On Tuesday 5th September, circularity and sustainability took centre stage at Autumn Fair, the UK’s leading marketplace for Home & Gift & Fashion.


Helena Mansell-Stopher, Founder of Products of Change, James George a Senior Strategist and Consultant in Circular Economy, and Mike Swain a Products of Change Ambassador for Packaging, opened with ‘Navigating the Future of Sustainability: Part 1’. The Products of Change team took the audience through significant changes to UK, Europe and Global legislation, from the UK’s new Packaging Tax, Europe’s Net-Zero pledge, the Digital Product Passport and 2024’s Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR).


“Circularity is the framework of which to base your thinking going forward. It runs against the framework we have now, which is a linear economy; make, buy, throw away, but actually now we see in our global environments there are climatic forces happening because of our ability to make ‘stuff’ with the shortest possible timeline. Most people think circularity is just recycling, but the key is the economy part – when you think about decarbonisation, about our business and business models, it’s how we can do something different. Whether it’s designing so waste becomes a secondary resource, and now we’ve got this amazing legislation landscape where if you make ‘stuff’ you’re now liable for it, and if you don’t do something about it ‘we will fine you and show you up that you’re not doing enough’. This is what the Digital Product Passport does, it leads to data led transparency and honesty – where do you your products go, and where do they end up.” said James.


“Going forward your environmental and ethical footprint will be measured alongside your financial reporting. The overall operating of your business will be reviewed and fines will become legislation where you have to pay based on how you’ve transgressed. This won’t be a fixed fine, it’ll be a percentage of your turnover.


“We’ve been talking about the Packaging Tax for a while now, however this is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s just one of the laws that the UK and EU are beginning to implement; it’s not a case of when, it’s a case of now – it’s a change of mindset, you will have to adhere to it.” added Mike.


“Businesses need to be paying attention and start implementing framework now that will support them once legalisation is enforced. The Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) is a policy tool expected to come into force in 2024/25 to make producers significantly more responsible for the packaging they place on the market, at the end of its life for all packaging materials” says James,


“The responsibility for EPR falls to those who are putting the end product on the market. You need to be collecting your data on this today, you need to understand what your usage looks like.” Mike.


“At the end of 2023 the Carbon Calculator will start being implemented, unifying the production process across Europe. There will be an averaging mechanism which means you can no longer offshore the responsibility of your packaging.” continued James.


“A complex problem has a complex solution. There is no quick way to implement this, the time to get stuck in is now.”


Products of Change returned to the Inspiring Retail Stage in the afternoon to panel a session with Ian Greaves, CEO at St. Eval, Tina Salt Founder of MAI (Making Animals Important), and Zoe Ryan Head of Marketing at Fizz Creations.


In a frank conversation, the panelists explored their sustainability journeys; from St. Eval’s goal to achieving Net Zero by 2030, MAI’s launch as a small business during the pandemic, and Fizz Creation’s implementation of ethical practices across their global business.


Ian commented; “We won the Queen’s award for sustainable development in 2021 which was an incredible achievement for what we’d already done, but it wasn’t a route map for going forward which is why we applied for B Corp. It was incredibly insightful for us, we knew we had areas where we were cruising like renewable energy, however it did throw up some curve balls – we’d worked hard to remove all plastic in our packaging, however the B Corp process shed a light on our instream and how we measure our carbon footprint. We quickly found that Scope 1 and 2 were in our control and our Scope 3 is our suppliers hitting their scope 1 and 2.”


“Non-financial reporting is a muscle memory factor that businesses need to implement now” elaborates Mike Swain, Product of Change’s Ambassador for Packaging, “not just carbon emissions and scopes, but it’s about modern slavery and overall ethics of business. This is tying in with sustainable changes going in within the industry, businesses need to manage and control aspects they can within beacons of sustainability and force change down the supply chain.”


Tina discusses the launch of MAI, “I had worked in the fast-fashion industry for years and knew I wanted to start my own brand that had sustainability at its heart. MAI is named after my daughter as she helped conceptualise the brand’s identity, but also stands for ‘Making Animals Important’. Our products aren’t only GOTs approved, but 5% of our profit goes to Fauna and Flora International to help endangered species – and we’ve also pledged to help WeForest restore damaged ecosystems by growing new trees.  As a new business it’s been really difficult to navigate my ethical goals of the business with consumer expectation, we’re still hitting a barrier where consumers question the price of product because they can get it cheaper elsewhere.  We know that larger brands are greenwashing, at the end of the day, if you pay fair wages and give back to communities it costs more money.”


