Secrets to a Sustainable Life and Brand, with Lysa Hardy

Episode 78

Lysa Hardy is the Chief Marketing Officer and Managing Director of Hotel Chocolat, the British luxury chocolatier. She's also the Non-Executive Director of a property investment company, and the co-founder of her own probiotic skincare brand. Meanwhile, Lysa is a mother of four. In this episode, she bears all and shares her secrets to finding the sweet spots between work and life, whilst also discussing how businesses can improve their sustainability strategies.

Episode 78


Episode Summary

Can women have it all?

As a mother of four with high-end roles in multiple companies, Lysa knows better than anyone that the popular ideal of women being able to "have it all" is misleading. Of course, women can and should pursue their careers, whilst also being able to grow a family and find time for themselves. However, society can often paint an unrealistic picture that women should try to maximize their efforts in all areas, achieving perfection with no consequences. According to Lysa, such dreams can only lead to burnout and disappointment. Instead, it's the compromise we make between choices that can drive true balance for everyone.

The power of support networks

Lysa emphasises that she would be nowhere without the people who have helped her along the way. One person can't be brilliant at everything. You must consider your strengths, your passions and your purpose, and then accept your weaknesses before you can really grow. A support network of friends and colleagues who do those things better, and wish to aid and assist you, are more valuable than anything else on your path to success. 

How to ace sustainability

Hotel Chocolat's excellent sustainability scheme of gentle farming prospers because they focus on the people at the heart of their cocoa production. The brand set themselves back profit-wise so that they could introduce more sustainable and eco-friendly farming methods, which took far more time and money to implement. The outcome, however, was a drastic improvement in their employee experience, and their environmental impact (and better chocolate). Lysa shares a few major tips for companies setting out to be more sustainable:

  • Focus on legalities first. In times of environmental pressure, it's easy to get lost in setting countless goals of what you want to achieve. But some things you really have to do. Make sure your business is lawful before you take any further steps.
  • Pick one key area. Narrowing down that list of sustainability targets is essential to doing at least one well. We want to help the Earth in as many ways as we can, but the principle of quality over quantity applies. If you do lots of little things poorly, they amount to no real change.
  • Take action. Another danger companies face is talking, but not doing. There's no use in elaborating what you should, would or will be doing to make a change. Just do it! The moment you move a muscle is the moment the leap begins.


This article summarises podcast episode 78 "Secrets to a Sustainable Life and Brand" recorded by CX Insider. For more information, listen to the episode, or contact Lysa on her LinkedIn profile.

Written by Marcell Debreceni



Full Episode Transcript

Lysa: We tried to do everything and then we quickly realized that we were talking about a lot of stuff. Yeah, but we weren't actually making real inroads into any of it.

Adam: You won't do it. Any of it.

Lysa: Well, no. Just trying to spin all the plates. Yeah. So we sort of took a step back and said okay, we want to make a difference actually in some of these things and we've got to accept, you know, like I was talking about the balance in my life. We can't do everything brilliantly, so. Let's prioritise, what are we really passionate about? And that's where the gentle farming came from. So that's our big initiative that we're now saying, Right we are, we are really behind this, we really want to make this work. We would love if every chocolate company said That's how we're going to farm.

Marcell: Hey, everyone, and welcome back to another episode of CX Insider. Today we speak to Lysa Hardy, the chief marketing officer and managing director for Hotel Chocolat. The luxury British chocolatier. Lysa has unmatched industry-leading experience, also being the non-executive director of Raven Property Group and the co-founder of her own probiotic skin care company, Beauty and Vitality. In this episode, we'll explore key topics including entrepreneurship, women and business, work, life balance and sustainability strategies. Enjoy the episode and if you do, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel for access to the best content that CX Insider has to offer. By the way, this podcast is brought to you by ACF Technologies, Global Leaders and Customer Experience Management Solutions.

Valentina: Cool. So hi Lysa. Thank you very much for coming today. We usually start by introduction and today's recording is all about your story and how you became a high performing individual and your experience at Hotel Chocolat. So would you like to start by telling us a bit about yourself and some of your career? Or it doesn't have to be only career, but some of the turning points in your life that made you who you are today?

Lysa: Okay, so I'm Lysa. Obviously, I've got a number of roles in my life, so I am UK MD for direct-to-consumer for Hotel Chocolat and group CMO. That takes up most of my time. I'm also a non-exec director for business and I'm co-founder of a beauty business. But my most important role actually is I'm mum to four amazing kids and wife to Chris, So that's a part of my life that's really important and actually it's my support crew that makes me successful in what I do in my work life. I've had, you know, so many opportunities. I've been so lucky. I've always had a mindset of you here once, make the most of it, you know, how how, how, how wrong can things go?

Give it a go. And as long as how wrong it can go isn't catastrophic, then I'll definitely give it a go. So I've grabbed lots of opportunities in my life that have fortunately come my way. And I spent the first ten years of my career working in the travel sector and that allowed me to travel a lot, see the world, and that was something I grew up in a small town. All my family lived in that town, literally, like every street there was someone from my family living in it, and I don't know why. I don't know where it came from. I just had a desire to see outside of that town in the world. So the travel sector really appealed and I traveled a lot, lived in other countries, worked in other countries, met some amazing people that are still great friends today, but learned tons, absolutely tons. And then I moved into the telecom sector, and I call those my Wild West days because it was at the time when it was just mobile phones were just becoming a thing.

