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Stonyfield Organic Takes on Climate Advocacy & Farm-level Emissions

We are taking stock of climate action in 2020 and what's ahead for the industry through a series of interviews with the 2020 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative Awards winners. This week we sat down with Britt Lundgren, Director of Organic & Sustainable Agriculture at Stonyfield, winner of the 2020 Outstanding Company Award. (View our previous interviews with Numi Organic Tea and Outpost Natural Foods).

What are Stonyfield's current climate priorities?

Stonyfield Organic has a long standing commitment to reducing our GHG emissions and advocating for climate action. In 2019 we set a new science-based target to reduce our total emissions by 30% by 2030, including Scope 3, and received validation from the Science Based Targets Initiative. Our work will focus on five key areas across our business for reducing emissions: agriculture, packaging, waste, logistics, and energy. Half of Stonyfield’s emissions come from agriculture, so we’re focused on the opportunity to help farmers be part of the solution through improving soil health and increasing soil carbon sequestration. To do this, we have teamed up with Wolfe’s Neck Center for Agriculture and the Environment to launch OpenTEAM, the first open source technology ecosystem in the world to address soil health and mitigate climate change. OpenTEAM is intended to revolutionize the way farmers of all types and sizes access site-specific decision support on how they can improve soil health on their operation and track the results.

How has the last year looked for Stonyfield's climate work, as you've navigated the pandemic and its impacts on the company and its supply chain? Have you had to shift any practices or priorities? 

Given how much has changed in our world over the past year as a result of the pandemic, I think the surprising thing is how little has had to change with our climate priorities and strategy. We are fortunate that business has remained strong, and we’ve been able to continue to dedicate time and resources to our work on climate change as we had planned. We’ve certainly had to make a few adjustments to how we do things, particularly with our efforts to pilot OpenTEAM on farms in our direct milk supply program.  But those farms really stepped up to the challenge of needing to meet virtually, and the end result is that they were all still able to really engage with trialing the tools and providing us the feedback we needed. 

Stonyfield is a year and a half out from announcing its science-based target. What has that journey taught you so far? 

Stonyfield has been working to reduce our impact on climate change for over 2 decades. Because of this, we’ve already addressed a lot of the “low hanging fruit” - emissions that are easy to reduce and even save you money in the process of making the reduction. So we knew when we set out our new science-based target that it would not necessarily be easy to get to these new goals. This is why we’re really focused on the things we can do that will make the most impact, and at the same time be the most meaningful to our consumers. We want to ensure we’re taking action that gets us to our goals and supports the business overall. As a result, we’re really prioritizing our work on renewable energy, packaging, and agriculture – we see these areas as places where we can make substantial progress towards our target in a way that our consumers will appreciate.

Stonyfield has a long legacy of advocacy on climate--one of the CC's biggest focus areas in 2020. Given that climate is a top policy priority for the current administration, what will your advocacy priorities be for the next year? 

After too many years of inaction, it’s so exciting to finally have some momentum around federal action on climate change. We are helping to lead the Organic Trade Association’s Climate Change Task Force, where we’re focusing on making sure that USDA and lawmakers are aware of all of the benefits organic agriculture has to offer from a climate change perspective. There is a lot of interest in Congress in advancing policies that will support farmers with both climate mitigation and adaptation. This is great, but we need to make sure these policies work for farms of all types, sizes, and geographies, and that the policies result in meaningful, measurable benefits for climate. We’ve had huge interest in the OTA task force, with over 60 members engaged so far, and we’re excited to have such a great team to be bringing these messages to Congress.

Are you particularly proud of anything Stonyfield accomplished on climate last year?

I am really pleased with the way that all of the participants in OpenTEAM stepped up to move the project forward, despite the challenges of the pandemic. OpenTEAM relies on the participation and active contributions of all of the researchers, software and hardware developers, and the farmers who are helping to trial these tools. The group was able to transition to an entirely remote working structure without missing a beat. They have made great strides on developing interoperability between the tools and using farmer feedback to make improvements to the tools. At Stonyfield we had 6 farms participate in an OpenTEAM pilot, and initially, we had planned to visit these farms regularly to provide tech support. But they were able to roll with the switch to working virtually and helped us get off to a great start with the project.

What’s got you excited for the next year? Is there anything you’re looking to go deeper on, or collaborate with the industry on? 

We’re excited about the opportunity to begin scaling up our work on OpenTEAM and supporting more farms in becoming a solution to climate change.  Now that USDA is really increasing their focus on reducing emissions from agriculture, we also see a big opportunity to partner with them to advance climate solutions in agriculture.


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