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Our Mission & Who We Are

By Canopey Team

Picture this: you’re standing in a field at the end of a festival. Other than a slight breeze in the air, there’s no movement as far as the eye can see.

Surrounding you is a sea of plastic and rubbish, littering the field. All this waste is destined for an incinerator. What do you do?

This is the sight we were faced with at the beginning of the Canopey journey.

Forget Amazon being started in a garage, Canopey was literally founded in a field⁠!

Canopey co-founder Thomas Panton had spent nearly a decade working with environmental charities and organisations including Greenpeace and Surfers Against Sewage, and is an expert in the sustainability sector. He is an MSc student at University of East Anglia, and works with leading academics and contributors to IPCC reports at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research.

But after years of working in outreach, bringing tens of thousands of people into the climate change movement at festivals and events he got tired of seeing the fields of waste left behind at the end of every weekend.

A field at the end of a festival, covered in plastic waste and discarded tents

The Festival Waste Problem

It’s no secret that when the music stops, festival-goers in the UK leave an absolute disaster behind.

A mind-boggling 250,000 plastic tents each year are left behind. The majority of them end up in incinerators.⁠⁠

⁠⁠So Thomas started a company to collect and upcycle leftover tents and other waste left behind and give it a new lease of life. He spoke to other businesses making ethical and sustainable products using these upcycled materials – from clothing to skincare, umbrellas to toothbrushes and everything in between.

It was at this point that our co-founder Hugo came on board to help. He already knew Thomas from university, and they had both toured and played in bands together, so they were no strangers to working closely together on a project. Hugo had been working in Government communications, including several award-winning campaigns and multi-million-pound environment and health projects.

We successfully worked our first festival with a team of amazing people, collecting over 85% of the leftover tents and other products. We filled up a van with hundreds and hundreds of tents, camping chairs and even sleeping bags – all saved from the incinerator.

It was a real success, but we were trying to solve the symptoms of a bigger problem: we need to buy better to begin with.

Thomas sitting at a desk with sheets of paper with diagrams

Back To The Drawing Board

Remember those ethical businesses and 10,000s of people we mentioned earlier?

They all told us the same thing: people want to buy better, but they don’t know how.

It’s no secret that this is the case: the market for ethical consumer goods has grown more than 1000% over the last 20 years according to Co-Op and Ethical Consumer Magazine’s long-running report.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, festivals and events were put on hold, and we had to go back to the drawing board.

And now we had a bigger problem to solve – the problem of trying to shop sustainably.

a shopper holding up two t-shirts and looking confused

The Problem With Shopping Sustainably

There are still some big problems in the way of making sustainable retail truly mainstream.

Shopping sustainably is complex and there’s a lot to think about. 48% UK consumers say they don't have enough information to adopt a more sustainable lifestyle, and it’s really no surprise.

From the materials a product is made from, to the wages paid to the worker who made it, to how it’s delivered to your door, and finally how you dispose of it at the end of its life. All of these things come into play, and it’s a lot to consider.

We couldn’t find a place that brought together sustainable products, gave us confidence that all those green claims had been checked, and really understood the impact of a product.

This ‘greenwashing’ is the worst – the last thing you want is to buy something you think is green and find out it’s not. It makes the ethical shopping experience a total minefield.

It’s eroding trust with shoppers: 50% of UK consumers say they're less likely to shop with a retailer they perceive to be 'greenwashing'.

Even if you know everything about these issues, it’s hard to know where to go to find products made with the planet in mind. We know this because we tried and failed to find a place that did this.

Finally, how can you measure or track your impact as a shopper? Many of the calculators and apps out there use inaccurate generic averages, where £10 of beef from TESCO is measured to have the same impact as £10 of onions! This only adds to the problem.

Sustainable shopping is a completely fragmented process. If you're reading this, you’ve probably felt that pain, too.

We knew we needed to do something about this problem.

A billboard with the Canopey logo and the words 'The home for buying better'

The Seed For Canopey Is Planted

We founded Canopey: The Home For Buying Better™️

Through a minefield of greenwashing we believe in a better way to shop. A way that’s more sustainable, more knowledgeable, and whose gates are open to everyone.

A future-thinking online marketplace whose payments make the planet a better place. And make shopping more accessible, conscious and transparent than ever.

We’re on a mission to make buying better easier for everyone. To reduce the barriers and make shopping and living more sustainably frictionless.

Because right now you have to go to several different websites and apps to learn about what swaps to make, to find properly trustworthy products all in one place with one delivery fee, and to understand and track the impact of those products in meaningful ways.

Canopey is about bringing everyone – and every one of those different journeys – under one roof.

Educational guides and tips for swaps. Sustainable, truly verified products. And importantly, real stats to show the positive impact of every purchase.

The Canopey team - Hugo, Abrar and Thomas

L-R: Hugo Douglas-Deane (CMO), Abrar Rauf (CTO), Thomas Panton (CEO)

The Dream Team

We brought on Abrar, our technical whiz, to help us build the Canopey platform. He had been working in banking and financial tech and while this included some very high-profile projects with millions of customers using his apps, his heart wasn’t in the whole idea of making the rich richer.

Abrar’s real love was startups, and he had a real desire to create tech-for-good, and fight climate change, so when we met he was immediately onboard with the Canopey cause. Abrar is also an avid climber, a passion shared by other sustainable company founders like Patagonia’s Yvon Chouinard.

There are lots of other brilliant people around us. Emma Andrews helped us build the original Canopey platform including our impact calculator, and we have a number of great people behind us. These include current and previous business leaders from global companies like Experian, beauty and wellness booking platform Fresha, and Virgin.

A variety of products including water bottles, coffee cups and a lunchbox

Focusing On Being Better, Not Best

The #BuyBetter movement is all about being better, not best. We’re not perfect, and you don't have to be, either.

Zero waste. Zero emissions. Negative footprint.

These ideas of being perfect only hurt the sustainability movement. So we say don't beat yourself up when you forget your reusable cup. Don’t feel guilty when you leave your bag at home and have to buy a new plastic one.

Turn that energy into positivity: what next step – no matter how small – can you take to live more consciously?

You can’t get to the top of a ladder without grabbing all the other rungs on it. Slow progress is still progress.

Having a north star is important and striving to improve should be a constant, particularly for businesses. But we wholeheartedly believe that to make that easier, sustainable shopping needs to become more convenient and accessible – it’s the only way to achieve mainstream change.

The Canopey team holding signs in front of Amazon and H&M stores

Time For Real Vision

If we’re to make sustainability mainstream, we need to fight for it.

We couldn’t see any platform doing that – and we still don’t. So we’re here to change that. We’ve got a big vision to build the world’s #1 sustainability platform, and we’re starting with the UK.

We’re here to help more people learn about sustainability than ever before, and bring millions of people into the movement to buy better. And we’re not afraid of going out there and take to the streets.

Because sustainability is no longer just for the ‘eco warriors’ – it’s for everyone.

So whether you want to get involved directly with our mission, or support from the sidelines, we're here to do the heavy lifting and make it easy to buy better.

We want to get everyone involved – everyone’s welcome under the Canopey.

Thomas, Hugo, Abrar & the rest of the Canopey team 🌳