Lysa: I mean, the Apple iPhone hadn't even launched then. That's how old I am. But, you know, it was almost like you were, you know, those massive things you used to carry around with you, if you can remember that. Oh, yeah. And it was it was just exploding everywhere. And it was innovation and technology. It was such great fun and really appealed to me. And again, I learned a lot in that sector, but a very different set of things I learned about brands, I learned really about commercials and growth and that sort of fuelled all of that experience, then fuelled my next part of my career, which was retail, and that's where I've spent the last ten years. So for me, retail is really it brings all of that together and it's about retail is actually about people, it's about customers, it's about the people that work in your business. If you've got physical shops, you know, they are the epitome of your brand and that's why I love Hotel Chocolat so much because we have such amazing people and you build a brand from the inside out and that's what our brand is all about. And whenever I, you know, say to people or I work at Hotel Chocolat, they invariably would say, Oh, your chocolate is amazing. And then they'll very quickly followed that with your staff and your stores are incredible. And tell me an anecdote about their local store or the local person that deals with them. And that's what I love. But it brings together everything I've been doing in my career to this point, which is why I love it. Mm hmm.

Valentina: You said that you've lived in different countries in the past. When you come back to the UK or I assume you grew up in England.

Lysa: I did, yeah. No, I grew up in England in the same town. My family still live there. I so it's a bit it sounds a bit strange, but I got married and then I moved to live in another country without my husband. Oh, so my, my family. My family thought I was slightly mad.

Adam: Oh, I bet your husband, Chris, probably thought you were a bit mad.

Lysa: Well, yeah, my family just thought was a bit odd, but it was one of those things the opportunity came along. At that time, my husband was working on a role that was away a lot, so it kind of didn't really matter where I lived and I wanted to take the opportunity. So but after a couple of years it was time to come home. I had my first child and that was really what prompted the move out of the travel sector into telecoms because I was traveling a lot and it just wasn't going to be conducive with family life, so.

Valentina: Are you busy?

Lysa: Yeah, but, you know, I would say everyone has the same 24 hours in a day. So people will often go, Wow, you know, I'm so busy. He's busy, busy, busy. It's kind of the world of our time, isn't it? How are you? Yeah, great. Really busy. And I don't know, sometimes you can wear it a bit like a status symbol. Oh, I'm successful because I'm really busy, but I, you know, I look at people and I go, you know, Barack Obama, he just has 24 hours and a day, right? Yeah. Bill Gates, he just has 24 hours in a day. So and I think there's something about being a working mum that you become ruthless at prioritizing and where you spend your time because you can't do it all. This whole notion, the eighties notion that I grew up with of women can have it all nonsense. You really can't. So you have to choose. And you know, business is about choices. Life is about choices. And so, yeah, of course, I'm busy. I'd be busy if I wasn't working. To be honest, that's just my nature. But I busy myself with the things that I choose and that matter.

Marcell: Clearly, Lysa has a lot of responsibility in her life, from parenting to work and high-up roles in multiple businesses. How does she find the time to balance everything? Is there a secret to having it all?

Lysa: It's a constant, I guess you could say challenge. You could say opportunity, whichever you choose. But you know, it's constant. You know, anyone that says to me, they've just got it nailed, I'm really suspicious of maybe, maybe there are people out there that, you know, are incredible and have nailed it. I've been doing, you know, my eldest daughter's 24, so I've been juggling work and kids for 24 years and I've not definitely not nailed it. And I still have weeks where I get it wrong. But, you know, I sleep at night because I do my best. I met someone last week, actually, and they were like, Oh my God, I've got one child and you've got four. How do you do that? And I was like, Well, you know, it depends where you want to. You can't be brilliant at everything. And you have to choose your levels. Yeah. And so for me, you know, are my kids breathing? Are they fed? That's success and anything beyond that great happy days. And, you know, I think my kids are pretty balanced. I've got a great relationship with them. And am I the person that is in the office till 10:00 every night? No, because I have a family to go home to.

Lysa: But I think I you know, I do what's required of me. I take my responsibilities seriously sometimes, you know, I have to put in those hours because there might be something happening that just needs attention. And sometimes I want to go to my kids sports day, and it's the yin and the yang. You know, it's that's the balance for me. Do I go to every sports day? No. But for kids, I just can't do that. Do I go to every single school concert? No. But I think I choose. Well, in terms of the ones that really matter and the ones that are really important. And I've got a good open dialogue with my kids and I'll say, you know, is it really important that you want me to come to this one? Because if it is, I will do everything I can to get there. And I'm happy on those occasions to say at work, I can't do that meeting guys, because this thing is really important and I'm going to go and do it. And you know, I'm not doing that week in, week out. So the balance kind of works.

Valentina: Mm hmm. I want to ask you, spend most of your career in the corporate world. What made you start your own beauty company?

Lysa: Yeah.

Adam: So when did you find the time?

