Establishing sustainability metrics — not standards — was among the messages delivered by a produce industry official at a recent sustainability conference.
Kathy Means, vice president of government relations and public relations for the Newark, Del.-based Produce Marketing Association, spoke Dec. 7 at the four-day Sustainability Summit in Arlington, Va.
At the conference, which was sponsored by the Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Means and Barbara Meister, marketing and communications manager with SureHarvest, an agri-food management software and sustainability service company based in Soquel, Calif., educated retailers and other attendees about the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, an effort spearheaded by PMA.
Means said one purpose of her presentation was to convince people that the aim of the stewardship index was not to create sustainability standards and hold businesses to them, but to create a single measuring stick by which companies can gauge their sustainability programs.
“We want to get across the need for a common language, and we want to include as many participants as possible in the process,” Means said. “This is not just for growers and processors.”
Means shared stories of successful sustainability programs in the produce industry, and she stressed that a sustainability program is not only good for the environment — it’s good for the bottom line.
Adopting sustainability metrics, such as those being developed by the stewardship index, can help companies operate more efficiently, recruit employees and please customers, Means said.