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Sustainability Policy


As a company, Donald Russell has always placed great importance on protecting the environment around us. The clean air, abundant fresh water and natural pastures of our corner of Scotland are instrumental in producing some of the finest products on the planet. We could never have built our successful business without them, and we consider ourselves to have a duty of care to help maintain and protect these priceless attributes.

Aberdeenshire LandscapeAberdeenshire Landscape

As part of our commitment to holding the Royal Warrant, we need to be able to demonstrate very clearly that we meet the stringent environmental and sustainability standards set as a condition of being awarded this honour. We are proud to have not only met, but exceeded, these standards on our most recent reapplication. It has reinforced our company-wide commitment to being at the forefront of our industry in this regard.

We have a member of staff appointed as our ‘Green Champion’, who maintains an overview of our actions in this area, as well as investigating and suggesting new initiatives which could improve our environmental performance. We will continue to work towards ensuring that our sustainability credentials are the very best that they can be within the demands of contemporary business.

The following document sets out the policies and actions that Donald Russell implements to minimise our impact on the natural environment. We are aware that we can never rest on our laurels, and that there is always more that could be actioned with further effort or expenditure. To this end, the document is divided into sections on what we currently achieve, and what we aspire to achieve in the longer term.

In summary:

  1. Sourcing
  2. Packaging
  3. Promotional materials
  4. Waste reduction
  5. An energy efficient working environment
  6. The future


To view our sustainability policies and actions click the links below:

Sustainable Sourcing

We take the issue of meat production very seriously and take a proactive approach to industry developments. We are a member of Quality Meat Scotland, a public body which seeks to improve the efficiency of red meat production in Scotland.
As a purveyor of frozen food, the sourcing of our raw ingredients obviously plays an important part in the overall sustainability of our business. We source our meat, fish and other ingredients as locally as possible, providing they meet our high standards and expectations of taste and quality.



Our beef, lamb and pork are all reared to traditional farming methods, rather than intensive grain-fed rearing programmes. We use only grass-fed beef and lamb; happily for us, this provides the best flavour, as well as being the most welfare-friendly method of rearing livestock. Feeding livestock on grass, hay and silage rather than grain also considerably reduces their overall carbon footprint.

We are proud to support British farmers by insisting that all of our beef and lamb is 100% British. We are continuing this support with the introduction of new ranges of British pork. Because welfare is important to us, we will work only with British Quality Approved Pork (BQAP) which meets nationally recognised animal welfare accreditation. We are working hard to move our supply of pork to be entirely British; until we are able to complete this move in the near future, some pork products will remain of high-welfare Danish origin.



All of our game is genuinely wild, and is traditionally sourced in the UK. Our wild red and roe deer are culled on estates across the highlands and glens of Scotland.



In the past, we have traditionally supplied poultry from the Loué region of France, where the farmers produce slow grown, free-range poultry of superb quality. This allowed us to supply our customers with the guaranteed quantities of fixed weight poultry we require, at the high quality and welfare standards upon which we insist.

These birds are raised to the highest possible environmental standards, being homed in grassy meadows with trees for shelter and roosting, and warm barns which they can access for protection from foxes at night. We will still continue to provide a range of Loué poultry.

However, to further support British farmers, we are also introducing a range of British chicken and Christmas turkeys, which will again meet nationally recognised animal welfare accreditation. We are now delighted to be able to present you with a choice of where your poultry comes from. Our British turkeys will be sourced from the famous turkey region of Norfolk, while our chicken will come from a family company in Yorkshire, who have supplied chicken from their own farms for over 70 years. We’re proud to support this fine tradition of poultry rearing by continuing to build on our support for British farmers and produce.



As part of our commitment to sustainability, we work with our fish suppliers to advocate that products within our range are responsibly sourced and comes from sustainable stocks. 
Donald Russell is committed to maintaining the welfare and safeguarding of fish stocks and we realise that it’s also increasingly a focal point for our customers. 

Through the sourcing of our fish, we support the aims and objectives of a number of independent accreditation schemes. These include those of the Marine Stewardship Council and the Responsibly Sourced Fishing Scheme. 

This commitment to sustainability means we can bring you the finest fish and seafood, while making sure that future generations are able to enjoy them too. 

Updated June 2020 and information subject to change without notice.


