Sustainability is more than just about stewardship of the land — it’s also about people, according to produce growers, shippers and marketers.
Companies say are focusing on their labor pools, specifically.
“We want to be a community steward that thinks about things like when you start a shift is it maximizing how many of your workers can ride the bus versus have to take cars,” said Tony Freytag, chief executive officer of Cashmere, Wash.-based tree fruit grower-shipper Crunch Pak.
It’s simple mathematical sense, Freytag said.
Reduce the cars and you reduce fuel consumption,” he said.
Companies that have worker-friendly policies are exercising good business sense, said Diana McClean, marketing director with Tanimura & Antle Inc., Salinas, Calif.
“In general terms, companies approach labor as a sustainability issue by doing what they can to attract and preserve a strong work force in line with their business objectives,” McClean said.
That means providing competitive wages and benefits and “a company culture that is respectful and appreciative” of employee contributions, she said.
“It is often said that employees are a company’s most valuable asset. It’s in a company’s best interest, then, to uncover, develop, manage and retain its talent within its organization,” she said.
A “safe and fair” working environment is central to a company’s labor-related sustainability efforts, said Ed O’Malley, president and chief executive officer of Datepac LLC, Yuma, Ariz.
“Sustainable and responsible practices could include strong and supportive HR policies, wellness practices and competitive wages and compensation, among others,” he said.
Labor is a social issue at Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks, N.D., said Eric Halverson, executive vice president of technology.
“Ultimately, if a company is doing the right things, it will remain sustainable,” he said.
A good workforce sustainability effort ensures the viability of a company, said Joelle Mosso, organic integrity manager at Earthbound Farm
“I think most companies that think about labor within the big picture of sustainability are thinking about it in the context of social responsibility on the one hand and economic sustainability on the other hand: Are we paying a living wage? Are we treating our staff well?” she said.