Sustainable Food Trade Association
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This series of case studies demonstrate practical examples of how SFTA Members execute on the SFTA declaration areas. By highlighting the work of companies with strong systems in place, we encourage wider adoption of sustainability practices and encourage transitioning companies towards sustainable business models.

2016

ANIMAL CARE
The concern that SFTA members have for impacts beyond their immediate control is especially apparent when looking at how they consider impacts on animal welfare in their purchasing and supply chain practices. Certainly, SFTA members that produce or source organic dairy products like Organic Valley have extensive animal welfare standards. However, companies that do not even handle animal products also take into account wild habitats and the impacts of their sourcing on the environment. Traditional Medicinals balances impacts of their herb sourcing practices on animals through certifications like Fair Wild, which seeks to ensure the survival of wild species (both flora and fauna).
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On the surface, it may appear that the Northwest’s largest organic produce distributor, Organically Grown Company (OGC), has nothing to do with animal practices. After all, they distribute fruits and vegetables… Right? This pioneer in the organic food industry would never settle for the status quo.

ladybug-preferred-digitalOrganically Grown Company launched Northwest-grown, LADYBUG Brand produce in the early 1990s, requiring growers who pack in the brand to be certified organic; a fairly cutting-edge requirement at that time! In 2010, in keeping with their intention to “push the envelope,” OGC made the decision to also include Salmon-Safe as an attribute of LADYBUG Brand—to go Organic and Beyond. Organically Grown Company has actively supported dozens of Northwest regional farmers in achieving Salmon-Safe certification in this effort. Nearly 100 varieties of these growers’ products can be found packed in OGC’s trademarked LADYBUG brand, which currently represents more than 30 family-owned and operated, organic and Salmon-Safe certified farms located throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Salmon-Safe is a non-profit organization/certification dedicated to protecting watersheds and natural biodiversity by working with farmers, vineyards and land developers to promote the preservation of healthy habitats on their lands where native species like salmon can thrive for future generations. LADYBUG farmers share in this dedicated commitment to watershed stewardship and biodiversity protection.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR EMISSIONS
An impressive array of methods is used by SFTA members to tackle climate change. 100% of our members are reducing climate impacts by using renewable energy, implementing alternative commuting programs for their employees, or energy use reduction efforts (sometimes all three at once!). Beyond these efforts, however, the food industry is uniquely positioned to impact global warming. As of August 2016, the EPA’s Waste Reduction Model (WARM) clearly shows that the greatest potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is with food waste. In fact, when properly handled, food’s potential to reduce emissions is more than double that of any other waste.
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Rice is the most heavily consumed staple on earth, and its production has been identified as a major contributor to methane emissions—one of the two most potent greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Recognizing that the production and processing of rice, with its rice hull byproduct, can be a major methane emission generator, Lundberg Family Farms (LFF) has been tackling its impact on climate change through multiple efforts.

alternative-building-materialOne of those efforts involves incorporating straw and cover-cropping around its headquarters in Richvale, CA, to help incorporate and sequester carbon into soil. They also support the California Rice Commission and its proposal for the sale of carbon offsets by farmers who incorporate GHG reduction practices. Diverting rice byproduct into new, non-food based markets both reduces emissions and waste. Towards this goal, rice hulls are sold for animal bedding to the local agriculture community and broken rice is typically sold for livestock feed. Another effort incorporates both government and educational institutions to break new horizons.

In 2011, Lundberg Family Farms began supporting research at the local community college in Oroville, CA. Rice hulls and straw were initially donated to a motivated group of students researching alternative building materials in 2011. After receiving an initial grant from the EPA that same year, this successful project has resulted in two trips to Washington DC to present findings to the EPA; currently they are researching if this new material can be manufactured on a commercial level.

DISTRIBUTION AND SOURCING
The way companies source and distribute their products can have major impacts on social and environmental performance. Searching for ways to reduce climate impacts continues to be a top priority for our distributors. Organically Grown Company announced in its last report that 100% of all their vehicles are now “Clean Air” certified under the Federal Diesel Emissions Reduction Act.

Beyond distribution, efforts to deepen sustainable impacts are seen through how SFTA members leverage their supply chain. Local and regional economies are bolstered and greenhouse gas emissions curtailed by local sourcing efforts. In fact, 34% of all members’ ingredients/products are sourced locally or regionally (usually a three-state spread). Even more, 82% of SFTA members source products that are certified through fair-trade! Among other things, fair-trade means that workers are paid a fair wage, are provided holidays, vacation, and break time, and have safe working conditions.

 ciranda_logoHudson, Wisconsin based distributor Ciranda makes great efforts to ensure its supply chain creates positive impacts. 57% of the products they purchase are fair-trade certified. But beyond just buying fair-trade products, significant efforts are made to create deeper supply chain partnerships that influence social and environmental progress. For example, Ciranda works with its vendors to understand, sign and implement the SFTA Vendor Code of Conduct. Eckhart Kiesel, Vice President of Business Development and Sustainability, led an SFTA Supply Chain working group in 2015 and 2016, which developed a sustainability questionnaire for food suppliers in developing countries. The questionnaire gauges the current state of key supplier sustainability awareness and progress.

