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.
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
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
Hummingbird 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!
MOM’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.
The 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
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.
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
Frequently 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
The 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
Always 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
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!
MOM’s Organic Market – MOM’s Organic Market Bans the sale of Bottled Water