GUEST POST: THE BIG WHIFF - HOW CORPORATE AMERICA MISSED THE CLIMATE FIX
Posted August 28, 2017
This blog was written by Auden Shendler, VP of Sustainability at Aspen Skiing Company. It was originally posted by GreenBiz on August 25, 2017. View the original post here.
At 12:04 a.m. March 24, 1989, the oil tanker Exxon Valdez ran aground, ruptured and spilled 11 million gallons into Prince William Sound in Alaska, a landscape that would make you cry even before it was covered in oil.
That disaster triggered a group of businesses to create the "Valdez Principles,” later called the Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies (CERES) Principles, a groundbreaking pledge to operate in an ecologically responsible fashion. There are now 60 CERES signatories.
The idea — that business ought to care about more than just profit — helped kick off a sustainable business movement that thrives today.
But the pledge missed something. And one consequence of that omission has been our failure to solve climate change, far and away the most important threat to a sustainable world.
What was missing was a call for corporate responsibility in the broader work of democracy. Instead, the focus was purely on internal operations — all that was asked of a business to be considered "responsible" was that it keep its own house in order. But that’s not enough. Voluntary pollution reductions never will achieve the scale needed to solve climate change or any other global problem.
You’ve got to have policy.
SPOTLIGHT: NATURE'S PATH
Posted August 21, 2017
Nature’s Path Foods is a family-run, passionately independent, sustainably-driven, delightfully nutritious organic breakfast and snack food company that believes in ‘always leaving the earth better than we found it’, and takes its approach to people, the planet and profit seriously.
“Nature’s Path has been prioritizing climate for over a decade. We identified early on that it would be core to our business success—and it matters to our customers. Making a commitment through the Climate Collaborative is allowing us to come together with other companies start to tackle key sustainability challenges as an industry,” says founder Arran Stephens.
Nature’s Path is one of only 10 companies who have made all nine climate action commitments through the Climate Collaborative. From food waste to transportation to robust agriculture practices, the company has seen real results from their innovations and investments:
Food waste: Nature’s Path was the first cereal company in North America to achieve zero-waste certifications in all three of its manufacturing facilities diverting 93% of its waste from landfills in 2016. Waste diversion, on average, tends to lead to lower GHG intensity in products and can be a strong mitigation option for companies working with inefficient landfills. In this case, Nature’s Path isn’t just seeing climate mitigation gains from these measures: it estimates annual savings of nearly $350,000 from zero waste programs at two of their three facilities, alone.
Packaging: Nature’s Path introduced Eco Pacs for their cereals which use 66% less packaging than traditional cardboard boxes, helping the company save 437 tons of paperboard per year and creating carbon reductions equivalent to taking 225 cars off the road for a year.
Agriculture: The company is also a longtime leader in organic farming practices; with lower GHG emissions for crop production and enhanced carbon sequestration capabilities, Certified Organic ingredients product use has been core to Nature’s Path’s climate mitigation strategy. In 2014, the company purchased 2,760 acres of land in Montana to help increase organic farmland and to attract and educate new organic farmers. In 2013-2016, Nature’s Path purchased over 190,000 tons of certified USDA Organic, Canadian Organic and Non-GMO project ingredients.
Value chain engagement: Nature’s Path is also looking beyond its direct operations when it comes to climate action. They ask suppliers to report on their sustainability, following SFTA’s Sustainable Supply Chain best practices and set high certification standards for the sourcing of key commodities like palm oil, a major driver of deforestation. They are also educating their consumers about the importance of organic farming and sustainable practices through their web site and ad campaigns.
“To us, success in business is only achieved by first being socially responsible and environmentally sustainable, and then financially viable. One can’t exist without the other, and every year we strive to make it further down the path of corporate sustainability.” – Nature’s Path 2016 Sustainability Report
Visit Nature’s Path’s website to learn more about their efforts.
Posted August 16, 2017
The new Climate Collaborative action group!
OUR JOURNEY TO INTEGRATE CARBON FARMING INTO YOUR SUPPLY CHAIN
Robust carbon farming practices as a goal and ambition have captivated consumers and companies alike; in fact, 50 companies have made a commitment to boost their agriculture practices through the Climate Collaborative.