All of these efforts have influenced sustainability to take root in Ciranda’s supply chain, in such far-flung nations as Brazil and Thailand. First, Ciranda’s reputation as an ethical buyer preceeds itself; frequently quality producers and processors are ready to implement social and environmental initiatives to attract and retain a relationship with Ciranda. Ongoing supplier efforts are impressive and include:
IMG_8503.JPGThailand: Ciranda’s starch producers have farmer groups that are organized in a fair trade /ecosocial chapter. The farmers grow tapioca roots for Ciranda and process them into starch, which ultimately creates a lot of waste water. As a result, the manufacturers have installed contained, rubber, inflatable lagoons covers which trap methane gas from the waste water fermentation process. That methane gas is used as fuel for the energy intensive starch production process and covers between 55-75% of manufacturers main energy needs. The remaining waste solids from the process are then diverted to an onsite compost program for local tapioca farmers who supply the facility to use on their own farms. One other benefits to farmers include use of fair-trade premiums to purchase farming equipment (i.e. tractors, trailers, tools, etc) for production of crop rather than being saddled with debt that normally small farmers would incur in order to purchase and own the equipment needed to do their work.

SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION
Ensuring that sustainability initiatives and education are pushed forward are a top priority for SFTA members. So much so, in fact, that 95% of SFTA members have integrated a paid position to lead sustainability efforts and training. These positions range from coordinators to VPs; frequently companies may have either a volunteer “green team”, or else more than one staff member who formally addresses sustainability in the company. The trend of incorporating sustainability efforts up and down the supply chain is exemplified by Guayakí’s producer education efforts in South America.

guayaki_logoSince its inception, Guayakí’s mantra has been “Driving Restoration, Driving Markets.” Its business model is based on promoting the cultivation of yerba mate under the cover of trees – both native rainforest as well as hardwood species that are helping to reforest South America. This provides income for the farmers who grow and harvest the mate, and connects them as stewards to their land. Guayakí works to secure partner farmers in Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay. Once a farmer agrees to partner with Guayakí, they provide technical advice and education on how to create nurseries, manage the organic production process from cultivation through harvest, and then buy what they produce. The farmers, in turn, must provide a living wage and fair working conditions, as well as restore the land to its original shaded, producersbiodiverse state. Through this process, Guayaki and their partner farmers build a relationship of co-participation; one marked by processes of mutual development, sharing of dreams, challenges, and opportunities. This horizontal relationship is how Guayaki can guarantee organic production in balance with efforts towards sustainability, healthy communities, biodiversity, and the empowerment of cultural identity. These restorative actions, built from the spirit of co-creation, have resulted in 61,183 acres of Atlantic rainforest protected from deforestation as of December 2014.

ENERGY USE
Responsible use of and measurement techniques for energy resources continue to be improved and refined by SFTA members. One trend in reporting is the transition from absolute figures (i.e. total used per year) to measuring energy “success” with energy intensity metrics (i.e. pound produced per BTU). This type of measure is especially important when there is rapid growth in sales and production, and it is nearly impossible to reduce year-over-year energy use. Responsible use of energy is well reflected in our members’ use of renewable energy. In fact, 32% of all electricity was generated on-site through solar or other renewable sources! That means nearly 1/3 of all the electricity used by our members was generated on their own property. A majority of our members- 55% – generate renewable energy on-site. This is very exciting: it represents a 22% increase compared to 2015.

BusinessCardsEmeryville, California based Clif Bar not only sources 100% green energy for its headquarters, Clif is also dedicated to growing responsible energy use in its supply chain. In 2014, Clif Bar announced its “50/50 by 2020” initiative, aimed at getting 50 key supplier facilities to transition to at least 50% green power for their electricity use for ingredients, packaging, products and services by 2020. The program was recognized by the White House for its demonstration of leadership in renewable energy. To date, six supply chain partners have made commitments.

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GOVERNANCE AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
For SFTA members, giving to their communities goes beyond financial donations. It includes food donations (which also reduces waste and emissions), and the volunteering of their time to make their communities a better place. In fact, nearly 40% of SFTA members offer an employee volunteerism benefit, where employees are paid for volunteering with a charity of their choice. However, this is just one of the many ways that SFTA members benefit their community stakeholders. Our members work to forward legislative interests, as well as to build up the professional and vocational skill sets of their communities.
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Viva Tierra Organic, based in Mount Vernon, bolsters its local and national community in a variety of ways. Food donations are of primary focus. All distributors end up with product on their hands – in this case produce— which for one reason or another is not salable (i.e. overripe or cosmetically damaged). Viva Tierra donates their unused produce to food banks, soup kitchens, and other charitable organizations. In the last reporting cycle they donated over 250,000 pounds of produce across the country!

employee-trainingBut beyond this, Viva Tierra goes a step further by partnering with multiple institutions to promote education and job skills training. Viva Tierra Organic has worked with Job Corps to provide work-study experience for young people enrolled in the US Department of Labor’s long-running successful educational and vocational training program. Viva Tiera also partnered with Washington Vocational Services and their local high school. In this arrangement, Viva Tierra provided life skills training opportunities for students. This program brought developmentally disabled students, along with their job coaches, to their office for hands-on training on clerical tasks and how to work in an office setting. This went so well that in the last reporting cycle, a part-time office assistant position was created for a young man who had worked in their office as a student volunteer through the Sedro-Woolley Adult Transition Program for three years while in high school. After graduating from high school he was excited to become a paid employee, utilizing the skills he gained as a participant in the program. What a unique and wonderful way to contribute to the community!