Operating a mail order business necessitates using sufficient packaging to ensure the safe transport of our goods. Individual products need to be packed robustly enough to survive in customers’ freezers and kitchens, mostly in cardboard and pressed paper trays.
The cardboard can be added to local council recycling collections, as can the pressed paper product trays used for packaging our mince, burgers, sausages and ready meals.
We now offer a NEW cardboard box, specially crafted to change the way we deliver our frozen food to our customers.
Our NEW packaging solution not only ensures the utmost quality of our products during delivery, but also prioritises sustainability and the well-being of our environment. Crafted from eco-friendly and recyclable materials, this method of transporting our restaurant-grade food combines durability and insulation, ensuring that your order remains perfectly frozen during transport. With its extensively tested design, this box effectively prevents temperature fluctuations, guaranteeing exceptional conditions for your frozen delights.


The entire orders are sent in boxes which offer the appropriate level of protection and insulation during transit, and allow us to use less dry ice to pack each order than would otherwise be required.
The trays in which our individual products are packed are made of compressed cardboard, which is fully recyclable.
We use bubble wrap which is inflated on our own site. This means we can maximise delivered quantities, saving storage space, road miles and fuel consumption. We used to receive one lorry load (approximately 24 pallet spaces) per month, and we now receive only one pallet space per month. One cut in the bubble wrap allows it to deflate, saving space upon disposal also.
We have as standard a ‘reduced packaging’ option for our customers, where we use minimal cardboard boxes within our polystyrene ones. Only selected items are packed in cardboard boxes, for instance if they are particularly fragile.
Packaging from our inbound deliveries is recycled off site and our suppliers are encouraged to use returnable containers. The majority have now adopted this approach.
Dry ice, made from recycled CO2, and water ice have replaced gel ice in all of our deliveries. The dry ice we use is a recycled material, made from carbon dioxide created as a by-product from fertiliser production, which would normally be released straight into the atmosphere. Getting this beneficial use from it also avoids using additional electrical refrigeration, so you can enjoy the freshest frozen food, with a minimal effect on the environment. When defrosted, the water ice packs can be snipped open, the water poured safely down a kitchen sink, and the packaging recycled.
We have recently undertaken a lengthy and detailed analysis on how best to use our dry ice to ensure maximum efficiency levels, looking for instance at the optimum size of slab, the amount required for use in different temperatures, and the amount required to reach different destinations. We are now satisfied that we use the bare minimum necessary to maintain our products at the correct temperature during deliveries.
We also encourage our packaging suppliers to provide evidence of actions they have undertaken to reduce their own carbon footprint.


Promotional Materials

As we are a mail order company, with no physical stores for our customers to browse, we rely heavily on our promotional material to make our customers aware of what we have to offer. Our customer demographic means that many of them rely on hard copies of leaflets and catalogues, although usage of our website, email promotions and social media is on the increase.
We encourage our customers to be contacted by email and to order online wherever possible, reducing the amount of paper mail that we send. 
We target our mailings to make them more efficient, reducing unwanted mail. In this way we have reduced our hard copy mailings by 8% in the last year alone. We also offer a reduced mailings option for our customers, allowing them to receive fewer mailings if they so wish.

We participate in the Responsible Mail scheme, run in conjunction with the Royal Mail. All paper used must be from recycled stock and be fully recyclable; there are maximum limits for print coverage of ink; and the envelope must have the recyclable logo printed on it to show the entire pack can be recycled. Furthermore, all our paper is sourced from sustainable stocks and is FSC certified.

From 2011 we switched from wrapping our mailings in polythene to using recycled paper envelopes. Now the only mailing we send which is poly-wrapped, is that containing our catalogue. We are currently investigating the possibility of making our poly-wrap fully biodegradable.

We also work closely with our printers to maximise efficiency and eliminate waste. We print the exact number of mail packs required, to the last individual customer, so there is no wasted printing from rounding up the print run. We also deliberately don’t print very far in advance, allowing us to change our mailings and ensure the contents are correct and up to date closer to the date of mailing, so there are no print recalls or wasted runs.

Waste Reduction

As foodies, nothing annoys us more than good food being wasted! This is an approach that we roll out throughout our entire business, as a matter of principle.

We are proud to have continued to achieve the position of 0% of our waste going to landfill. How do we do this?

First, we recycle as much of our waste as possible, and have paper, cardboard, plastic and can recycling points throughout our offices and butchery to enable this.

We compress our recyclable material on site into bales matching the size specifications of the recycling mills to which we send them.

By daily segregation and compaction of waste cardboard, Donald Russell was able to recycle 155 tonnes of this material in 2019. This is supported by requesting that our suppliers use returnable and reusable packaging instead of ‘single use’ cardboard boxes. The volume of cardboard that we recycle has dropped from 320 tonnes since 2016, which demonstrates that our approach of requesting that suppliers do not use single use cardboard is having a clear and positive effect.
By compressing the waste, and also by waiting until we have a full truckload of materials before requesting transport, we reduce the amount of road miles required to deliver it for recycling.
Our butchers prepare our products to be kitchen ready, so nothing goes to waste on our customers’ plates. We trim off anything they wouldn’t want to eat, so we’re not adding to domestically generated landfill. The fat and bones which our butchers trim away goes to use in the pet food and biofuel industries, or to anaerobic digestion plants. So as well as being diverted from going to landfill, the useful qualities of these materials are utilised in everyday products, from dry pet food to soap.