Talking about the challenges of transitioning an established business to become more sustainable, Zoe comments, “Businesses starting now have sustainability as its first layer. We’ve been established for years so for us, we have to unravel before implementing change. We trade globally, across Europe, USA and Australia, and the standards for both retail level and country level vary enormously – for example one piece of packaging can have multiple variants.”


Mike finalises, “New legislation, consumer demand and fear of mistake is making these changes seem overwhelming, but ultimately businesses shouldn’t be ashamed of profit: it’s about people, planet, profit. The more profit you make, the more good you can do. It’s up to brands to do the right thing.”, Ian elaborations “Absolutely, it’s finding the balance between the three. There are of course price barriers across the candle industry as there is in any business. There’s a point beyond where customers don’t see the value – I could make the best candle ever made, but it’d be short lived because our brand wouldn’t survive.”


Mike says: “Now it’s taking a moral imperative to ‘save the world’ to a much more forceful and structed way that governments are expecting people to be responsible and considered. If you don’t do it there will be consequences. That’s the shift. Industry leaders have started to do it because they want to do it, but soon it won’t be a choice. There’s an awful lot of change on a regular basis across the UK. It’s mandatory. If you’re of a particular size and turnover, you will have to report the data and eventually that’ll be used to set a charging structure that will form a polluter charge for businesses who aren’t doing enough. It takes the ethereal idea of the circular economy and begins to put this into practice. Products of Change is a nucleus where people can come for information and to join conversations about where to start.


“The key point, the legislation is coming. Every business is an individual circumstance; your supply chain will be different, your route to market will be different, your consumer will differ. You need to be looking inward at your own business and make changes now.”


Autumn Fair’s Sustainability Trail continued to be popular with buyers; highlighting the brands and suppliers working to do their part to ensure a more ethical future for all. Starting with four key pillars of sustainable commitment; Environment: Act in the interests of protecting the natural world, Ethical: Demonstrate respect for its employees and uphold a system of moral principles, Material: Use sustainable and biodegradable materials as much as possible, Packaging: Use reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging which results in improved sustainability; exhibitors on the trail showcased the very best of new and innovative products.


New exhibitors for 2023 included Waxkind, who craft wax melts using 100% plant-based soy wax with FSC Certified, 100% biodegradable packaging and moulds made from recycled bottles contributing to a circular economy. Elsewhere, Scream Pretty debuted their new recycled sterling silver, and gold-plated recycled sterling silver jewellery collections, whilst Jayley unveiled their latest in sustainable innovation, from grape skin leather to bamboo faux fur.


Greetings & Stationery welcomed back The Seed Card Company to showcase their sustainable, eco-friendly seed card stationery; cemented as one of the leading companies providing seed card, Autumn Fair saw them launch their new gift tag and notecard designs. In Beauty & Wellbeing William Morris At Home, a sustainable, lifestyle brand created in partnership with the William Morris Gallery, a not-for-profit organisation and the custodians of William Morris’s legacy, offered beautiful and useful products in line with the artist’s philosophy.


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For further press information, images and interviews, please contact Philippa Suitters at Good Results, E:


About Autumn Fair

As the buyers one-stop marketplace for everything new and on-trend for 2023, Autumn Fair is the leading home, gift and fashion buying showcase. It runs from 3rd – 6th September at NEC Birmingham.


Offering a treasure trove of new ideas and new trends just waiting to be discovered and displayed in shops, garden centres, showrooms, or e-commerce platforms, Autumn Fair is the place to touch, feel, and experience what's new and innovative across the home, gift, and fashion retail industry.


The show encompasses 11 sectors within four destinations – Home which includes Home, Living & Décor, Everyday, and The Summerhouse; Gift including Gift, Beauty & Wellbeing, Greetings & Stationery, and Kids, Toys & Play; and Moda fashion featuring its own Catwalk as well as Jewellery & Watch, Clothing, Fashion Accessories, and Footwear; plus, with the newly launched responsible sourcing show Source Home & Gift, the variety of products at Autumn Fair is unmatched. From contemporary gifts to greeting cards, candles and garden accessories, children’s toys and outerwear, footwear and furniture, there’s endless opportunities to find your next bestsellers.


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