LABOR
SFTA members look well beyond their employees when they establish their labor practices. 100% of our members offer “standard” benefit packages that include things like health insurance, but our companies offer a multitude of other perks such as profit sharing, flexible hours, ESL classes, and leadership training. It doesn’t just stop there, however. A huge 82% of our reporting members buy or offer fair-trade ingredients and products! A major component of fair trade certification for both suppliers and buyers is showing a commitment to establishing long-term, strategic relationships.

bridges_logoOne such example of a strategic, mutually beneficial long term relationship is seen between Bridges Produce and one of its “Grower Partners” – Rico Farms. Rico Farms is located inland from the Sea of Cortez in Mexico, and completed their first full season as Fair Trade USA certified during the 2014/2015 reporting period. Fair trade programs include a requirement that a premium from the Fair trade price is given back to the supplier to be used on projects that will benefit the workers.

During 2013/2014 season Bridges sold 405,720 lbs. of Fair Trade USA product which was 4% of their total crop, and generated $8,121.80 in fair trade funds. In the 2014/2015 reporting year, Bridges sold 2,471,365 lbs. of Fair Trade USA produce which was 17.13% of their crop, resulting in $66,847.40 in premiums returned to the workers.

spaghetti-squash-harvestSince their certification in November of 2013 Rico Farms has created a Fair Trade committee which collects project ideas, holds votes regarding the worker’s priorities and manages project execution. The first priority for the workers was to increase their health care offerings and to make a fully functional clinic. While researching this project the Fair Trade committee found a government grant that would help fund the construction of a new medical clinic. Rico Farms has signed on to fund this project leaving the fair trade funds to be put into other projects.

The first completed project was one the workers were particularly excited about, a new turf soccer field. Competing as teams provides a sense of community for the workers while at the farm. The committee is also in the final stages of planning the purchase and installation of air conditioning units for all sleeping quarters for the workers. The workers voted this project a top priority due to the high heat in Hermosillo, Mexico. Additional projects that the committee and workers have expressed interest in pursuing are making new rest areas, transportation into town, basketball courts and school facilities with computers.

ORGANIC AND LAND USE
Sales and purchases of organic and non-GMO products continues to grow. Members reported an average 5% increase in organic product sales, and for the third year in a row, the pounds of organic products purchased increased –to over 2 Billion pounds! This translates into an impressive 75% of products sold were certified organic! Since organic means non-GMO, this means at a minimum 75% of their products were non-GMO. Many of our members do not allow GMOs in their non-organic products. Others are systematically eliminating GMOs from their non-organic inventories, so the percentage of non-GMO products our members carry is higher than 75%.

ov_logoAlthough organic means non-GMO, it means much more, however. Using production practices that build and enrich the soil and surrounding habitat is a hallmark of organic production. Soil testing and analysis is the basis of organic farm management. It identifies what nutrients may be deficient that, when addressed, can improve yields and/or a product’s nutritional content.

Soil testing and analysis is a service offered to the members of the Organic Valley cooperative in La Farge, Wisconsin. They provide discounted soil analysis for their farmers, and a staff agronomist is available to analyze the results and provide assistance on improving the soil quality and addressing specific issues. This is a very popular service with their farmers; over 150 members participated in 2014 and over 700 soil samples were tested.

In addition to this service, each different product that the cooperative produces (i.e. eggs, milk), may have standards and policies that go above and beyond the USDA National Organic Standards or other legal requirements. These cooperative-specific standards and policies clarify requirements for materials allowed on member farms, help assure high product quality standards are being met and assure animal husbandry goals are met.

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PACKAGING AND MARKETING MATERIALS
SFTA members are constantly on the lookout for ways to reduce packaging use, eliminate persistent packaging (i.e. non-recyclable plastic), ensure packaging can be recycled, or re-used. Sustainable packaging continues to be one of the biggest challenges. But to face that challenge, 82% of our members have practices in place to guide the purchases of specific packaging that they use, such as biodegradable or compostable deli materials for retailers, recyclable or reusable containers for manufacturers, and/or use of post-consumer recycled content in packaging and marketing materials. Impressively, over the last two years, members have (coincidentally) reported that 82% of the packaging they use to make their products is recyclable by the end consumer!

so_delicious_logoAt times, to meet their high standard of environmentally friendly packaging, member companies go to truly impressive lengths to source or develop new packaging technology. So Delicious™ is currently piloting the use of a plant-based, compostable, lickable stick used for their Just Java, So Very Strawberry, and Fudge flavored non-dairy frozen desert bars. Several factors influenced them to put the research and effort into developing these new sodelicious-barsticks. They avoid the “woody” flavor of standard sticks, and also use an annually renewable resource, non-GMO corn, rather than the white birch trees that take from 20-30 years to grow used to make standard sticks. The materials are certified compostable, and meet the ASTM D6400 standard which demonstrates this bio-plastic can be aerobically composted in municipal or industrial facilities.

SOLID WASTE REDUCTION
SFTA members are well on their way to being “Zero Waste” companies. According to the US Zero Waste Business Council standard, to obtain Zero Waste certification, you must divert at least 90% of your waste from the landfill and/or incineration. The amount of average waste diverted from the landfill increased by 5% this year to an impressive 77%! We can see why—39% of their waste is recycled and 17% composted! Even though our members represent only a fraction of a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of companies out there, this means they diverted nearly 17,000 tons of waste from the landfill!
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Combating climate change can take many different forms. There is a growing trend to look at opportunities to reduce waste even before it arrives to a company or the consumer. The Eugene, OR based distributor GloryBee works with its suppliers to source supplies and product packaging that supports a zero waste society.

