldest child was born, there is now a lot more choice for eco-conscious parents, which is brilliant.
Q. Do you talk to your kids about the environmental issues that have shaped your brand? What’s your take on how to talk about such complex (and sometimes frightening) stuff? And do your kids seem receptive to/concerned about it?
A. My partner Jade and I believe in instilling good habits in our children from a young age and show them how making small changes can make a difference. We have a few simple house rules about turning off lights and electricals when we’re not using them, making sure we all recycle properly and reducing our waste, and the kids have always been really receptive to these, which makes it a lot easier! My youngest recently became a member of the eco team at school, which he’s really excited about, and I think it’s another great way to introduce these topics to kids and make it fun.
Q. Next year looks set to be crucial for the environment, especially in light of the recent UN report on climate change. Do you feel optimistic that people and governments will start to create lasting positive change?
A. I do feel optimistic but there is still a very long way to go! It’s safe to say we’ve all been guilty of getting caught up in our own small worlds and forgetting what’s going on around us, and for parents in particular this can be easy to do as we’re so busy all the time. But now everyone is aware of these environmental issues and there can’t be any more excuses! It’s our responsibility to make those small but significant changes in our lifestyles and choices that really do add up and have a positive impact, which is what we’re trying to achieve and champion through Kit & Kin.