The small percentage of our waste that is disposed of though ‘general waste’ is collected by a third party company who processes it to remove anything recyclable, then shreds the rest for energy recovery which produces electricity. The result: 0% to landfill.

Since we professionally freeze our products, their quality and freshness is preserved the natural way. We don’t need to add artificial, industrially produced preservatives to prolong their shelf-life  –   something which becomes more necessary with chilled products.
Frozen food is also less wasteful by its very nature. It’s much less likely to sit unnoticed at the bottom of a fridge, and since much of it is packaged in individual portions, our customers tend only to defrost as much as they need at any one time  –   meaning less is thrown away unused.

A Sustainable Working Environment

Our working environments here at Donald Russell vary greatly between the individual departments – from office space to butchery and cold stores, over two sites. We try to ensure that each of these different areas is maintained and equipped as sustainably as possible.

We have invested in energy saving devices, including ‘Energy Star’ computer monitors, Dyson ‘Airblade’ hand dryers and energy-efficient LED lights throughout our premises wherever practical. The Airblade dryers produce up to 76% less CO2 than the paper towel dispensers which they replaced.

We have also invested in specialist chairs throughout the company, which as well as providing enhanced lumbar support and maintaining the health of our employees, are designed to have replaceable component parts, so that chairs may be repaired in future rather than fully replaced.

We are working towards paperless filing across the company, reducing our use of paper, toner, stationery and energy. The paper that we do use is from an accredited sustainable supply.
In our butchery, most of our products are cut and trimmed by hand, by our own expert butchers. The vast majority of meat is machine-prepared these days; hand cutting is significantly more expensive, but is of course less energy intensive, helping us to keep our carbon footprint down.

The heat extracted from our large freezers is recycled to provide underfloor heating on the premises, and some is also directed to where our delivery trucks park, to remove the risk of ice in the winter.
We have invested in low pressure water system equipment for the cleaning of our butchery. This means we use less water, and therefore waste less. The handwashing facilities throughout our production areas require pressure from knees to operate them, which has the added advantage of ensuring that taps cannot be accidentally left running.
We work closely with our couriers, offering an efficient delivery service to our customers. This approach has included requesting larger trucks, so that fewer journeys are required. Our delivery transport efficiency is under constant scrutiny, and through working in conjunction with our couriers we have prevented ‘empty’ journeys and limited re-deliveries.

In terms of travelling to work, the Donald Russell premises in Inverurie are accessible by bus and train, and the Kintore premises by bus (work has also started on reopening the Kintore train station, which will improve the sustainable transport options for those premises). We have also adopted a bike to work scheme as a company-wide environmental policy.

The Future

As we head into the future, the issue of sustainability is becoming increasingly important. Here, we list some of the ways in which we aspire to limit our company’s impact on our environment.
As our parent company, Vestey, meets the qualification criteria for the Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS), we have been able to engage with energy consultants and gain an insight into the energy used within our buildings, processes and transport to help us identify cost-effective energy saving measures. We are now fully ESOS compliant.

We have contacted every one of our external product suppliers with a questionnaire about the actions they take to provide a sustainable business model. They are all providing us with copies of their company environmental policies.

In this way, we aim to remind our suppliers of the importance that we place on sustainable business practices and potentially to consider changing suppliers should they not meet our criteria in this respect.

In conjunction with Styropack, we have trialled a pilot scheme in the north east of Scotland, and are now able to accept polystyrene boxes from locals, which we return for recycling. We collect boxes from our trade customers in Greater London and Lancaster, which are also recycled.

We are actively continuing to investigate alternative packaging materials that could provide the appropriate level of protection and insulation for our perishable products, and have looked at some potentially useful new materials. In the meantime, we will continue lobbying the relevant authorities and our supplier to provide more widely available recycling facilities for polystyrene.

Many of our employees already share transport to and from the premises. We will investigate the possibility of making this a more structured scheme, by identifying further opportunities for people to share cars.

As we look to expand our Kintore site in the future, we will keep sustainability principles in mind during the planning and construction.

In conclusion, we trust that the above information confirms our intentions to reduce our impact on our environment wherever possible, and to question, re-examine and reassess our actions continually, to ensure that the issue remains at the forefront of our business.