Many committed companies have expressed interest in learning from each other and growing together in skill and capacity. To answer this call, the Climate Collaborative is introducing a facilitated series of gatherings with the purpose of cultivating a knowledge-sharing space, and encouraging collective inspiration, troubleshooting and collaboration to allow natural products companies to progress individually and collectively towards a regenerative future.
The Sustainable Food Lab will host and facilitate these interactive sessions featuring content expertise from within and outside the group. The sessions will focus on moving companies from ambition to results in their carbon farming practices. Content will address:
− measurement to quantify regenerative agriculture,
− resilience in small-holder supply chains
− collaborations in specific crops/regions
Our first virtual meeting will take place on September 8th, at 1pm EDT and is open to all companies who have made the agriculture commitment through the Climate Collaborative.
Interested in joining? Please contact Lisa Spicka (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information, and to be included in this ground-breaking action group!
Thanks to Patagonia for sponsoring a portion of this work!
Right Side Up: The Lowdown on Packaging Climate Impacts and Opportunities
Posted August 2, 2017
Watch the CC packaging webinar here!
Nancy Hirshberg of Hirshberg Strategic provides an overview of the climate impacts of packaging across product lifecycles, and identifies strategies companies can employ to reduce the impacts.
Posted July 11, 2017
From the Climate Collaborative July 2017 Newsletter
Annie’s commitment to the environment dates back to 1989 when Annie Withey co-founded the company with a mission to nourish people and planet through honest foods. Since then, Annie’s has tackled various environmental issues and has prioritized climate change through policy, industry leadership, and most importantly, in their own supply chain.
A lifecycle assessment on their products in 2012 revealed that the greatest contributor to GHG emissions (global warming causing gases) in their supply chain came from the farming of their ingredients. This was no surprise to their data-driven sustainability team; according to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, agriculture accounts for up to one third of global anthropogenic greenhouse gases. By prioritizing organic ingredients, Annie’s supports agricultural practices that protect soil health and natural resources, and in turn, help mitigate climate change. In fact, scientists posit that well-managed, healthy soils may be able to sequester more than 10% of global anthropogenic emissions.
The company’s commitment to addressing climate change doesn’t stop at the farm level. At Climate Day at Expo West in March, they announced commitments to five Climate Collaborative areas: agriculture, policy, food waste, packaging, and energy efficiency. Below are just a few examples of how they’re moving the needle:
Agriculture: Annie’s launched its first organic product in 1998 and has continued to grow organic ever since. In 2016, 88% of their sales were from Organic products. They are committed to supporting farmers, as demonstrated by their funding for organic research and through their founding membership of the Organic Grain Collaboration. They continue to look for ways to support improved soil health through better farming practices.
Policy: Since 2012, Annie’s has been a proud member of Business for Innovative Climate and Energy Policy (BICEP), making a strong stance for climate and energy policy reforms. Following the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord last month, Annie’s signed onto ‘We Are Still In’, an open letter from business and government leaders to voice the company’s ongoing dedication to mitigating climate change.
Food waste: You may have heard the statistic: if food waste were a country, it would be the world’s third highest emitter of greenhouse gases after China and the U.S. Annie’s has set out to do something about this disconcerting reality by partnering with industry leaders to standardize inconsistent product date code language that drives consumer food waste.
Packaging: In 2014, the company formalized its efforts to reduce packaging-related emissions by developing a Sustainable Packaging Strategy centered on materials, disposal, and optimization. Currently, 90% of the company’s packaging is recoverable and 80% of products carry the How2Recyle label, and their dedicated team is pushing closer to 100% in both areas every day.
Energy efficiency: In addition to maintaining their LEED Gold Status and Bay Area Green Business Certification at their Berkeley office, in 2016 Annie’s earned the Climate Disruptors award for energy efficiency projects that led to a 30% reduction in annual electricity usage and a 60% reduction in annual natural gas usage in their Berkeley office.
“As a food company, we recognize our dependence on thriving natural resources to grow the food that goes into our products every day. Agriculture is one of the biggest drivers for climate change, but it can also be one of its greatest solutions. We strive to be part of the solution,” states Shauna Sadowski, Annie’s VP of Sustainability and Industry Relations. Annie’s has been a leader for the environment since day one, and they’re not slowing down any time soon. Read more about their ever-evolving efforts to tackle climate change on their website.