Lysa: You know, of course. Best 10 minutes. Yeah, I don't, I don't sleep much. I think as a marketing person, you. You always have that creative bit inside you. And it's funny, whenever all the teams I've ever worked with, whatever business, you know, whenever you're kind of, you know, in the bar sometime or on a kind of social thing, chatting about life and you say to people if you weren't in marketing, what would you do? You generally find people want to build something. So they either say, Oh, I want to build a house or I want to be a chef, or a landscape gardener typically is something that's got a bit of creativity and something quite tangible. And I think it's because marketing isn't that tangible as a career. You know, if you don't work in marketing, I mean, my parents still think my job is to write PowerPoint slides. They just don't really understand what I do. Yeah. And so I think I've always had that kind of desire to create something. And it was actually when I was at Holland and Barrett and we saw an emerging trend in the beauty sector. We had a few beauty products that were naturally as a national natural health retailer that were natural products, no nasty ingredients. And we started to see that sector really grow. And obviously, you know, Anita Roddick, Body Shop was, you know, infamous for her campaigning around, you know, what you put on your skin.

Lysa: And we really started to get into that space and we started to get a lot more customers coming to the brand because of that. I got really curious about it and interested in it and started to look at the science and could see that pre and probiotics, the research was really showing this massive benefit between gut health and actually your overall health, but particularly skin health and brain health. And so I was like, okay, but why isn't anyone in the skincare world putting prebiotics in their moisturizers then and their supplements and putting it together? Because there was still quite a divide between people that buy supplements and people that buy skincare. And that was where the idea started. But that was six years ago. So it's taken me a while. But, you know, finding I worked with a nutritionist to develop the product and the formulation for the product. I wanted to focus specifically on menopausal skin because there's not much out there. And over time, lockdown didn't help, if I'm honest, but over time, got the product developed and built, started to build the idea behind the business. But I brought some business partners on board and together we've sort of created something that's now become real.

Marcell: Nowadays, the pressure that social media places on people to look, feel and live their best is causing increased levels of depression and anxiety. Often the content you see online is a twisted skew of reality which empowers these destructive effects without users even realizing this is also seeped into the corporate world through the glorification of achievement, leading many to think they are behind or failing. How does Lysa approach this problem?

Lysa: Yeah, I mean, I call it the Instagram effect. So and I think it goes, you know, it's kind of permeated society much more broadly than just social media. But it starts with social media, which is everyone's portraying their best self. Right? And that's not new to social media. I mean, for years people talk about the mask. You know, you go to work, you've got your corporate mask on. So people always want to show their best side. Of course they do. But I think the proliferation of social media has made it such, you know, a bit like, you know, in the eighties when I was growing up, women can have it all. This perfect example of what life should be like sets people's expectations. And that's not fair because it isn't like that. And, you know, I was celebrating a few years ago when there was a few Instagram influencers in the States that came out and said, this isn't real people. You know, that image you saw of me that was a casual shot on the beach actually took us 4 hours to set up. I didn't eat for two days before, you know.

Adam: Holding my stomach. Exactly.

Lysa: Exactly. Yeah, totally. Yeah. And I was really applauding that because I thought, you know, finally somebody is kind of breaking through and saying, this is not real. It's a facade. And that comes through into life as well, I think now. So, you know, I was doing a talk at a women's lunch a few weeks back, and I talked about I was talking about my career and I was giving some examples of, you know, working mum, how, you know, how challenging that can be. And particularly, you know, now I'm in a fortunate position that I don't have a boss that's kind of saying, you know, you've got to be here at nine. Got to leave it fine. I know I can come and go kind of as much as I need to. But, you know, in the younger days I was expected to be in meetings and, you know, as a junior person, I couldn't just go, Oh, sorry, I'm not coming in for that. And that's hard. And I was trying to kind of get that across to the audience and say, I get it because I've you know, I've been there and I told a story about I told two stories, one about being in a meeting and realizing I've got Weetabix all down my top. I've been feeding my daughter in the morning. And if you've ever fed a child Weetabix, it has this amazing ability. You wipe it off and it comes back.

Adam: Yeah. Yeah. You can't get it off. No spread.

Lysa: And you think it's gone and then it comes back.

Adam: And it looks a bit like sick.

Lysa: It's not nice because people don't know what it is. What is that? So that was one story. And then the other story was I'd done a board presentation to the board and I thought I came out thinking I nailed that. I actually nailed it and I was really anxious about it. And I'd been in this board meeting, you know, gesticulating and pointing to things. And I realised when I came out that I'd got a Heinz baby food label stuck to the underside.

Adam: I would remember the meeting.

Lysa: So I told it is a funny story, but at the end loads of the women came up to me and they said, Oh, you are so normal. And I was like, Well, what did you think I was going to be? But they said, people don't tell those stories. They talk about all their successes and all their achievements and they don't talk about the stuff that went wrong. Yeah. And, you know, I mean, it wasn't a disaster, but, you know, you have to laugh about these things. We're all human, right? So, yeah.

Marcell: Lysa has touched on the notion that women can have it all, that it's possible to juggle a successful career, a social life, or be a family and anything else you can dream of attaining. Speaking from experience, however, Lysa suggests that this can be an unrealistic and misleading goal and that compromise between choices is key for everyone.

