Steenbergs Business Social and Ethical Values

Steenbergs is a small family-owned business, founded and run by a husband and wife team from their rural spice factory in Ripon, North Yorkshire, England. 

In 2003, Axel and Sophie Steenberg set out to run a different type of spices business that seeks to bring the best quality and really interesting ingredients from around the world, and for those products to be grown and processed with a minimal impact on the global environment, grown (wherever practicable) under organic agriculture, and in everything we do to be fair, reasonable and respectful with all the people we deal with. 

And whilst doing this make some money and have loads and loads of fun, laughs and smiles. 

Since then, we have expanded our product offerings to include a wide range of things that green and environmentally minded people might want.

From a theoretical perspective, we have been following the triple bottom line concept (“TBL” or “3BL” or “the three pillars”) since we started in 2003 - this means we think about “people, planet, profit” in our business dealings, rather than being in it just for a quick buck for ourselves.  The triple bottom line ideal is a better way to run a business, being a virtuous circle of slow but constant improvement in our business operations and the impact we have as a business on the world environment and people within Steenbergs and those who become involved with us as supplier, buyers or just interested people.

We have set out our values in some detail as a Question and Answer session and if you have any extra questions that we need to challenge ourselves with, please email them in and we will try and answer them.


Has Steenbergs' actions or operations resulted in economic or social impacts that have adversely affected the quality of life in a community, such as over-burden on local infrastructure or wide-scale terminations of employment?

No.  Steenbergs is a micro-business with 12 employees and sales of around £1 million, so we cannot envisage that our actions would have any adverse impact on a community.

Does Steenbergs have a policy to source goods and services from local suppliers?

Yes.  We have a heirarchy where we use local, small businesses first, then British businesses, followed by overseas businesses. Local businesses tend to be services businesses, e.g. IT support, web design, laboratory testing, trades (office cleaners, deep factory cleaners, electricians, plumbers), but we also purchase packaging locally, e.g. corrugated boxes, labels and jars.  However, since the core of Steenbergs is the sourcing and processing of ingredients that are globally sourced - from Spain to Vietnam -, local sourcing can only ever be a partial solution for Steenbergs' supply chains.

Does Steenbergs invest in, directly participate in, or otherwise support, any education in the community?

Not directly.  Steenbergs does not have the business size or profitability to be able to invest in education in the community.  However, we do train all our members of staff in all key aspects of their jobs, including food hygiene, HACCP, manual handling, health and safety, first aid, fork lift truck driving and environmental matters.  Indirectly, Steenbergs does also support education through its involvement with The Fairtrade Foundation and FLO-Cert, which has education as one of its social goals.

Social Inclusion

Does Steenbergs have a policy to tackle social exclusion?

Yes. We hate that in the modern era people are excluded for many reasons and continue to be failed by society - this is a blemish on all of us, not just politicians. So, while Steenbergs is only a tiny, micro-business, we do everything we can do to tackle social exclusion. 

The key impact we make is that we provide employment locally to 10 members of staff (excluding Axel and Sophie Steenberg) and train them, so we do in a small way address unemployment, poor educational attainment and low income. In our recruitment policy, we try, so far as possible, to offer employment to people, especially young adults, that have not achieved high educational attainment, giving them a start on the employment ladder to move on to other employment later. We've, also, helped staff with navigating their way through the NHS, housing issues, residency paperwork, and citizenship applications, etc. 

We expect our suppliers, as we do ourselves, to adhere to The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, so we seek through all our business interactions to prevent social exclusion wherever we could be considered a stakeholder, whether it is a growers’ group in Sri Lanka or a glassware manufacturer in Germany. Finally, we donate to food banks in our local communities (Garnant and Ripon), through cash and food donations.

Corporate Governance

Does Steenbergs have a corporate governance statement appropriate to the organisation?


Is Steenbergs' average employee salary at least 5% of the total remuneration of your highest paid executive?

Yes.  Neither Axel Steenberg nor Sophie Steenberg is the highest paid employee within Steenbergs and no-one at Steenbergs earns a salary that equals the median or mean average UK gross salary. Our policy is perhaps unfashionable but we believe that all people's labour has equal value, so everyone is paid the same hourly rate which is 2% above the national living wage in the UK.

Donations and Payments

Does Steenbergs take a strategic approach to charitable giving?

Yes.  Steenbergs donates to food banks in our local communities (Garnant and Ripon).

Does Steenbergs make payments to secure business?

Steenbergs does not condone or get involved in any form of bribery or upfront payments to secure business.  We openly disclose our views on bribery clearly within our submissions to SEDEX, an online method of storing and making available a business's views on ethical and responsible business practices.

Does Steenbergs have policies or practices to prevent undue influence of appointed or elected public officials?