To achieve this goal, GloryBee has developed a policy that includes screening new non-food products or supplies according to specific environmental criteria. This includes evaluating if it is recyclable, reusable, compostable, or made of recycled content (i.e. paper). If more than one option exists, and one that is more environmentally friendly exists, this option is selected if it does not exceed more than 5% of the comparative product’s price. To date, this has impacted purchase of items like bubble wrap (minimum 50% recycled content, 100% recyclable) reusable-totesand biodegradable/compostable packaging peanuts. An impressive percentage of their retail product line is packaged in reusable and recyclable glass or plastic jars. The majority of GloryBee products are transported in reusable totes and drums. The totes are washed and reused 8-12 times before they are recycled into rain gardens or water catchment barrels. The water used to wash out the totes is captured, and then heated with GloryBee’s solar-thermal water heating system. In the summer, all the water they use is heated up completely with the sun!

WATER USE REDUCTION
outpost-mequon-exteriorIn spite of generally rising sales, 43% of members were able to reduce the amount of water they used in the prior year. The trend to work with supply chains to drive even deeper sustainability impacts is beginning to figure prominently in this area as well. Over a third of SFTA manufacturer members reported working with their suppliers to improve water use whether through water mapping initiatives, implementation of organic farming practices, or integration of water conservation equipment between suppliers and manufacturers.

Water use can be reduced in ways that you may not always expect. For Outpost Natural Foods Co-op, based in Milwaukee, WI, found itself growing and in need of a new store. They took advantage of the building design process to be able to save thousands of gallons of water a year. At their new Mequon, WI store location, the store itself and its surroundings were designed to optimally handle storm water and be a zero run off site It uses rain gardens, porous pavement, native plantings and roof water rainwater_catchmentcatchment to ensure that all water that lands on site is managed on site, mitigating over 46,000 gallons of water from entering the storm system in any rain event. Excess water caught in the two 4,000 gallon underground tanks is used to support irrigation needs for their onsite food production and native plantings. Even more, Outpost provides purified water for its shoppers through the use of a Reverse Osmosis (RO) machine. These RO systems are notorious for creating a lot of waste water, where impurities in the water are diverted. By incorporating smart design into this system up front, Outpost is able to direct this “waste” water to their restrooms, where the water is used to flush their public toilets. In fact, from 2015-2016, over 15,000 gallons of water was diverted into toilets!

 

2015

ANIMAL CARE
How animals are treated in the supply chain is not always included as an aspect of a sustainability program. SFTA companies, however, continue to incorporate rigorous animal standards and purchasing policies in their companies. 83% of companies who sell animal products have developed strict animal welfare production or purchasing guidelines! Some members go beyond purchasing guidelines and take an active role in restoring wildlife habitat and populations.

MOMs logoAnimal care policies and support programs have proven MOM’s Organic Markets to be an impressive animal care advocate. 100% of the seafood it sells falls into “Best Choices” category from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, and 100% of the poultry products offered comes from poultry that enjoy a free range lifestyle and are antibiotic-free. In addition, 100% of its dairy products are rBGH free. However, this Rockville, Maryland based retailer wanted to do more for ORPlocal wildlife health. Through an innovative partnership with the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP), it is helping to restore oyster populations and clean the water in the Chesapeake Bay. By nature, oysters filter water, and the ORP has planted over 5 billion oysters to-date. MOM’s adds to this success by returning used oyster shells to the ORP. These shells are then used as “homes” for baby oysters, improving their chances of survival to adulthood. The final tally of “repurposed” oyster shells? Over 1,400 tons!

CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR EMISSIONS
Climate change is a complicated concern, and SFTA members tackle it through a variety of measures. To begin, 91% measure their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, empowering companies to identify and improve upon problem areas that impact GHG emissions. 100% of distributors take measures to reduce fuel use through distribution route optimization. Additionally, 73% of companies offer commuting or alternative transportation incentive programs to its employees. Many other environmental projects are taken on by SFTA members to combat climate change in building design and distribution. For example:

UNFI logoProvidence, Rhode Island based United Natural Foods, Inc., the leading U.S. independent distributor of natural, organic and specialty foods, unsurprisingly has a sharp eye cast towards its air emissions and climate impacts. It reduces its energy use footprint through use of renewable energies, has five LEED-certified distribution centers across the country, and in particular has been reducing 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 paired with PeopleNet software. PeopleNet is an on-board vehicle technology that helps drivers utilize efficient driving practices. Idle times, shifting techniques, and optimized speeds are all communicated to drivers to improve fuel use. UNFI also increased its use of rail versus ground transport.

All of these practices have yielded some impressive results to date. 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!

DISTRIBUTION AND SOURCING
Efforts to make distribution and transportation of products as efficient as possible — and reduce greenhouse gas emissions — are well-complimented by local sourcing programs in SFTA companies. Its members have distribution optimization or local sourcing programs in place to make efficient use of fuel and encourage local growth. Let’s take a look at the Outpost Natural Foods Cooperative to get a closer look at a local sourcing program, and see a growing trend: adding “local cultivators” to increase local purchases!

outpost-logoIn Milwaukee, Wisconsin, SFTA member Outpost Natural Foods proves its dedication to local and sustainable sourcing through a robust program. To ensure that all products purchased are as sustainable as possible, a “Product Evaluation Tool” is used to evaluate all potential new products. This matrix takes into account a product’s carbon footprint, the perceived ethics of the supplier, and packaging sustainability (i.e. is it BPA free, local_favcompostable, or recyclable), and gives preference to local or regional products. Locally or regionally produced foods are designated as “local regional favorites” on shelves in order to promote local sales and reduce environmental impacts from distribution footprints. Two positions were also created to have a special focus on increasing local sales, including the Produce Category Manager and a Local Purchasing Specialist! The latter’s goals are specifically to increase the number of local vendors and products the co-op carries.

SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION
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. SFTA members understand this need, and in addition to consumer-facing education programs, 82% offer sustainability classes to their employees! However, most don’t just offer one way of engaging and educating employees and consumers on sustainability.

OV Gen-O BusYou’d be hard pressed to find a more comprehensive sustainability education program than that at Organic Valley in La Farge, Wisconsin. External efforts include consumer campaigns that are magnified through partnerships with companies like FrogTV, creation and use of their own YouTube channel, and public education initiatives like the Earth Dinner. Generation Organic was formed in 2010, and is a group of young (18-35 years old) farmers who visit college classrooms across the country and local school classrooms to educate students about organic farming.

OV_Logo_RGB_2013Internally, in addition to regularly offered sustainability classes, Organic Valley has created the innovative Employee Growth Incentive Program. It encourages employees to learn about sustainability through media and volunteer activities; employees receive a bonus at year’s end based on how much they learned. In 2014, employees spent an average of 19 hours on training which included sustainability-related classes and volunteer activities.

Lastly, the On-Farm Sustainability Program was created to help Organic Valley farmers utilize renewable energy sources which helps farmers learn about and optimize renewable energy and waste reduction efforts on their farms. These efforts have led to installations of solar power and wind turbines, recycling of agricultural plastic, and biomass digesters. To-date, there are 24 on-farm renewable energy projects installed for a totaling nearly 1 million kWh of energy production annually. In 2014, 35.5 tons of plastic mulch was collected from produce farms which was recycled into trash bags.

ENERGY USE
SFTA members continue to increase their use energy efficiency measures and use of renewable energy sources to decrease their impact on the environment. An impressive 45% of members generate a portion of their own electricity on-site (solar, methane digesters, etc.), and a whopping 80% of companies’ electricity use is derived from renewable resources! This last figure represents a 23% increase in the total renewable electricity use reported in 2014! SFTA member So Delicious® Dairy Free has shown the positive impact that cross-functional energy projects can have on the environment and the bottom line.

SoDelicious-CascadeIn its Springfield, Oregon manufacturing facility, So Delicious® Dairy Free partnered with Cascade Energy and its local utility to participate in the Track & Tune program – an efficiency program designed for medium to large industrial energy users. After months of recording baseline data, changes were made to increase the frozen dessert plant’s energy efficiency, including upgrades to refrigeration equipment plus several low cost/no cost improvements, resulting in an efficiency “tune-up” equal to a 5% reduction of overall energy use for 2013. In 2014 the frozen dessert plant really started reaping the benefits of the program, improving its energy efficiency to 3.97 pounds per kilowatt hour from 3.60 pounds per kilowatt hour, a 10% year-over-year energy efficiency increase.

GOVERNANCE AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Dedication to improving quality of life and communities is demonstrated in many ways by SFTA members. 100% of retailers have a dedication to increasing their sales of local products. These efforts help to positively enhance the relationships between business and society, and increases the economic viability of its community. In addition, this year members particularly “put their money where their mouths are”: they donated over $15.8 million, representing 129% increase in reported charitable donations!

Community Food Coop logoThe Community Food Co-op in Bellingham, WA gives back to its community through multiple community and school education classes and charitable donations. However, the co-op has also set up community partnerships in a way that will perpetuate livelihoods and economic success of the local economy.

Finca Esperanza-FarmFundThe Community Food Co-op’s Farm Fund initiates and funds programs designed to support the growth of local, sustainable agriculture. The Farm Fund provides grants and low-interest loans to farmers and food and farming programs. Some of these farmers work with groups making their own significant social investment efforts. Community to Community Development’s Finca Esperanza (Community Hope Garden) trains, serves, and is run by farm workers. Growing Veterans combines veteran reintegration with sustainable agriculture. The fund also works to increase access to local food and to encourage ecological and socially responsible farmland stewardship.

The Community Food Co-op also partners with 39 local businesses in the co-op’s Local Business Partner Program; this program supports buying local and the local business community. Local business owners can sign up to offer a special discount only for member-owners of the co-op.

LABOR
SFTA members continue to offer outstanding employee benefits, as well as additional employee engagement programs to empower employees in their work and reinforce their value to the company. 100% of reporting SFTA members offer health care, and cover an average of 94% of medical costs to their full time employees!

Annie's-Corporate-LogoGoing above-and-beyond normal employee programs is nothing new for Annie’s, Inc. This Berkeley, California company offers a full “standard” benefits package, along with some of the best employee perks around: an edible garden, flexible work hours, commuter benefits, ergonomics assessments, twice-monthly massage services, and an on-site gym with yoga and circuit training classes. It doesn’t stop there; the company ensures that critical supply chain partners are aligned with its sustainability values. For its manufacturing partners, Annie’s has a Supplier Code of Annies Bike to WorkConduct that suppliers agree to adhere to. Annie’s takes this one step further by having third-party audits conducted at select locations. Within the farming supply chain, Annie’s supports an apprenticeship program run by one of its wheat farmers to ensure they can grow the next generation of organic farmers. Annie’s purchases sugarcane from a supplier in Brazil who invests in its people, as demonstrated by its EcoSocial certification from IBD. Finally, in 2014 Annie’s transitioned 66% of its cocoa ingredients to be responsibly sourced, 3rd-party certified!

ORGANIC AND LAND USE
The purchase of organic products and member commitment to providing organic food options continues to grow. 77% of SFTA reporting members’ sales are from organic products, and 2014 reports indicate they purchased over 1.9 billion pounds of organic products! This represents a 25% increase over 2014 figures, and exceeds the overall 11% growth1 in the organic industry. We increasingly see members that are dedicated to identifying, reducing, and eliminating GMO options in their product offerings. Straus Family Creamery and the Ashland (Oregon) Food Cooperative both have inspiring stories around these efforts.