Lysa: Yeah, it's an interesting phrase because I certainly don't want people to take out that. I mean, you can't have it all because I think you can have everything you want to have, and I certainly have it all in terms of the things I would want in my life. I guess where I, I don't like that phrase is particularly when I, I was kind of in my early twenties. There was a lot that that phrase was used a lot and it was a bit of a pastiche for, you know, you can have a career, you can have a family, you can look amazing and be a size eight. You can be super fit and run marathons on the weekend. You can have a perfectly clean house that you're doing yourself. You're feeding your family hand-cooked meals that are nutritionally balanced. Wow. And I think there was just such a lot of pressure that you had to be doing all those things and perfect all those things. And I think that's the bit for me that Instagram is replicating. So, you know, I'm a bit of an interior design nerd. I love looking at I'm just nosey, really. So I like looking at house accounts on Instagram.

Adam: No problem with that.

Lysa: I'll do the same. And they all, you know, they all look perfect and beautiful and showroom-like. And then occasionally you'll get something and go, This is what it looks like when the kids get home from school. And I'm like, Hallelujah, Yay.

Adam: My house, shoes everywhere. Lots of magazines out. Yeah, of course.

Lysa: So I think for me and a lot of people ask me and say, especially if they're going to go on maternity leave, you know, what should I do? Should I take a year off? Should I give up work? Should I come back part-time? Should a come back full-time? And I would say you have to choose what's right for you. So for me, I chose to work full-time. So I have my maternity leaves and then went back to work full time and that was right for me. But that's not right for everybody. For some people, it may well be taken a few years out or maybe never going back to work. Only you can know what is right.

Adam: And I'll ask you a question on that. This could be really controversial, but it just come to my mind. I've always thought this and I would be interested to get your view on it. Do you think women are at a disadvantage? Because let's say you're obviously a career woman. You are successful. You've been successful. If you suddenly decided and you say at 24 years old, you want to have a family. You've just said you've got to have time out. You have to because ultimately you are bearing a child. Yeah. Do you think that puts a woman at a disadvantage? Because even if she decides to go back to work full time, she still has to have an element of time off? And do you think that has a negative effect on that lady's career path? Now, I know that's a really controversial question, but it's in my opinion, I think it does. I think it's actually an almost like an Achilles heel because you can't change that. But I'd be interested to get your point of view.

Lysa: Yeah, I think it's a really interesting question. And, you know, it never occurred to me until I was talking with a colleague one day who didn't have children. And we both effectively were peers. We did the same level of job. Okay. And she said she said to me, Well, you're so much more successful than me. And I said, Well, what do you mean, we do the same job? What are you on about? Yeah. And she said, Yeah, but you've taken four years off because of maternity leave, so I'm four years ahead of you and we're doing the same job. So you must be more successful than me. And I never really thought about it before, and I just thought, yeah, does that is that perception? Because I've taken four years off. They're almost for missing years.

Adam: Yeah.

Lysa: I think a lot of it comes back to how women treat their maternity leaves. And this is part of what I always talk to people about when they ask me is you need to think about how you want your maternity leave to be because it's not one size fits all. So for some people, they want to be 100% focused on their children and not hear from work until they're ready to go back in. And that's fine. But for other people and I was one of these, I knew I wanted to go back in full time. I didn't want to feel like I'd missed a lot or was out of touch with what was going on in the business. So I had an agreement with the people I was working for as to how I wanted to keep in touch. So I wanted to, you know, if there were big kind of away days, I wanted to be invited. I may choose not to go, but I wanted to have the option to go in and be connected. Once a quarter, I would meet my boss for dinner just to catch up on what's going on. What's the news?

Adam: What's the gossip? Oh, you weren't there mentally.

Lysa: Definitely. I was checking in. I wasn't there all the time. I definitely wasn't there all the time, but I was checking in.

Adam: Sure.

Lysa: And that meant that when I did go back into the business, I felt like I was still connected. And I didn't I didn't spend the first six months thinking, oh, my, you know what's going on?

Adam: It's all changed.

Lysa: Yeah, Yeah. Now, that's not for everyone. But I think sometimes and this might seem sexist, but it's not meant that way. But sometimes male bosses don't quite know how to approach that conversation. And so they think because it's a difficult subject, just keep away from it, don't talk. And then that doesn't help, because then as a person on maternity leave, you either never hear from your boss and then you get really suspicious and think, What's going on?

Adam: They get rid of me, I'm going to be replaced. Yeah.

Lysa: Or you hear from them too much and you're like, Leave me alone. So I always encourage women to be proactive on that and say, Get in the driving seat, take some control. Yeah. Think about the kind of maternity leave you want and talk to your boss about it, because they probably just don't know how to broach it with you. Mm hmm. Do I think it's a disadvantage? I think it depends on the organisation you work for. So I'm really lucky. I work in a very forward-thinking organisation. We have lots of women that work part-time. We've got a young female-oriented workforce, so lots of people on maternity leave, lots of senior female women. So in our organisation, no, I don't think it does, but I've worked in organisations that are not like that and I think then in those cases, sadly yes it can.

Valentina: I've got one more question because I think that a lot of me, a lot of women talk about this actually going back from maternity leave, back to business. It must be super stressful, period. How what advice would you give?

