Long read

Women lead on ‘conscious capitalism’ in food and drink

By Pip Murray

- Last updated on GMT

The 8th March marks International Women's Day. Credit: Getty/MURAVAdesign
The 8th March marks International Women's Day. Credit: Getty/MURAVAdesign

Related tags Leadership

Pip & Nut founder and chief executive Pip Murray discusses how women are leading the vanguard for ‘conscious capitalism’ and greater environmental, social and governance standards for manufacturers, as well as how her experience as a woman in the food and drink industry has helped propel her and her business forward.

Conscious capitalism

Obviously, we’re a female lead brand – I’m the main shareholder in the business and I run the business day-to-day as well. Pip and Nut is also a B Corp.

The whole premise of B Corp is about demonstrating that the business can be used as a force for good, really thinking about the current economic system and trying to turn it on its head to say that, actually, business can be regenerative, it can be equitable.

Ultimately, it’s there to serve people and the planet, not harm it in the process.

That's what I mean by conscious capitalism – it's not growth at all costs, it's growth taking into context people, planet and profit.

I'm a big believer that businesses are here to serve people and not to just drain the planet and society of all of its resources. What's really interesting about B Corps is that typically if you look at the business community at the moment, one in five businesses will be run by women.

That's driven by a number of factors. Whether that's the lack of investment coming to female lead businesses, or perhaps women not feeling like business really for them, perhaps it's lack of representation – if you think about all the famous entrepreneurs in the world, you don't see as many women leading businesses.

But what's interesting with B Corps is that there is a higher proportion of women in leadership positions. At Pip & Nut, for example, 81% of our leadership team is female, but when it comes to B Corp, the average as well is much higher than the wider business community. – 84% of B corps have at least one woman on a leadership team versus 55% of the wider SME space.

Equal representation

Ultimately when you're a B Corp, you're really thinking about how you make sure that you have equal representation and opportunities for all genders. 

One way of looking at it is that women are particularly leading the charge for conscious capitalism, because there are more women leading in B corps than there are in the wider SME space. 

Ultimately, B Corp is about helping drive a more conscious way of doing business. What's really interesting is that, generally speaking, when you look at all the metrics, B Corps actually perform better than normal UK businesses.

For most B Corps, the average growth was around 26% versus 5% for UK companies. Pip and Nut as an example has grown 33% year on year – we're the fastest growing brand in the category thing. 

What this demonstrates is that actually doing business in the right way helps accelerate growth, not hinder it. That's something which I just think is really exciting and hopefully as this community and B corps grows, it will demonstrate to the wider business community that it's an imperative that you act in this way, not just a nice to have. 

It could mean that we actually see a completely different way of running as an economy as a whole. I'm getting a bit macroeconomic there, but I guess what it all boils down to just doing business in the right way.

We offer really good benefits, we're a living wage employer, all of our team have shares in our business, everyone gets a bonus every year, we offer really good benefits for women in business – whether that's enhanced maternity pay, equal shared parental leave pay, flexi time – we offer volunteering hours. All of these things encourage a really great environment to work in and I think that's why B Corps have great retention for their teams. 

And if you have a happy team, then it often equals better success in business as well.

Starting a business as a woman

I was surprised when I started looking at starting this business up in the food industry. I think there was some particularly traditional aspects to it – it is a very male dominated space 

I was 24 when I started up the business and I have vivid memories of going into manufacturers being the only female in the room. Being relatively young as well probably wasn't working with me either and it can be really intimidating.

Whilst I don't think I ever experienced any sexism or discrimination explicitly, I'm sure there were assumptions and unconscious biases playing out in in the room at certain moments, of how serious people maybe took me at certain points. 

And it's totally difficult to compare, if I were a man, would I have had a different journey? But you can't underestimate that when there's a lack of representation in the room – like equal representation – then there will be some disadvantages that will play out.

Then when it comes to raising money, which is a hot topic, there's some really quite depressing stats around how little money goes to female lead businesses. In February, for every £1 of venture capital that goes into businesses, only one penny goes into female lead brands.

Some of the statistics demonstrate my experiences were, that it is definitely challenging raising money as a female. Perhaps men don't connect as much with more female brands as well and that might impact perhaps where money gets placed. 

That’s probably the more negative side of things. Generally speaking though, I feel like I had a really positive experience of growing a business in the UK.

In some ways, some of the brilliant things like International Women's Day really help elevate women and women lead businesses as well within that. I don't think that really existed 15 years ago. 

The trends are moving in the right direction. More women are starting businesses, so I think there is a general momentum, so hopefully it continues. 

Creating opportunities

I've had experiences where retailers, Tesco as an example, have had a women mentoring program and they asked some of their suppliers to step forward to mentor some of their employees. 

And I definitely think from a press point of view, people like to hear about people doing something that's perhaps a bit more against the grain and being a female lead business is definitely a bit more against the grain.

I've certainly had great exposure and really enjoyed the idea that if I talk about how I approached running this business and starting out that hopefully it might inspire other people and women hopefully to start their own businesses.

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