StrausOrganic_Logo_COLORStraus Family Creamery, the first 100% certified organic creamery in the US, continues to help generate and respond to growing consumer demand for organic dairy products. The Petaluma, California-based company has added two additional dairies to its group of family farm milk producers, bringing the total up to eight local, organic, family farms comprising 5,081 organic acres Straus Cow1 Roundin California’s Marin and Sonoma counties. This growth has supported a 27% increase in the amount of organic milk processed at the creamery in 2013. An innovative water saving system reuses all of the water from the creamery at the nearby Straus dairy, where it irrigates pastures, flushes the barns, and helps with generation of renewable energy through a methane digester.

AshlandFoodCoopLogoBased on consumer demand, its mission to offer organic products, and long-term sustainability goals, the Ashland Food Co-op in Ashland, OR performed a GMO audit in its store; this considerable effort resulted in 100 products being removed from its shelves! Furthermore, product standards have been developed that do not allow GMO ingredients in any new products in the store.

PACKAGING AND MARKETING MATERIALS
Sustainable packaging is one of the most challenging areas for food companies to address, and members meet this challenge through a variety of packaging policies. 91% of members have formal policies on using packaging and marketing materials that are Forest Stewardship Council certified, contain recycled content, or are fully reusable by the customer or supply chain partner.

Earls OrganicsEarl’s Organic Produce in San Francisco, CA has taken several steps to reduce the amount of packaging waste in its produce distribution. It has set a goal to operate a single-use-packaging-free-facility by the year 2020. Understanding that industry practice and food safety requirements have institutionalized the emphasis on single use packaging like plastic wrap and cardboard and wax boxes, Earl’s is taking an incremental, step-by-step approach to implementing small operational changes to tackle the broader issue.

Paraffin wax boxes are a notorious challenge in the produce industry. The petroleum-based paraffin-coated boxes contaminate finished compost, and because they are not recyclable, they most often end up in the landfill. Until recently, wax boxes have been a necessary evil due to their ability to withstand the cold wet environments required for produce storage. This year, Earl’s discontinued its use of waxed cardboard boxes and replaced them with 100% recyclable wet-guard-medium cardboard boxes that stand up under the cold wet environment of vegetable coolers. This will eliminate about 34,000 pounds of wax cardboard waste from being sent to the landfill each year.

In the next year, Earl’s has the goal of beginning a dialogue with some of their vendors and strategic customers to explore opportunities for implementing RPC (reusable plastic container) pilot programs.

SOLID WASTE REDUCTION
Waste reduction and landfill diversion efforts continue to gain momentum and grow in their levels of sophistication. 72% of members’ waste was completely diverted from the landfill through recycling, composting, repurposing, or other methods. 55% of members had a diversion rate of 70% or higher! These efforts added up to diverting more than 21,000 tons of waste from the landfill, including 4,225 tons of compost and 7,536 tons of recycling materials.

Pacific Foods LogoPacific Foods has developed an impressive infrastructure for dealing with high volume waste streams at its manufacturing headquarters in Tualatin, Oregon. In addition to its comprehensive organic waste composting program, Pacific Foods has also dedicated part of its infrastructure for processing large quantities of recyclable and reusable materials for sale in the recycled materials market. Its facility can handle bailing large quantities of cardboard, plastic, and other materials for resale to various materials customers. Thanks to Pacific Forkliftits robust program, Pacific Foods avoids over $130,000 in annual landfill tipping fees. Coupled with the revenue generated from reselling recyclable and reusable materials, Pacific Foods is able to employ five full time employees in its recycling department. One of its major innovative improvements came when the company worked with a local equipment fabricator to create a machine dedicated to de-watering post-industrial waste cartons! Thanks to the custom machine – appropriately named the “Packcrusher” – waste cartons can be recycled quickly and efficiently. Through each of these efforts, Pacific Foods has managed to increase its recovery rate from 40% in 2007 to over 80% in the first quarter of 2015!

WATER USE REDUCTION
Increasing demands on freshwater supplies continues to bring responsible water use into the spotlight. 100% of reporting members have a variety of water conservation practices in place, from recycled use of waste waters to “mechanical” fixes like low-flow toilets. Some companies not only look at the impact their water use has on their facility, but their entire eco-system.

PCCDual-flush toilets are only the beginning of responsible water use for Seattle, Washington based PCC Natural Markets. Its Edmonds, WA location has two rain gardens in the customer parking lot that naturally cleans runoff through layers of filtering soil amendments, and a rooftop rain harvesting system. The latter provides more than 160,000 gallons of water annually that satisfies one-fourth of the store’s landscaping and toilet flushing needs. With new efficiency toilets in use, those 160,000 gallons can add up to 100,000 flushes! The Edmonds PCC’s demonstration of how easy and effective rain gardens can be in a commercial setting prompted its new neighbor, Walgreens, to install two rain gardens. The store also hosts classes taught by the local conservative district that teaches residents how to install rain gardens at home.

 

2014

ANIMAL CARE
GB_Logo_Oval_Color_LrzSFTA members care about how their animals are treated! 60 percent of reporting members require ethical animal treatment practices from themselves or their suppliers, and 60 percent of retailers have policies and purchasing practices that prohibit the purchase of dairy or meat/poultry products treated with growth hormones or antibiotics. One SFTA member whose animal care practices stand out is GloryBee.