The Fast and the Furious: A Company's Guide to Reducing Transportation Emissions
Watch the CC Transportation webinar here!
Speakers from the Environmental Defense Fund and Happy Family Brands discuss best practices around reducing climate impacts through transportation.
Download the slides HERE.
SPOTLIGHT: HAPPY FAMILY
Posted June 8, 2017
From the Climate Collaborative June 2017 Newsletter
Shazi Visram, Chief Mom and Founder and Jessica Rolph, Founding Partner and former COO of Happy Family, have been deeply committed to sustainability since day one, embedding organic as a cornerstone of the company’s practices. About two years ago, however, Happy Family began to question whether they could go beyond their commitment to organic to do more to protect the planet- specifically addressing the challenge of climate change. The company created a full-time sustainability position to focus on climate change, ensuring that it could create the kind of future the company hopes to see for its customers, its staff and the planet. “As a baby food company, it’s imperative that we think about our impact on the environment, because we want our little customers to have a healthy, happy planet to grow and thrive on,” says Katie Clark, Happy Family’s Director of Sustainability.
Although Happy Family has only one full-time employee focused on sustainability, it has been able to make enormous progress by creating a Climate Action Team, with 7 impact areas and 45 employees (almost half the company!) working on addressing the company’s climate impact as part of their workplans.
At Climate Day at Expo West this spring, Happy Family announced its climate action commitments in six areas and their teams are already working hard to make these goals a reality:
- Transportation: Recently converted 30% of domestic inbound raw material transportation from truck to intermodal (rail and trucks)
- Deforestation: Developing a sustainability audit to identify and reduce risk of deforestation from the sourcing of raw materials, and to set a minimum standard of efficiency and conservation practices with their suppliers.
- Food Waste: Working with a co-manufacturing partner to reduce manufacturing and food waste
- Policy: Working with several climate groups to set up local meetings with their representatives to encourage them to join the House Climate Caucus and support a carbon fee
- Agriculture: Rolling out the Cool Farm Tool to farmers in their supply chain to help them identify opportunities to incorporate more regenerative agriculture practices at the farm level
- Packaging: Executing on a number of projects in the pipeline to right-size products and down-gauge materials, including recently re-launching their four-pack pouch boxes with one inch less width and 65% (up from 35%) post-consumer recycled content
“I want to be able to look my children in their eyes when they are older and tell them that I did everything possible to reverse climate change,” says Jessica. We are so grateful to Jessica for her personal passion for climate action – she’s one of the co-founders of the Climate Collaborative and she and her husband, Decker are also major donors in addition to supporting our work via Happy Family. Congratulations to the entire Happy Family team for successfully integrating a commitment to reversing climate change into the company’s daily operations and future goals.
Visit Happy Family’s mission report to learn more about their passion and practices.
Leveraging Supply Chains to Regenerate Farmlands and Forests
Posted May 23, 2017
Watch the recording of the first Climate Collaborative webinar!
Andrew Nobrega from PUR Projet and Mathieu Senard from Alter Eco discuss the livelihood benefits of ecosystem restoration and climate action at the farm level.
Download the slides HERE.
SPOTLIGHT: DR. BRONNER'S
Posted May 1, 2017
From the Climate Collaborative May 2017 Newsletter
Aside from making the most amazing soap, Dr. Bronner's is near and dear to our hearts because of their long-time involvement in climate action and “humble and mindful use of the earth’s gifts.”
One of the Climate Collaborative’s founding companies and supporters, Dr. Bronner’s has long been actively engaged in addressing its impact on the climate, especially in the following five commitment areas: agriculture, forests, packaging, renewable energy and transportation. At Climate Day, they announced their new commitments to energy efficiency, food waste, and policy.
One of the things that sets Dr. Bronner’s apart from most companies is its comprehensive approach to each commitment, looking beyond their own corporate facilities to delve deeply into the impact of their suppliers. This is important because as much as 60-80% of a company’s climate impact accumulates in its supply chain.
