The initiative partners Pro*Act with SureHarvest, Soquel, Calif., to provide verified case studies in sustainability advances.
“Pro*Act engaged us to do the verification of their suppliers, so rather than just saying these companies are doing a good job, we work with suppliers to dig into the program and see how well they are communicating and documenting,” said Sandy Clifton, marketing manager/sustainability associate at SureHarvest.
SureHarvest wants to ensure the Greener Fields Together initiative doesn’t engage in “green-washing.”
“We want the claims these companies make to be accurate, thorough and authentic,” Clifton said. “We’ve seen a lot of people making claims with no data to back it up.”
The process begins with SureHarvest helping a participating company to select an area of focus, such as waste management, water management, packaging, pest management, soil management, energy and climate, community or employee wellness.
“We explain the program and help them choose one of their efforts for participation in the program. We also steer them away from an effort they may not have data on,” Clifton said.
SureHarvest then begins collecting and verifying all the data a company has for the chosen area of focus.
“We can show if they really have an 80% water reduction,” she said.
Each case study takes a couple of months to complete, but after verification will be published on the Greener Fields Together website and on the supplier’s website, if desired, where it can be used in advertising.
“Consumers are asking for more transparency and sustainability. They want to know growers are taking care of the land,” Clifton said.
Another benefit for participation is that companies looking to increase their sustainability efforts will have insight from SureHarvest.
“We make suggestions on ways to improve or where they might have gaps that they could be doing better,” Clifton said.
Helping, not defining
The Greener Fields Together initative isn’t meant to define standards.
“We’re not providing a certification and a standard, we’re just verifying claims,” Clifton said.
Kathleen Phillips, supply chain sustainability manager for Pro*Act, Monterey, Calif., and overseer of Greener Fields Together, says the program started as a way to help companies look for continued improvement in their sustainability efforts.
“The case studies are just the beginning,” Phillips said.
The case studies provide a way for suppliers to display their sustainability efforts to the public.
“Companies are happy to finally have a place to put this information. It’s most likely been on an Excel file on a computer in an office, and now we have the opportunity to celebrate it,” Phillips said.
Before, much of this type of information stayed within business-to-business communication between suppliers and retailers. Now, it is packaged in a case study.
“We provide a case study in layman’s terms that marries credible sustainability information with the eye of the consumer,” Phillips said.
The case studies can then be used as encouragement for future advances.
“We will be continuously looking back at these efforts and saying, ‘What else can you do to be a better steward?’” Phillips said. “We will really push for that change.”