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Now That Royal Warrants Have Expired, Will King Charles' Ascension Force Some Brands To Change Their Packaging?

by Rudy Sanchez on 09/19/2022 | 3 Minute Read

Since the 15th century, the British royal family has granted businesses and tradespeople a royal warrant of appointment, and it goes to products and services that supply the monarchy on an ongoing basis for at least five years. Essentially, it's an endorsement of quality, and products granted a royal warrant can display the grantor’s coat of arms on packaging and websites while advertising their status as suppliers.

Royal warrants are also void upon the death of the grantor. 

With Queen Elizabeth II’s death earlier this month, over 600 active appointments became void, including tradespeople like piano restorer The Period Piano Company and large multinational CPG brands like Heinz. Now, all of the companies must reapply for a new royal warrant within two years or adjust their packaging.

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Some companies, such as grocer Waitrose, are granted royal warrants across several reigns, with the supermarket chain providing groceries to the UK monarch since 1928. It's unlikely that all brands will receive a new appointment from King Charles III, however, either because he doesn’t use the product (think makeup), prefers a different brand, or has a relationship with a competitor.

There could be yet another reason for the recently ascended Charles to drop a company from his list of appointed suppliers—values. While uneasy lies the head that wears a crown, kings are consumers too and vote with their enormous taxpayer-funded wallets. Charles may take the opportunity to appoint plastic-free alternatives to more popular brands.

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Editorial photograph

The king has expressed concern for environmental issues such as climate change and plastic pollution in the past, and some are already proclaiming him the first “climate king.” Charles has even made changes to lower his footprint, such as installing solar panels and using electric vehicles on his estates. 

King Charles has a few plastic-free options to choose from in his dominion. If the king has a sweet tooth, for example, he can order up some Smarties in plastic-free packaging from Nestle. Maybe the newly installed king is more of a gum man, in which case Nuud is a UK-based plastic-free option. Haeckel's is a personal care brand made in the coastal town of Margate that is plastic-free and aims to have as small an environmental impact as possible.

To be clear, even with plastic-free goods, heat pumps, solar panels, organic gardens, and electric vehicles, a British royal has high environmental sunk costs, and it’s hard to describe a lavish regal lifestyle as sustainable. But King Charles can use the royal warrant as a sign of product quality and mindfulness for the planet that could drive more interest in a plastic-free UK.

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Charles set a precedent for royal warrants advocacy in 1999 when the then-prince of Wales was said to be instrumental in canceling the endorsement of Gallaher, makers of Benson & Hedges cigarettes. King The BBC describes him as a “fervent anti-smoker,” as several royals have succumbed to smoking-related illnesses, including his grandfather George VI and great-grandfather George V.

It’s too early to tell if the king will use royal warrants to advocate for the environment and continue making very public lifestyle and purchasing decisions to motivate change. But it would also be a squandered opportunity for the UK’s new monarch, particularly as he is "horrified" by the endless production of plastic and its increasingly damaging effects on the Earth.