Dr. Bronner’s uses mostly certified organic and fair trade raw materials from its own projects and from partner projects. They work closely with their suppliers to support the use of regenerative agricultural practices on their farms. This includes practices such as recycling farm waste and organic by-products of production like mulch and manure, production and application of compost which builds healthy soil and pulls carbon out of the atmosphere; replanting of oil palm orchards with native yet more productive varieties of palm and using intercropping to increase productivity and biodiversity, and much more. At its partner project in India, the company is developing a comprehensive regenerative agriculture program that will eventually help 2,000 small holder farmers improve the productivity of their land and enhance its sustainability by sequestering carbon in their soil through practices like composting, use of cover crops, conservation tillage and strategic crop rotation.
IT'S TIME TO LEAD ON CLIMATE ISSUES
Posted March 1, 2017
By Lara Dickinson, reposted with permission from New Hope Network.
Climate change is here. We’re already feeling its effects, whether it’s an extended drought, three "hundred year" storms in the span of five years, a maple sugaring season that starts in early January, rising sea levels, or an unprecedentedly vicious hurricane season.
In the autumn of 2015, I started to think about this a lot more. OSC2 CEOs were talking about supply chain issues and climate a lot in our monthly gatherings. I was feeling it during a blazing October with my fussy 6-month-old son. Then, Jessica Rolph, a longtime friend and OSC2 member, called me up and asked: "Are you worried? I can smell the wildfires outside my house. OSC2 collaborates on sustainable packaging; could we do it for climate?"
And so we started this journey with a question—how could our industry work together? Although climate change is one of the biggest threats humankind has ever faced, it’s also one of the greatest opportunities we’ve ever had to innovate and make change. By joining forces, we can unleash a new wave of innovation that will help slow and ultimately reverse climate change while improving our quality of life and making our businesses stronger.
But we must act, we must work on the big opportunities, and we must do it together. That’s why my organization, OSC2, recently joined forces with the Sustainable Food Trade Association to create the Climate Collaborative—a network of natural product manufacturers, retailers, brokers, distributors and suppliers working collaboratively to take bold action on climate change.
Fortunately, we are an industry of innovators. We’ve cut our teeth tackling issues like organic agriculture, animal welfare, non-GMO and fair trade practices. Our consumers expect us to lead. Now it’s time for us to lead on climate.
Many of the companies in our industry are already deeply engaged in climate actions, but when recently polled, the overwhelming majority of natural foods companies responded: "We could and should be doing more." By collaborating to create momentum and reach scale, we can drive the change that must happen to create a stronger more resilient industry—and a better future for all.
We’re partnering with New Hope Network to kick off the Climate Collaborative with the first-ever Climate Day on March 8 at Natural Products Expo West in Anaheim—an event dedicated to spreading hope, sharing new ideas and proven solutions, and making the connections that will help your company make a meaningful impact on climate.
I invite you to join us with New Hope, Happy Family, Annie’s, Dr Bronner's, National Co+op Grocers, Independent Natural Food Retailers Association, Patagonia Provisions, Organic Valley, Nature’s Path, REBBL, Nutiva, Numi, Guayaki, Elk Packaging, White Wave and dozens more industry leaders and nonprofits for this remarkable gathering.
Environmental visionary Paul Hawken will give a keynote address about his inspirational work at Project Drawdown. Birgit Cameron of Patagonia Provisions and Dave Alexander of Global Organics will provide details about agriculture’s vast promise to reverse our current climate crisis. We’ll host a CEO roundtable where you can hear directly from industry leaders like John Foraker of Annie’s, Robynn Shrader of NCG, Chris Mann of Guayaki and Jessica Rolph of HappyFamily about their climate successes and challenges.
Joel Makower of GreenBiz will be our emcee for the day, and our reception with food and drinks will offer a lovely time to greet old friends and make new ones. We’ll also be screening Kiss the Ground, a beautiful film on the potential of soils and farming to address the climate crisis. And much more! All Climate Day events are free with your Expo West exhibit hall badge, but space is limited so register soon.
We will also be livestreaming the event for everyone who wants to be a part of Climate Day but is unable to attend in person. Please register here to get access to the livestream.
It’s clear that climate is the "next big thing" facing our industry, and I know we can and will rise to the challenge.
This article is a repost with permission from New Hope Network.
Q&A: WHY ORGANIC FARMING IS A PROMISING PART OF A CLIMATE CHANGE SOLUTION
Posted February 24, 2017
Published byon February 24, 2017
The food system is in an interesting predicament—it's a significant contributor to one of its own biggest threats—climate change. But fortunately, just as poor land-management practices are contributors to climate change, use of good on-farm practices can actually lead to climate change mitigation, says Tracy Misiewicz, the associate director of science programs for The Organic Center.