Lysa: So I would my advice would be Chinese in gently, you know, just, you know, having a Friday where you might probably the week before just be getting your child into a nursery perhaps. So you've got a lot of stress around that because that's a change. And then on Monday morning, you're back in the office. So you're giving yourself a pretty short runway to go through a lot of change. So I always advise people to kind of try and think about that. Think of it as a transition because it's a major transition. And I had one of my maternity leaves. I had cut short because something had happened at work and they needed me to step into a role. And it was a bit of a crisis situation. Now, I wasn't forced to. I agreed to do that, but still, suddenly I'd got a shorter maternity leave than I thought I had. So I did have to do that quite rapidly. So you know, my advice is always think about the timing, think about the transition and be a bit kind yourself and try and ease that in gently.

Lysa: You know, maybe you could you've got an option that you could do nursery for one day a week or an afternoon a week in the build up to it, because that can be a mental adjustment as well when your child goes to nursery or a childminder for the first time. You know this keeping in touch days where you get paid to work during your maternity leave so you know use I think you get certainly in my day you used to get ten it might be more now I don't know but you know think about how you don't have to use all ten but could you use some of those in the run up just to go back into the office environment and have a cuppa with people? Just get a bit used to the commute again, You know, you get some time with your boss to kind of go, how's the business moved on in this time? How's the shape of the department changed Because you know, sometimes that's a.

Adam: Really good point because I think if you're not engaged with what you're about to step into, you could almost be anxious about it. Yeah. Yeah. Anxiety levels could go through the roof because you've obviously got a new child going into nursery or whatever it is. You're probably anxious about that. You've then got the fear of, Oh my God, I'm going back to work on Monday. I haven't got a clue what I'm going into, what's in store. So yeah, very good. Yeah.

Lysa: And I think, you know, business is so fast-moving. If you're taking a year for maternity leave, a lot can change in a year.

Adam: Just a bit.

Lysa: And you know, could even be things like technology. You know, I know people that have worked in e-commerce where the website read platform to a different platform in the time they're on maternity leave and suddenly they're coming back and they don't know that platform.

Adam: Three years ago we weren't all using teams and yeah.

Lysa: Yeah, exactly. Yeah I can remember my first teams calls. Yeah.

Adam: And now it's just second nature. Yeah.

Lysa: Use that time to kind of build your confidence and support network. You know, you can never have a big enough support network.

Adam: You're definitely a fan of people. Yes, 100%. Yeah.

Lysa: I didn't. I didn't do this on my own.

Adam: No, absolutely.

Lysa: No.

Marcell: Bringing all these insights together and applying them to the corporate world. Does Lysa have any advice for entrepreneurs trying to stay dedicated and motivated to accomplishing their goals?

Lysa: I'll come back to support network, definitely, because we're not all brilliant at everything. Well, I don't think so anyway. You know, be self-aware. Think about what your strengths are, Think about your passion, your purpose, and really excel at those. I've never really been a fan of the advice. Look at your weaknesses and try and improve them. Yeah, if they're your weaknesses, they're your weaknesses, just accept it.

Adam: Like it's like at school, like they identify their kids. Good at art, but they cannot speak French, have no interest in speaking French. Let them have extra art lessons and cut out the French.

Lysa: Thank you. Yeah. No, I'm totally with you. Play to your strengths and then find a support network and do the bit that you're not so good at. So I always try and do that when I'm building teams is get people that are really exceptional at the things that I know I'm not great at. Sure, because it does about I could spend all my time doing those things. I'm still not going to be. I might be better at it, but I'm not going to be great at it. And I want I want a team that's going to be great at everything. So in terms of motivation, absolutely. Think about what you're passionate about. Think about what you're good at, because that's human nature. That's where your that's going to be your North Star. And then in terms of getting things off the ground, think about the support network. So think about who else can complement your team, who you know, it's we, right? Nobody does anything on their own. So who can help who can get you there? Who's going to be your, you know, support my husband? I've had a bad day. I walk in the door, he's got a glass of wine literally waiting for me. He's a legend. He is a legend. You know, I could not be. I could not do what I do without him being in my support network. I've also got people, though, that I know will be critical when I need somebody to give me some honest feedback. I know he'd talk to you on that, and I know they'll be honest. So it's really about kind of being quite scientific about that and how you're going to build that, and then that lets you do what you're good at and what you enjoy.

Adam: We spoke about people, we spoke about support network and a hotel. Like it sounds like it's incredibly important that people and you're right in retail, it's about people. You've got a store that's who people remember, isn't it? Customers Remember those people. How do you recruit for that? Because I also spent ten years in retail and I was a branch manager and all that kind of stuff. And I remember at the time it was recruitment process was pretty awful, to be honest. It was like, Oh, can they work weekends? And that was it. Yeah. What do they look like? Can I work weekends? Can they use a tail? Almost. But that doesn't necessarily create a great customer experience. What do you guys do? Is there any kind of secret to that that we should all be thinking about? Or have I gone too rogue?

Lysa: No, no, no. It's a really good question because it is a chat. It's a challenge that retailers really grapple with. And I think, you know, various retailers have tried different things to various degrees of success. So I think that's probably the most famous one where they get people to actually work in the store and then the colleagues decide whether they get a job or not. Really?

Adam: Yeah, I did not know that.

Lysa: Yeah. Which I think is brilliant. Right.

Adam: Amazing.