Nothing formal. Steenbergs is a very small business that does not have the ability, or interest, in seeking to influence appointed or elected public officials. Furthermore, Steenbergs is not politically motivated and makes no donations to any political party or politically motivated organization. Axel Steenberg's view is that he is not sure he would let any politician or appointed public official through the door.

Has Steenbergs paid appropriate levels of tax over the last two years?

Yes.  All PAYE, VAT, duty, business rates and corporation tax is recorded accurately and paid correctly within the legal time limits and there are no tax schemes in place to reduce the tax paid by directors or employees of Steenbergs. Fundamentally, we believe as people that you pay your taxes, full stop - it's part of your social duty.


Does Steenbergs have an environmental policy?

Yes. The environment is central to Axel and Sophie Steenberg's values for themselves and Steenbergs. It's who we are and what makes us tick.

Steenbergs follows the triple bottom line concept whereby we seek to operate profitably while considering other stakeholders in our business, such as our staff, local communities and the staff and communities of our suppliers, as well as our customers and their expectations and to look after the planet. We disclose our views on environmental policy clearly on our website, are audited annually by Tarian to BS 8555:2016, and disclose what we're doing on SEDEX, an online method of storing and making available a business's views on ethical and responsible business practices.

Are any of Steenbergs' products animal based?

No. All our products are vegan, vegetarian and plant-based. Some of our products are registered with the Vegan Society but most are simply plant seeds or leaves, so it would be stupid to get them registered.

Does Steenbergs engage in commercial activities that pose a threat to endangered species and their natural habitats or to other scarce resources?

No.  None of our raw materials is grown via intensive farming and most are certified to organic agriculture.

Do any of Steenbergs products contain palm oil?


Do any of Steenbergs' products contain endangered wildlife products, e.g. ivory, tortoiseshell, coral, whale products, mollusc shells?


Are environmental considerations an integral part of any of Steenbergs’ product designs or services?

Yes.  Wherever possible, we choose the more environmentally friendly options for our product areas and are always trying to reduce the environmental burden of our products. For example, we hate plastic and switched over to plastic-free film in 2020, following a project with York's Biorenewables Development Centre that analyzed the environmental claims of the options available to us. So, we currently use film from Parkside Flexibles in our automated machines, Natureflex-based or Sirane premade bags for hand packing - all these are plastic-free and from plant-based sources, i.e. not from petroleum. 

Has Steenbergs incorporated any special environmental features into its workspace?

Yes. Steenbergs is a food factory on a business park so much of what we work in is classic steel fabricated building with wipe clean walls that meet food safety and quality requirements.  That having been said we did include as many "green" things into the other areas as possible.  For example, we have low water flush toilets, water comes from a potable bore hole rather than the mains, waste water is treated using natural reed bed process treatment, linoleum flooring in the changing areas, newspaper based insulation in the administration areas. Then, we have solar panels on the roofs of our factory sheds and have rainwater harvesting to provide water for the toilets.

Are any of Steenbergs' products environmentally certified (either organic or other third party scheme)?

Yes. Steenbergs has been certified as organic since 2003, with registration number 00595/03 and are audited annually by the Organic Food Federation, GB-ORG-04, a members' owned organic certifier.  Steenbergs is audited and certified under the BS 8555:2016 environmental standard, starting that scheme in 2019, and audited by Tarian Services.

Are any of Steenbergs' products wild harvested?

Yes. Some of our raw materials are wild harvested, e.g. organic juniper berries, and (in addition to normal organic standards) their collection is required to meet stringent rules on the levels of harvest collected and other factors as laid down by organic certification bodies, including (but not limited to) whether the wild harvesting would fall foul of the requirements of CITES or whether the species is listed on the IUCN red list.

Are any of Steenbergs' products grown or propagated using a non-renewable natural resource, e.g. peat?


Does Steenbergs set targets to reduce “scope 1 and 2” carbon dioxide emissions?

Yes. Steenbergs measures its carbon emissions and set itself the target of zero net carbon by 2025. We achieved this target in 2020 when we offset the residual 3.5 tonnes CO2e via the Steenbergs' woodland, but even better during 2021 we reached zero Scope 1 and 2 carbon, i.e. without the need for any offsetting. The next step is a project to look at Scope 3, essentially the minimization and amelioration of CO2e from transport. 

Does Steenbergs offset its carbon dioxide emissions?

Yes. Steenbergs offsets its carbon through Steenbergs' woodland in Garnant in South Wales, which will sequester 14,000 tonnes of carbon over its lifetime.  That's way above our current annual emissions of zero (2020: 3.5 tonnes CO2e). 

Does Steenbergs have any involvement with nuclear power or the wider nuclear industry?

