But it’s not always as easy as choosing to implement sustainable practices and being transparent about it. Companies need to know what they’re doing and how to measure it.
One group, the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, is looking at creating metrics for measuring the effects of sustainable practices and products.
“There are some black-and-white, but mostly there are tradeoffs,” Means said. “That’s why we’re supporting the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops.”
The purpose of the index is to create a way to measure the effects of sustainable practices and products so that companies can evaluate for themselves and decide what works for them. The best analogy from people involved: They’re trying to help everyone use the same yardstick.
“We also don’t want to squelch innovation,” Means said. “We don’t want to say everyone should do it this way.”
The group working on the index is made up of members all along the supply chain, most notable with retail partners including Wal-Mart and Costco, and distributors including Sysco.
In a report earlier in 2009 on the project, Jeff Dlott, chief executive officer of SureHarvest, a Sacramento, Calif.-based third-party auditor and sustainability consulting company, reported on the interest of top retailers, foodservice companies and product manufacturers in sustainability.
“Let me be clear on this point. There is no conflict between delivering value to shareholders and helping solve bigger societal problems,” H. Lee Scott, Wal-Mart’s former chief executive officer, said in Dlott’s report.
Dlott’s update on the project included a synopsis that the group is working on metrics for water, soil, biodiversity, chemical inputs, education, animal welfare, air, waste and energy.
By 2010, the group’s goal is to be able to measure the environmental impacts in the supply chain.
Also involved in this project are the National Potato Council, United Fresh Produce Association, Western Growers and Wegmans. The group is set to meet at the end of July, and plans to begin piloting some of the metrics, said Barbara Meister, a spokesperson for SureHarvest.
So what’s a company to do?
Motivation to go green is coming from many places these days, including retail and foodservice customers for produce companies, as well as from consumers themselves.
Overall, though, the motivation for most companies comes from the desire to do what’s right.