Although primarily a distributor of honey, sweeteners, spices, dried fruits, nuts, and oils, GloryBee takes steps to ensure their product suppliers are responsible animal stewards, in particular for their honey products. Stringent in-house testing ensures there is no use of prohibited antibiotics in their honey and hive (i.e. propolis) products. Many of their cosmetic, personal care, and household products are verified free of animal testing through the Coalition for Consumer Information’s “Leaping Bunny” program.

GloryBee also donates one percent of retail sales revenue to their “Save the Bee” campaign. As a result, in 2012 GloryBee’s first donation of $10,000 was to Oregon State University’s Honeybee Research Lab which established the foundation for a long-term partnership.

CLIMATE CHANGE AND AIR EMISSIONS
Members are resolved to help decrease their impact on our environment through the reduction of carbon emissions. 100 percent of reporting members track and manage their carbon footprint through a variety of methods. For 27 percent of these members, efforts are driven by their goal of being carbon-neutral businesses. SFTA member SunOpta has seen great climate change results with recent sustainability efforts.SunOpta

Even though SunOpta sales grew by 37 percent from 2008 to 2012, its carbon emissions actually declined by over 8 percent in the same amount of time. To help achieve this goal, the Brampton, Ontario based company performed three major energy saving projects in 2012 that saved over three-quarters of a million kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity that year.

The first project reclaimed waste heat to increase the temperature of incoming process water. The second project involved upgrading the insulation for a large ice bank unit, saving over 125,000 kWh per year. The third project consisted of relocating a chiller and cooler closer to the food processing area in the facility – eliminating 1,000 feet of process piping – and adding insulation on remaining piping to realize over 540,000 kWh of electricity savings. In addition, SunOpta continued their partnership with C.H. Robinson, a third party logistics provider and Trees Ontario to plant trees to offset shipment impacts. As a result, over 11,000 trees have been planted on SunOpta’s behalf since 2010. Combined, these projects have accomplished the equivalent of taking 2,636 homes off of the electrical grid.

DISTRIBUTION AND SOURCING
Efforts to improve local sourcing and reduce carbon footprints go hand in hand for SFTA members. 95 percent of SFTA members actively manage the sustainability of their sourcing and distribution through fuel efficiency or local sourcing programs. 100 percent of retailers have local sourcing programs, and 27 percent of total reported retailer sales were dedicated to local sources. 12 percent of one distributor’s total sales were delivered on bicycle! Let’s take a look at that distributor, Hummingbird Wholesale.

Hummingbird-BikeHummingbird Wholesale, a Eugene, OR-based organic wholesale company, weaves two SFTA commitment areas – climate change and local initiatives – together in its distribution and sourcing program. Over 12 percent of its total product sales – or 250,000 pounds – was delivered by two custom cargo tri-cycles that can deliver up to 1,000 pounds of organic products at a time! In addition, Hummingbird has a dedicated farm liaison staffer who identifies and builds relationships with local (within 100 miles) and regional (Pacific Northwest) producers. These relationships resulted in a 43 percent growth in the number of acres Hummingbird contracts locally, and a 40 percent increase in the pounds purchased of local and regional products!

SUSTAINABILITY EDUCATION
There is a tremendous dedication to educate employees as well as communities on sustainability. 100 percent of members have policies or initiatives to regularly update internal and external stakeholders on sustainability initiatives and developments. MOM’s Organic Markets makes their education efforts accessible to all by blending information and fun into their activities for employees and customers.

MOM'sMOM’s Organic Market has found a great way to balance climate change, community engagement, and sustainability education initiatives. Twice a year, MOM’s holds “We Love Inflation” events: parking lots are staffed with employees who check customers’ tire pressure. If pressure is low, tires are inflated on-site for a fuel efficiency boost of up to 10 percent. Additionally, MOM’s started a program, “Terrapass Your Gas” to offset customer’s shopping trips to and from its stores in order to raise awareness about the importance of collectively reducing our carbon footprint. In 2013, MOM’s offset over 10,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions through Terrapass. MOM’s employs multiple other methods to educate consumers, including in-store campaigns, newsletters and web pages, and through participation in environmental community events. MOM’s thorough approach to sustainability education also focuses on employees. Peer-to-peer book review sessions, environmental film viewings, and field trips to organic farms, sustainable vendors, as well as recycling and renewable energy facilities, are all part of the extensive sustainability education MOM’s offers employees.

ENERGY USE
Efficiency in building design, energy conservation, and the use of renewable energy resources are driving energy savings. 65 percent of the electric energy used by SFTA members is derived from renewable sources. 100 percent of members have achieved energy savings through equipment efficiency upgrades. One SFTA member uses a combination of low-tech and high-tech upgrades to show its commitment to responsible energy use.

WedgeThe Wedge Co-Op in Minneapolis, MN uses several methods to decrease energy use and increase renewable energy commitments across all of its dynamic business divisions: grocery retail, distribution warehouse, and farm. In the grocery retail, LED-lit refrigerator cases and air curtains at their store’s primary receiving bay help maintain target store temperature and are both energy-saving tactics. In addition, a roof-mounted solar panel water heating system is used to pre-heat water and cut down on energy needed to heat water to needed temperatures. Energy-efficient lighting retrofits have contributed to a two percent decrease in energy consumed by the store in the last year. These gains were augmented by an increase, from 20 to 22 percent, in the store’s renewable energy sources as its electric utility boosted renewables production. In 2014, The Wedge will make an even bigger leap in renewable energy: it will begin benefiting from the installation of 148 Solarworld 270-watt solar panels that will provide over 50,000 kWh of power at the co-op’s farm, Gardens of Eagan.