Lysa: Yeah. Because you all know you only need one person that doesn't quite fit. And the whole energy of that.

Adam: Poison pill almost brings it all down. Yeah, you're right.

Lysa: Yeah. So they, they actually kind of shortlist people. Clearly there's competency interviews and things, but then when they've got their shortlist, they go and work in a store and then the colleagues go, Yeah, we want to hire him or we don't want him on shift.

Adam: Yeah, that's a brilliant idea. I didn't even know that existed.

Lysa: And actually I picked this up from a retailer I was working with in Holland, in the Netherlands. Think about the store as your house. Your home. So when someone steps over the threshold of the shop front, they're coming into your home. You know, Would you ignore someone coming into your home? Of course you wouldn't. You'd go and greet them and say hello and you'd want to make them feel comfortable. And for me, that's what you want in a store environment. And that's what I look for when I'm recruiting people is who brings that humanness, that energy. Yeah, right. And that energy.

Adam: Wow. Sorry. That was a real question. And I know we want to talk about sustainability, but Lysa's got loads of knowledge and I worked a very tough for a long time, so I'm just I'm really intrigued.

Marcell: Moving on to Hotel Chocolat, the British cocoa brand that places people at the heart of everything they do, including their exceptional sustainability programme. Let's find out what sets them apart in this field of ethical business.

Lysa: I mean, interestingly, when Angus, our co-founder, set the business up, one of the core values right from day one was ethics. Okay? And you know, this is a long time ago. So way before it was kind of popular or trendy or necessary.

Adam: He's ahead of the game.

Lysa: He was ahead of the game. Yeah, right. And the business has always been run with ethics at the core, which I think is great. It's amazing because we're not trying to adapt to something external that's coming at us. It's in our DNA. Absolutely, in our DNA. And the mission of our business is about making people happy through chocolate. That's why we get out of bed in the morning. I mean.

Adam: Apparently releases endorphins.

Lysa: It does. It's really good for you. Yeah, it's really good for you. But we look at it from a broader sense, not just from eating it, but everybody in the industry of chocolate, let's make them happy. So the people that work for us, the people that grow the cocoa, the people that supply it. So cacao, I think, you know, cacao, which is the raw ingredient of chocolate, is precious. Yeah. And I don't know that everybody realizes that because, you know, when you're sat in a petrol station shoveling down a Kit-Kat.

Adam: Which is timeless.

Lysa: To be fair, it's a classic. We don't appreciate the preciousness of what goes into making chocolate. And when you've been to a cocoa farm and you walk around and we've got a farm in Saint Lucia where we grow our own cocoa, not all of our cocoa comes from there, but we grow our own there. And we've also got a visitor attraction that we give people tools so they see how the cocoa is grown, what it looks like on a tree, in a pod, how you open the pod, because it looks nothing like you would imagine. Okay. And I've done those tours with people and you see the realization of. When they realize how much goes into growing cocoa and farming cocoa and how much cocoa you need to actually make a bar of chocolate. What a clue. Yeah, quite a lot. Yeah. And it just gives people a different perception that when you're in a supermarket and you're buying a bar of chocolate for, you know, 75 pe or pound or whatever it might be. But actually it's quite precious. And so for us, there's a piece around we want to make everybody in that chain happy. And so we started a programme because we've got our own farm. We started a program to look at how, how we can contribute more in the cocoa industry and how we can change the cocoa industry. So historically, in some regions of the world where cocoa has grown, it's caused deforestation.

Adam: Okay.

Lysa: Because there was a belief that you needed to just plant loads of cocoa plants, get loads of sun on them. And that's the way to get the most yield from your plant, the most cocoa pods. And that's how typically farmers get paid is however much they produce is relevant to how much they get paid. We've demonstrated through what we've done on our own farms that by what we call gentle farming, you can improve yields over time and be much kinder to the planet and not have to cut trees down. You can actually plant trees and grow cocoa in the shade. Which is much better. Much better for the planet. Yeah. So the trick, though, the challenge is initially your yield isn't quite as good. It takes two or three years for the yield of that.

Adam: That.

Lysa: Crops to catch up. So we realized this was going to be a problem because when you bring in new cocoa farmers, they just want to earn as much straight away, right? You can't say, well, honestly, trust us, in three years it will be fine. So we one of our biggest regions for cocoa is Ghana. And so Angus, our CEO and a team, went out to Ghana to talk to the farmers. And basically what we've done is we've put a payment in place that pays them an additional amount in those first couple of years that they need to sort of trust us and plant in the shade and accept the yield may not be quite there. So we would pay them what they would have earned anyway. And then by the time they sort of catches up, it then gets into its own.

Adam: That's amazing.

Lysa: And it's a much better way of farming.

Adam: You're not putting profits as the first thing, really, and obviously it must be a profitable organization, but you're actually taking a negative there, aren't you? You're taking money off the PNL to support someone.

Lysa: Yeah, I mean, yeah. And it was, you know, is the commercial person that has to earn the money. It was, you know, it wasn't an insignificant amount. Sure, it was there that was taken, but it was it's the right thing to do. And as an ethical business. And, you know, we want cacao to be sustainable. We all want to be eating chocolate forever. I do anyway. Yeah, definitely. So, you know, we've got to make some shifts. We've got just as we have with all of the environmental issues that we're grappling with. Right. We've got to we've got to change. Just carry on as we are and expects.