No, currently not but it's possible. Currently, any electricity from the grid is either from Octopus Energy (all sustainable and zero carbon) or British Gas Lite (zero carbon but sometimes uses nuclear). We have committed to dropping British Gas Lite at the end of our current contract at 11 Hallikeld Close.

Does Steenbergs have a strategy for waste management and minimization?

Yes. Steenbergs monitors its waste and has a policy to have zero waste to landfill and, by 2025, has targets of getting 75% of its waste recycled and reducing waste generated by 25%. Steenbergs became zero waste to landfill in 2010. In terms of its targets, Steenbergs recycled 62% of its waste in 2021, with the rest being processed as waste-to-energy at Yorwaste's Allerton Park facility, and had reduced its waste by 20% since 2017. We've a bit to go but it's going in the right direction, but this one is a real tough one as we are a processor rather than a services business, so we do generate waste from the packaging that we receive and as we grow we get more and more - but we're really trying to keep this under control.

Does Steenbergs' environmental policies extend to suppliers and contractors?

No. We do not require our suppliers to sign up to our internal environmental practices, because many of our smaller suppliers are owner operators. Nevertheless, we do actively review and choose raw materials, packaging and transport businesses that do have detailed environmental practices in place that match our objectives. For example, we use DPD for courier services as they are a zero carbon supplier, and all our raw materials suppliers have organic status, which is what Axel and Sophie Steenberg believe to be the desired standard for agriculture.

Has Steenbergs been subject to public complaint or investigation concerning pollution or other environmental damage?

No, nor does Steenbergs use any cleaning or other products that is likely to cause any pollution or environmental damage or is considered to be a hazardous chemical.

Does Steenbergs trade in or otherwise use genetically modified organisms (“GMO”)?

No. Axel and Sophie Steenberg hate the idea of GMO and anything that tampers with nature. So, Steenbergs has a policy that means the company will never buy GMO products. Furthermore, Steenbergs has set organic agriculture and processing at the heart of its business operations, which bans the use of GMO. Banning GMO is pretty close to being the reason why we are organic - it's not for humanity to tamper with DNA.

Human Rights

Does Steenbergs have a policy to ensure that neither Steenbergs nor its suppliers or contractors use forced, bonded or child labour?

Yes (see Steenbergs Ethical Policy).  Furthermore, wherever possible Steenbergs works directly with farmers’ co-operatives, workers’ co-operatives and The Fairtrade Foundation and FLO-Cert registered growers, processors and traders. We purchase our non-Steenbergs products from SUMA (a workers’ co-operative).  Steenbergs openly discloses our views on looking after our people clearly within our submissions to SEDEX, an online method of storing and making available a business's views on ethical and responsible business practices.

In the areas of proposed or current operations, does Steenbergs respect the human rights, land, culture and intellectual property of tribal and indigenous peoples?

Yes, we always respect everybody’s human rights and treat everyone fairly and reasonably – it’s part of our fundamental business ethics to be respectful and fair to everyone.  We do not at any level promote or allow sweatshop labour, suppression of union activity, enforced overtime, indentured labour or enforced child labour, etc.

Is Steenbergs in joint ventures, or does it have any business relationships, with a military regime (such as that in Burma, also known as Myanmar)?


Does Steenbergs engage with the arms trade or the arms industry?

No. No. No. Peace not war.

Does Steenbergs operate in a conflict area, and if so does it take steps to ensure that business operations do not contribute to tensions?

No, Steenbergs does not operate in any areas where there is conflict. We are peaceful people, despise conflict, and hate wars. Because we buy some of our ingredients from tricky places, Steenbergs might by mistake purchase products that are ultimately grown in areas where there is localized conflict, however we do not believe that our trade has any negative impact on tensions within any of the areas that it ultimately purchases its raw materials from, rather we believe that by supporting agriculture and basic industries in any area where there might be conflict we are helping normal people to get one with life in those areas. We do not buy anything from Russia, the Xinjiang or Tibet parts of China (Tibet must be given back its independence and the rights of the Uighurs must be respected), Burma, or any other nasty regimes.

Marketplace Ethics

Does Steenbergs make every effort to ensure customers receive a fair and reasonable deal in terms of quality, safety and service in all its products and services?

Yes. Axel and Sophie Steenberg's aim is for Steenbergs to be a brand that customers can trust to do the right thing, at the right price and with top levels of quality.

Do your product labels provide relevant, accurate, unambiguous and easily-accessible information?

Yes. Steenbergs products are not complex so we keep it simple and show clearly the name of the product, plus origin, best before, weight and ingredients. There are no hidden ingredients, no dodgy processing aids or fillers, or any added junk - it is what it says on the jar. We also clearly show who we are and how you can contact us should there be any problems or complaints. Furthermore, on our website we provide detailed information on how to store our products and have loads of recipes that give you ways in which to use them; for clarification, when Steenbergs began it was not a vegan business so some of these recipes use meat or fish products, but all new recipes are vegan / plant-based and have been for some years now.