GOVERNANCE AND COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
PCCOrganic companies recognize the importance of community and giving. SFTA members increased total community donations in 2013 by a whopping 57 percent. This translates into millions of dollars dedicated to communities. PCC Markets is no stranger to these types of comprehensive community engagement projects.

When it comes to making a difference in its community, Seattle, WA-based PCC Natural Markets is an expert. PCC reported that its ongoing rechargeable Scrip fundraising program earned more than $235,000 for 212 community non-profits in the last year. Additionally, the 25-year old PCC Food Bank Program, which uses cash donations from shoppers to buy bulk food at wholesale prices – repackaged by volunteers at bi-monthly work parties – provided more than 36 tons of food for its program partners.

LABOR
Labor practices continue to be a quality hallmark for organic companies. 100 percent of reporting members offer health care, and cover an impressive 94 percent of health care costs! 84 percent of employers offer 401K plans, and 55 percent offer profit sharing. But some SFTA members don’t stop there…TraditionalMedicinals

Sebastapol, CA-based Traditional Medicinals is committed to using age-old plant wisdom to improve the health and wellness of both its consumers and staff. That concern for wellness shows in both its supply chain and employee practices. In 2012, 97 percent of their raw botanical tea ingredients were certified organic. This helped them achieve an amazing feat: in 2012, 94 percent of total consumer products have organic certification, versus only 19 percent in 2002! Additionally, the company achieved non-GMO verification of 100 percent of their products.

Beyond that clear commitment to health and sustainability, Traditional Medicinals not only offers an excellent typical benefits package (including 100 percent coverage of full-time employee health insurance and a 401K plan), but has also transitioned to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). Its supply chain rests on decades-old direct partnerships with herb and product suppliers; in developing countries, many of those partnerships have been certified to both eco and social standards including FairWild and Fair Trade.

ORGANIC AND LAND USE
SFTA members are making an incredible statement on their commitment to organic. In fact, 87 percent of the total product by weight managed by reporting SFTA manufacturers and distributors is certified organic. This means that they bought more than 1.5 BILLION pounds of organic food! A major contributor to that figure is a growing organic company, Annie’s, Inc.

Annie's 3-organic-commit-infographic 0414Frequently touted as an “organic pioneer,” now publicly-traded Annie’s, Inc. remains true to its roots. The commitment to organic continues to grow: purchase of organic ingredients increased 18 percent in FY2013 over the previous year, and the sales of “organic” and “made with organic” products increased from 85 to 86 percent. 70 of Annie’s product SKUs are non-GMO verified. Annie’s is also involved in federal and state-level GMO labeling policy initiatives and is a founding member of the Just Label It campaign. In addition, its employees serve on boards of several prominent organic associations, including the Organic Trade Association, The Organic Center, and the Sustainable Food Trade Association!

PACKAGING AND MARKETING MATERIALS
Reducing the use of the earth resources in packaging and marketing materials is a major focus for SFTA members. 100 percent of members have active goals and efforts in place to reduce packaging’s impact on the environment. As a result, manufacturers and distributors eliminated over 175,000 pounds of packaging materials in 2012, and grocery retailers saved the use of over 3.3 million bags!

NatureBoxGroup-USA-March13The sustainability game can be won or lost with packaging, and Nature’s Path in Richmond, British Columbia, aims to win. Its comprehensive packaging guidelines require that all purchased cardboard and paperboard is certified to the stringent Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) standard, printed using vegetable based inks, and made of 100 percent recycled content. In addition, all plastic used in packaging of Nature’s Path products is BPA- and PVC-free. Regardless of its large and growing sales, in 2012 Nature’s Path was able to measure and report that 98 percent of ALL its product packaging, by total weight is recyclable by the consumer.

SOLID WASTE REDUCTION
Reduction of waste is a major focus. Reporting SFTA members diverted an average of 71 percent of their waste from landfills; 40 percent of reporting members had a diversion rate of 80 percent or higher!

PurdueAlways a leader in sustainability, Organic Valley in LaFarge, WI, diverted over 95 percent of its annual waste from landfills. 61 percent of diverted waste went to a local farmer’s biofuel digester, 32 percent was diverted to animal feed, and the remaining 2 percent was recycled. In addition, Organic Valley helps reduce landfill waste in its community by hosting recycling events for its employees and community. Events have included hosting recycling collection points for electronics, tires, clothing, and shoes.

The company also runs an agricultural plastic recycling program in conjunction with Terrecon, which recycles the waste into plastic sidewalk and garden pavers. This program resulted in the initial annual collection of over 56,000 pounds of agricultural plastic.

WATER USE REDUCTION
Seen as an increasingly scarce resource, 100 percent of SFTA members consider water conservation in decision making processes. Efforts made to reduce water footprints are as diverse as SFTA members themselves. Some companies use water restoration certificates; Straus Family Creamery extracts sanitation water from milk using reverse osmosis, then re-uses waste water to clean out their cattle facilities!

Chico Natural Foods Co-op (Chico, CA) shows that small changes can lead to big impacts! After identifying the need for a critical upgrade in their produce case, the co-op purchased a more efficient model. Another small change — reducing the water they use to fill their produce sink for vegetable prepping by 25 percent. The results? A reported 40 percent reduction in their annual water use!
Chico

2013

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Annie’s Inc. – Annie’s, Inc. drives sustainability in its supply chain through engagement

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MOM’s Organic Market – MOM’s Organic Market Bans the sale of Bottled Water

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Clif Bar – Clif Bar’s Holistic Approach to Climate Action