Open the paper or get online and the news isn’t hopeful on the environment. Last March scientists declared that the global average concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere reached a new record high, soaring to surpass 400 parts per million. Recently President Obama addressed graduates at the Coast Guard Academy telling them that “global warming is a national security threat.” He added that “Climate change will impact every country on the planet… so we need to act — and we need to act now.” Members of the Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) are doing just that!
I was one of original board members when SFTA was founded in 2008. It was formed as a way to help food and agriculture businesses with a dedication to organic food expand their capacity for sustainability. Every year members are encouraged to submit annual sustainability reports to help measure progress and encourage continuous improvement and innovation. The report addresses 11 areas: animal care, climate change, distribution/sourcing, education, energy, governance, labor, organic, packaging, water and waste.
This year’s Member Sustainability Progress Report contains aggregated data from 22 reports submitted by SFTA members in 2014 about their activities. It is worth looking at their stories that highlight some very innovative and exciting initiatives in the following areas:
In order for sustainability to thrive, consumers need to be educated about what sustainability means, and employees must be empowered with the information needed to champion sustainability in and out of work. Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin has a wide ranging sustainability education program you will find edifying.
Labor practices are a critical component of sustainability. You won’t have to work too hard to see the programs at Annie’s, Inc. are comprehensive including employee benefits, sourcing and apprenticeship programs.
Increasing demands on freshwater supplies continues to bring responsible water use into the spotlight. PCC Natural Markets is riding the wave of water conservation and education!
Waste reduction and landfill diversion efforts continue to gain momentum and grow in their levels of sophistication. Don’t discard the program Pacific Foods has developed. They have an impressive infrastructure for dealing with high volume waste streams at its manufacturing headquarters.
How animals are treated in the supply chain is not always included as an aspect of a sustainability program. You don’t have to hunt very far to see how MOM’s Organic Markets animal care policies and programs have made them an impressive animal care advocate!
My own company, UNFI contributed towards reducing our emissions and climate impacts. We reduce our energy use footprint through use of renewable energies, with five LEED certified distribution centers across the country. We have reduced fleet emissions through a multi-pronged approach: trucks are outfitted with Eco-Flaps which reduce drag and road spray. Routes are optimized through the use of Roadnet software; a powerful tool when used with PeopleNet software. UNFI has increased its use of rail versus ground transport. With its increase in rail transport, UNFI has averted the emission of 21,090 metric tons of CO2-equivalent (m.t. CO2e). Increases in fuel efficiency resulted in the avoidance of 693 m.t. CO2e. Furthermore, optimization of routing resulted in the avoidance of 486 m.t. CO2e!
Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) members have recognized that true success is achieved through a business model that focuses on the triple bottom line: one that puts emphasis on the returns given to the planet and the people a company touches, rather than only its profit. You too can be part of this movement where members learn, improve performance, share common metrics and best practices, and communicate results. Won’t you be part of redefining sustainability in your portion of the supply chain? Become a SFTA Member now!