COAT Paints’ learnings on pioneering sustainable home décor

The past few years have shifted our views on many things, and quite quickly too. Our time, our relationships, and even core values. Most people have spent more time at home than previously, with more time to consider the way they live and the spaces they live in.

Decorating should be about creating spaces we love. As humans, we’re built to nest and to create a safe environment surrounded by things we love. But, that sentiment has gotten a little lost over time, and the paint industry in particular is guilty of pushing trends and wasteful products over longer-term thinking.

My co-founder Rob Green and I launched COAT in 2020, mid-pandemic, with a goal to rethink the paint buying and selling experience. With a blank sheet of paper, it didn’t take long for us to reimagine a clever waste-free, demand-led, climate-positive business that gave back to the planet more than it took. After all, no business created today should do anything different.

The new wave of businesses

Starting a business from the ground up is in some ways a blessing. No legacy, no oil tankers to turn, and complete freedom to innovate.

But keeping sustainability in ‘Position One’ for every single business decision is incredibly tough, especially for a foundling business. It’s not a ‘nice to have’ or a marketing buzzword – but a core belief in the future of our world.

Whether it’s a choice of packaging materials, or shipping provider, or web hosting provider ours – tough choices on cost, effectiveness, and impact, happen daily for startups. And the harsh reality is that doing ‘good’ is more often the difficult choice.

Thankfully, a new wave of businesses are making those ‘good’ decisions from the outset, and putting the planet and people first. And like COAT, they’re loud and proud about it, hoping to sharpen up complacent competition to drive better business all around.

Core principles

The challenge with new businesses setting new industry standards is incumbent ones looking for quick-fix solutions to compete. Greenwashing often rears its head at this point, with marketing-led efforts and sticking plaster solutions often confusing customers.

At COAT we have always been clear on our five core principles, and in making those as clear and understandable as possible. Accountability goes beyond marketing claims, often living behind the scenes in the un-sexy foundations of business operations – where the really impactful magic really lives.

The principles are as follows.

1. Zero-waste production: Don’t make things that people don’t want

Sounds simple, right? Unlike other paint companies, we don’t make paint until someone orders it. Traditional batch production means producing paint in large quantities of coloured stock, which often sits on shelves in stores or warehouses – creating waste when unsold.

At COAT, we produce paint to order in the colours people want, sending it directly to homes via carbon-neutral delivery partners. That’s no waste in the supply chain, and a truly demand-driven model.

2. Closed-loop recycling: Own your waste

Two million litres of excess paint are sent to landfill every year in the UK. 55 million litres are stashed under our stairs and sheds at home, too.

It’s all too easy for companies to call that ‘post-consumer waste’ – but how can that feel right? Any COAT customer can send back their empty tins or unused paint, and we’ll process it for recycling. This means the tins, handles, and excess paint are reprocessed and transformed into recycled paint products.

3. Kind products: Innovate beyond the basics

Typical paint tester pots are wasteful, single-use, and usually not recyclable. But people buy loads during the confusion of paint colour choice, which often end up in drawers or landfill. These tester pots have been the go-to solution for 50+ years – but by thinking just a little deeper, we changed the game with Peel & Stick Samples. Simple to use, 95% less waste than tester pots, 100% recyclable, and 100% colour accurate too. These clever little samples use less than 10ml of paint, and today are offered by most of the large paint companies too – which is a real plus for the planet.

4. Minimal miles: Prioritise local sourcing and efficient deliveries

It’s hard to dissect the multitude of reasons why, but often shipping goods and materials from the other side of the earth is more cost-effective than local sourcing. But transportation, particularly by air, is one of the largest carbon contributors of all. And it’s not just material sourcing – but the delivery of goods from company to retailer or end consumer that has an impact too.

We decided at COAT to source close to home, with 95% of everything we touch coming from the UK. And delivering straight to customers at home, rather than trucking finished goods to stores all over the country, is a far more planet-friendly way to operate. Again it’s not astrophysics, but a straightforward way of doing good.

5. Know your impact: Measure and own it

It was so important to myself and Rob that, in launching COAT as a new business, we were making a positive impact on people and the planet. But it’s impossible to know that without measuring exactly what that impact is, end-to-end.

So before we even launched, we analysed every part of our supply chain as we built it – putting tangible numbers on our carbon footprint. Since day one, COAT has been a certified Carbon Neutral business, and more recently becoming Climate Positive. That means we minimise, measure, and offset unavoidable emissions by contributing financially to double to UN Gold Standard environmental projects via our partners at Carbon Jacked.

COAT is the first Climate Positive Paint Company in the world, taking responsibility for all Scope 1-3 emissions.

Investing in the future of paint

Making an impact quickly isn’t easy. The vision that Rob and I had for COAT has been accelerated through investment from leading consumer Venture Capital firms with a strong conscience, to drive the changes we want to see in our industry.

 

As the UK’s fastest growing paint company, we’re successfully blazing past heritage rivals with a planet-friendly approach and customer experience that people love. And there’s so much more room to grow our impact.

 

We’re currently opening the COAT investment opportunity up to our customers and community, to get behind the future of paint in a tangible way. Because although the words we write are purposeful, change really does come from the action we all take together.

Rob Abrahams is the co-founder of COAT Paints

 

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