Adam: That it's just going be all right. No, definitely not. That's actually kind of leads me to my next question. So sustainability transformation is a big thing at the moment with all organisations and you've mentioned something there that you have done from day one almost. But for external organisations that are all of a sudden thinking, we need to do this or we have to do this, how do they focus their energies? What do they focus on?

Lysa: Yeah, that's such a good question because it's really hard, you know, it's almost like we've just suddenly woken up and now there's a million things we've got to fix all at once. And you know, we're not a big business. Certainly in the world of cocoa. We're a pretty small business really, and we can't do everything. I would say our ambition is greater than our reality. Okay? We want to fix everything right now, but we just can't. We have to make choices. So gentle farming for us was a really important choice and an area that we felt we'd got some expertise in and we could really get behind and we're really passionate about. But there's a million other things that we want to do as well. So what we've tried to do is to sort of is almost sequence things. So we've and to be fair, we've done that because I think we got it a bit wrong in the beginning. We tried to do everything and then we quickly realised that we were talking about a lot of stuff. Yeah, but we weren't actually making real inroads into the, into any, any of it.

Adam: You won't do any of it.

Lysa: Well no, just trying to spin all the plates. Yeah. So we sort of took a step back and said okay we want to make a difference actually in some of these things and we've got to accept, you know, a bit like I was talking about the balance in my life. We can't make a, we can't do everything brilliantly, so. Let's prioritise, what are we really passionate about? And that's where the gentle farming came from. So that's our big initiative that we're now saying, Right we are, we are really behind this, we really want to make this work. We would love if every chocolate company said That's how we're going to farm cocoa. Yeah, but we've also got legal requirements as a business. So we have somebody that sort of manages our right. Here's all the things that we have to do and we have to make sure we're keeping up with legislation and that we're kind of treating that almost as day job. And then here's some other things that we want to do. So we want to make sure all of our packaging is recyclable and we've made some headway into that, but we're just trying to sequence it all and make choices. And then there'll be other things that we think that's important that will be next on the list. But we're not going to do that right now. We're going to get this bit first. Yes, that would be my advice.

Adam: That's pretty tough too, you know.

Lysa: Yeah. Yeah. Try and sequence it, make a difference.

Marcell: Many companies are accused of misleading their customers by advertising their ethical and sustainable virtues. Yet behind the scenes, their business is anything but. This can be a true issue for brands who actually are trying to make a change. So how can this dreaded greenwashing be avoided while still representing real sustainable practices?

Lysa: 30 years ago, I worked in a business called the Business Environment Association. Okay. And it was about trying to encourage businesses to have be more environmentally responsible. So this is part of my DNA as well. I've been working on environmental stuff for a long time, and I got asked exactly the same question.

Adam: 30 years ago.

Lysa: Exactly the same question. So 30 years ago it was happening then.

Adam: Okay.

Lysa: I think it's more prolific now, and I think a lot of it, in all honesty, is not deliberate. I don't think businesses are trying to falsely claim, but it's a complex area. And, you know, with marketing, there's many layers to marketing. Marketers are ultimately storytellers, and I think that's where the environmental stuff sits because you've got to tell the whole story. You know, I took quite a long time to answer your question about gender farming because I can't answer that in a sentence. No, I have to explain it.

Adam: Yeah, of course.

Lysa: But, you know, we marketers will also have to put things in shop windows or posters that have got a headline. Yeah. How do you encapsulate it into a headline? And I think I like to believe that's where some of the misleading stuff comes from. It's because we're trying to shorthand the message.

Adam: And you can't do it.

Lysa: To get customers' attention and you can't. You've got to tell the story.

Adam: You see a lot of stats, don't you, at the moment? All about stats, Yeah. Yeah. And then people investigate those. Yeah.

Lysa: So though, what's the famous statement? Lies. Lies in statistics.

Adam: Yeah.

Lysa: They go you can get, you can get stats to say anything. Right.

Adam: You can, you can, you can frame it in whatever way you want. Yeah absolutely.

Lysa: And again, that's where the story becomes important because you're giving i the statistic, the context, the real context, the true story. And I think the thing the important thing that marketers need to be responsible about is this is a journey so it's not one-dimensional. And so none of us are perfect. No one's nailed it. No. So be honest about that. You know, we are we would love to say, Oh, all of our packaging is recyclable. It's not right now. We've done a massive improvement job to get it to where it is. And how do you define recyclable? Because there's no national standard for curbside recycling in this country.

Adam: Oh.

Lysa: I went on holiday to Suffolk.

Valentina: You know. But I know that, like, recycling is tricky in the UK. Like, you go to Switzerland and you can recycle literally every single, every different colour of glass. Yeah. And here everything is mixed and just dumped together.

Lysa: Yeah. Yeah. So I went to Suffolk on holiday and rented a holiday home and at the end of the week got my wine bottles from the week and thought Right, which bin do I put these in. There's no curbside recycling of glass in Suffolk.

Adam: Just in Suffolk.

Lysa: Wait, you have to. You can recycle it. You've got to drive to a recycling point and put your glass in there. Don't collect.

