Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Lessons from StonyField Farm are Applicable to All

We continue to be impressed with the lessons from companies that have been improving sustainability for years. Companies just starting on their sustainability path wrestle with issues dealt with years ago by others. These issues include the business case for a GHG inventory and LCA analyses, supplier scorecards, carbon labeling, green product certifications, etc. as well as best approaches to driving sustainability into operations and dealing with a plethora of green rating systems.

Stonyfield Farm is one of these leaders and visionaries. For those of you who are unable to attend our September conference at which Stonyfield Farm's President, Gary Hirshberg, is speaking, I'd like to highlight some of their best practices.

Stonyfield Farm is a remarkable success story. With US $300m revenue, Stonyfield Farm is the world largest producer of organic yogurt and has experienced a 27% annual growth for 18 years. Long committed to the environment, they completed their carbon footprint in 1999, ten years ago!! Gary shares many of his lessons in his talks and in his book, Stirring it Up. Some include:

- Investing in a carbon footprint leads to insights. Stonyfield Farm learned that milk production is by far their largest source of carbon emissions, followed by packaging, transport and facilities. These insights drove investment and project prioritization.

- Sourcing can be a competitive advantage, even if it costs more. Stonyfield Farm pay some suppliers twice the amount for products over conventionally grown supplies. A product capabilities (organic) supports price premiums and competitive differentiation. How can this be applied to other industries (electronics? responsible sourcing for plastics? etc.)?

- Leadership is critical in driving sustainability process thinking into operations and avoids having "sustainability" or "green" as just a marketing slogans.
Persistence is essential in finding sustainability projects with strong financial returns. One exciting recent development is changing the feed mix for cows to reduce their methane (from the infamous cow burps) using flax. Flax improves the health of cows, is cheaper, and reduces carbon - a triple win.

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