Have complaints been made against Steenbergs to regulatory and/or professional bodies that oversee advertising practices?


Has Steenbergs, or representative association, pushed for protection against imports from developing countries?

No. Most of Steenbergs raw materials and some of its packaging materials derive from developing world countries. As a matter of principle, Axel and Sophie Steenberg believe in free trade not protectionism in the global economy as this provides opportunities for less developed regions to access other economies. But these relationships must be on an equal and fair basis...

Does Steenbergs have a policy to support fair trade?

Yes. Since 2004, Steenbergs has been trading in and packing products, e.g. spices and sugars, that are certified as Fairtrade by The Fairtrade Foundation and FLO-Cert.

Does Steenbergs participate, directly or indirectly, in animal testing or other forms of animal exploitation?

No. Steenbergs is a vegan business, with all its products derived from plants.


What do you pay your staff?

All staff and the directors are paid the same hourly rate, which is set at 2% above the living wage. We, also, have a pension scheme into which both the company and employees contribute.

What are Steenbergs' working hours?

We are open from 8 am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. Employees work an 8 hour, single shift. This includes two paid 15 minute tea breaks (one in the morning and another in the afternoon) and a 30 minute unpaid lunch break.

Has Steenbergs implemented a strategy for promoting health and safety at work?

Yes. Health and safety is reviewed annually by a designated member of staff. Results of the risk review are discussed with the directors (Axel and Sophie Steenberg) and any changes needed to meet best practice are implemented. In addition, all staff are trained in all aspects of health and safety relevant to the business on a regular (at least annual) basis. We openly disclose our views on looking after our people clearly within our submissions to SEDEX, an online method of storing and making available a business's views on ethical and responsible business practices.

Does Steenbergs consider and monitor the race, gender, disability and age of its workforce in recruitment, training and management practices?

Not formally. Steenbergs does have an Equal Opportunities Policy, which we adhere to. Of Steenbergs staff of 12, 5 are male and 8 are female, with the senior team comprising 1 man (Axel Steenberg) and 2 women (including Sophie Steenberg).  The age of our workforce is a range from 17 years old to 60 years old. Staff are predominantly British, but we 2 Latvian and 2 Polish employees, so the first language is Yorkshire English, then Russian.

Does Steenbergs consult and cooperate with employees or employee representatives, including allowing employees to be represented by trade unions or other workers’ groups?

Yes. As a micro-business, we co-operate and consult directly with all our employees on a regular basis.

Does Steenbergs invest in staff training and lifelong learning?

Yes. All staff are trained based on our overall needs to meet our business requirements. We then discuss which members of staff can be trained in particular areas to enable them to develop, plus we try to widen the scope and level of training available every year. So, through Steenbergs, staff do regular external courses on Food Safety, HACCP, Health & Safety, First Aid, Fire Marshal and Fork Lift Truck driving, as well as internal training relevant to their jobs. 

Furthermore, staff have done courses on the environment, business ethics and NVQs and Open University courses. Many of our staff have been failed by the UK's education system, but Axel and Sophie Steenberg believe that everyone deserves a chance, and we are committed to developing their life skills and employability through lifelong learning, with many of our former employees going onto higher skilled jobs in new companies or going into further education. This is something we're proud of - to get people started on life's journey. For example, two alumni who left school with nothing went on to get a BSc then MSc in Criminology and a BSc then MSc in Psychology.

Has Steenbergs developed accessible work-life balance options that provide flexible working patterns for employees?

Yes. 7 of our staff work flexible working patterns. In particular, production staff are free to allocate their hours how they wish across the working week, rather than specific shift patterns. We are, also, flexible around school holidays, allowing staff to work different days/hours especially in the summer holidays and allow time off for health appointments, including 1 day's worth that is paid.

Does Steenbergs have a policy or arrangement in place, such as flexible working or paid leave, that allows for carers to balance work with their care responsibilities?

Yes. We allow staff to take time off (with no upper limit) or change their working patterns to undertake short term care within their immediate families. For example, one member of staff cares for his mother and works 3 days a week so he can share responsibilities for her care with his sister; moreover, those days are fixed so the family can plan for their mother's care without his bosses mucking him about.

Does Steenbergs consider the workplace ethics of your suppliers?

Yes. We have a formal assessment process that regularly requests information on our suppliers' ethical framework and we steer clear of those that have poor working practices and positively choose those with good ethical values. In terms of raw materials, for example, we seek to work with those that have Fairtrade certification or equivalent ethical certification process - many have more that one scheme that they are certified to, for example Ecovadis and Fairtrade. It becomes somewhat more difficult with large service providers like BT for phones and broadband or energy providers like British Gas Lite, where we have to deal with what we are given.