Adam: People are going to do that.

Lysa: I just assumed everywhere in the country. Oh, the wine bottles out and someone picks them up, right?

Adam: Absolutely.

Lysa: 100% that's a really good example.

Adam: Put them in your blue bin.

Lysa: Yeah. My parents live in Buckinghamshire, which is the next county to where I live. They put everything into one bag and it gets taken away and sorted. I have to sort everything into different.

Adam: See, I'm in Surrey. We stick it in a big blue bin. Yeah, there you go. Is cardboard, glass, whatever.

Lysa: There's no standard. So that means when people say we're 100% recyclable. Recyclable where?

Marcell: Thanks for tuning in. We hope you enjoyed the episode, learnt something new or had your brain cogs turning. If you want to join a growing community of thought leaders, head over to our LinkedIn and follow us at see inside a podcast to stay updated. You can also subscribe to our YouTube channel for access to full-length videos like this one, shorter clips for lighter viewing and also YouTube shorts for our best moments. Thanks again and I'll see you in two weeks. But for now, enjoy our rapid-fire questions. By the way, this podcast has been brought to you by ACF Technologies, Global leaders and Customer Experience Management Solutions.

Adam: Have you got your quickfire round questions?

Lysa: Am I ready?

Adam: Anything is on there.

Valentina: You have.

Adam: I haven't got any, but I was going to ask where does the name come from.

Lysa: Hotel Chocolat. Yeah. So Angus, our founder, wanted something that really evoked an emotion. And to him and to many people, chocolate gives you that moment of escapism. Okay. You know, you know, when you've had that day and you just have a bite of chocolate and you shut your eyes and just go, Oh, it's all good. Life is good. And so that moment of escapism was where he started, and that's where he landed at Hotel Chocolat.

Adam: Because it is a place to escape to. It's a place.

Lysa: To escape to.

Adam: He's a clever man.

Lysa: He's a very clever man, isn't he.

Valentina: Is it me? But I have a feeling that all of a sudden when you said chocolate gives you a feeling of escapism, like it's all of a sudden it became cloudy and like, there was, like, more shadow.

Lysa: And more like chocolate?

Valentina: Anyway, Yeah.

Lysa: Let's just go quick ones.

Valentina: Okeydokey. So what's some of the best business advice you've ever gotten?

Lysa: Oh, that's a good question. Always focus on the customer. Always put the customer first. And if you're struggling with knowing what to do next, start with the customer. And the answer is usually there. Hmm.

Valentina: What's your favorite part about working at Hotel Chocolat?

Lysa: The people, The people and the culture. It's an amazing business. I mean, we're working in chocolate, right? So that helped start. That definitely helps. But I say this to everyone. It's just the nicest bunch of people I've ever worked with.

Valentina: What is the one thing you're deeply grateful for right now?

Lysa: I really work to be grateful for lots of things in my life. I'm incredibly lucky. I've been incredibly fortunate right now. I think my children. My children are at that age where they're getting older and I can remember being their age and they still want to sit around the dinner table. They still want to share stories about their day, what's going on in their lives, and they are eternally hopeful for the future. Both my two older children, both are very focused on changing the world, and that makes me hugely grateful.

Valentina: If you were a superhero, what would you do first?

Lysa: I'd have two things in quick succession. Am I allowed to have two? Yeah, I would. I would fix hunger and make sure there was nobody hungry and I would give everyone a support network. Even if it's just one person.

Adam: Are you a pretty good superhero? Why don't Marvel do movies and stuff like that? I was going to ask a random question. I've just sort of in my head, okay, you're at the petrol station, you're craving a chocolate. Now, I know you don't often sell chocolate at petrol stations. What's your go to chocolate bar. Oh, if it wasn't one of your own, of course, because you can't get one of your own because it's not in a petrol station. You have to get something else.

Lysa: Okay. Gosh, this is like.

Adam: Saying we don't leave it in there if it gets you in trouble.

Lysa: My favourite football or another team. It would be Galaxy.

Adam: Galaxy. Okay. Sorry. That was a very naughty question. I would be double decker. What would you be? You eat chocolate, right?

Valentina: Kinder Bueno.

Adam: Oh, good choice. Yeah, as a good shout.

Valentina: The white one.

Lysa: See, I can't. I really don't like white chocolate. Apart from our white chocolate.

Adam: Does your white chocolate actually contain chocolate?

Lysa: No, White chocolate actually doesn't. No, it's cocoa butter.

Adam: Yeah.

Lysa: Okay. But ours has less sugar in it because we are. Our mantra is more cocoa, less sugar. So we always have cocoa as our number one ingredient. Obviously, we can't with white chocolate, but we have more cocoa butter and less sugar.

Adam: I've never had your white chocolate and I love white chocolate. It can be quite sickly, though.

Lysa: Yeah. Yeah, it's too sweet for me. But I do like our white chocolate.

Adam: Okay, Brilliant. Good. Thank you very much. That was.

Lysa: Great. Thank you. Yeah.

Valentina: Yeah, I loved it.

Adam: Marcell All good? That was great.

Lysa: That's nice. Yeah. Good.

Adam: It was. It's really good.

Lysa: What was that?

Adam: I think my wife's going to love that, so. She said, I told you, Adam.