A few produce companies are in hot pursuit of LEED standards from the U.S. Green Building Council.
The Limoneira Co., Santa Paula, Calif., has the only LEED-certified building associated with a solar field in the city, said Alex Teague, senior vice president and chief operating officer.
OK Produce, Fresno, Calif., did a remodel using LEED standards and is shooting for platinum level certification, the highest, said Brady Matoian, chief executive officer.
“Our goal is platinum, but I’d be happy with any certification because we have none so far,” Matoian said. “This sets us on a really good path for the future.”
In general, Matoian said that having a sustainability program doesn’t open doors to new customers, but it does help once you’re in the door.
“When I first started telling people about our green efforts, I think I had to force them to listen,” Matoian said. “Now, as time has progressed, the trend has caught up. It’s not just popular — it’s the way to go.
“It’s like food safety. If you didn’t have a food safety program 10 years ago, it was a problem. If you didn’t three years ago, you were out of business.”
After all the platitudes have worn away, there is a strong business case for adopting sustainable methods, shippers say.
“Aside from it being the right thing to do, you save expenses over the long haul,” Teague said. “We’re finding that buyers are more eager to buy from us because of our sustainability efforts. That far outweighs the benefits from cost savings.”
And even after the carrot of profitability, there will be the stick of government.
“In five to 10 years, sustainability will be even more important,” said Bill Warmerdam, owner of Warmerdam Packing LLC, Hanford, Calif. “There will be more government regulations that call for it.”