Misiewicz leads The Organic Center’s creation of reports, compiling current science on critical issues affecting organic food and farming. She'll lend her expertise to a panel at Natural Products Expo West that will help brands and retailers translate organic's benefits to consumers, and she'll also participate in a roundtable during Climate Day. Here, she explains some of the research behind the impacts of different agricultural practices, and organic's climate-friendly tenets.
In what ways is climate change manifesting itself in our food system?
Tracy Misiewicz: According to the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, food production accounts for almost 25 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. With the Earth’s population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050, we can only anticipate that demands on food production will increase.
Agricultural activities responsible for greenhouse gas emissions include the use of nitrogen fertilizer, synthetic herbicides and insecticides, fossil fuel consumption associated with farm equipment, and the transportation of materials and products to and from the farm. The manufacture of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides also constitutes a major source of energy use in conventional agriculture. For instance, the manufacture and utilization of synthetic nitrogen fertilizers comprise as much as 10 percent of direct global agricultural emissions—that’s a 37 percent increase since 2001.
It is ironic that our food system is such a large contributor to climate change—the very thing that is threatening to destroy our food security. A couple of years back, a farmer showed me pictures of his farm that was devastated by a violent storm. These severe weather events—storms, droughts, and flooding rains—are only expected to increase as the climate continues to change. Fortunately, just as poor land-management practices in agriculture are contributors to climate change, implementation of good on-farm practices can actually lead to climate change mitigation, and organic agriculture is well positioned to be part of the solution.
How much science out there is related to organic farming as a solution for climate change?
TM: Short answer: Lots! Organic farmers do not rely on fossil-fuel intensive synthetic inputs to manage pests or increase soil fertility. Studies show that diverse crop rotation strategies and soil-building practices required by USDA’s National Organic Program reduce overall emissions per land area farmed, while simultaneously sequestering carbon in the soil. Every carbon molecule that is stored in the soil is one that is not contributing to climate change in our atmosphere.
Data collected and published by USDA scientists from long-term agricultural research stations in Iowa and Maryland found that organic cropping systems sequestered significantly more carbon in the soil than comparable conventional cropping systems. Another analysis published by European researchers examined data from over 70 different studies to determine how transitioning from conventional farming to organic farming affected soil organic carbon. They found that agricultural soils under organic management stored a lot more carbon compared to those under conventional management, confirming the potential of organic agriculture to contribute to climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration.
Additionally, studies that compare energy efficiency of organic farms to conventional farms continue to find that organic farms are more energy efficient.
Are there certain areas where more research is really needed?
TM: One of the top areas where I see a real research need is developing scientifically supported agronomic practices to improve the sustainability of our agricultural system while simultaneously providing benefit to farmers—hence creating incentive for the agricultural industry to implement environmentally friendly practices. For example, some research suggests that organic practices that build soil health also make crops more resilient to climate change by increasing the ability of soils to retain water in drought conditions and improving the structure of the soil to make it more resistant to erosion during heavy rains. I think that as the reality of climate change sets in, more farmers are going to start looking for new solutions. If science demonstrates that the best on-farm practices to protect crop yields during severe weather events are the same best practices that mitigate climate change and build soil health, everyone wins.
Another area needing more research is the development of crop varieties that are adapted to organic production systems and extreme weather such as heat or drought. Nearly all crop varieties planted in the U.S. are developed for high-input agricultural systems that maximize yield above all else. As a result, most organic growers only have access to crop varieties not developed for organic systems, let alone a changing climate. Increased research into climate-resilient varieties that are adapted to organic management systems is imperative for increasing and maintaining yields needed to meet the growing demand for organic products (let alone the food demands of a growing population).
How can we as a food industry measure our success (or failure) in fighting climate change?
TM: There are various ways:
- By investment in research that will provide farmers with the tools and knowledge to produce food in a manner that is climate friendly and profitable.
- By support of farmers who utilize sustainable farming methods as well as support for farmers who are making the transition. The more land under organic and sustainable production, the greater the contribution will be to climate change mitigation.
- By involvement in public communication on the importance of climate-friendly agricultural practices.
This article is a repost with permission from New Hope Network.