In a world where consumers, retailers and even governments are demanding more sustainable practices from businesses, the fresh produce industry must pay attention. Is sustainability merely an expensive fad, or does it present an opportunity for us to do better — for our planet, our consumers and our bottom line?
New York University (NYU) Stern Center’s 2022 research reveals sustainable products grew twice as fast as their non-sustainable counterparts, contributing to one-third of the market growth despite having 17.3% market share. Bain’s study also shows consumers are willing to pay 10-25% more for sustainable products, which NYU found less affected by inflation. Operational sustainability isn’t just eco-friendly — it’s also consumer-centric and promotes growth.
When it comes to environmental sustainability, there is vast market potential in the fresh produce industry. Carbon labeling, for example, is one tool that can boost your market share. In 2021 alone, carbon-labeled products in the United States accounted for over $3.4 billion in sales.
To reduce environmental impacts, use the Environmental Footprint (EF) methodology for Life Cycle Assessments (LCAs), which is EU-supported. EF considers 16 factors like water use, land use, and pollution, offering a comprehensive view beyond Greenhouse Gas Emissions. This helps prevent resource overexploitation when switching to less carbon-intensive materials, ensuring balanced environmental considerations. EF analysis reveals your business’s environmental impact, enabling sustainable decisions and footprint reduction. These strategies can also provide financial benefits.
At Nature Preserve we help companies to measure, reduce and communicate the EF of fresh or processed produce. Our solution is catered to distributors, cooperatives and membership organizations. I make a lot of calls to companies, and I am seeing a movement where the quality department personnel are transitioning into sustainability roles. In our conversations I often hear that companies are implementing a lot of sustainable initiatives but they don’t know how to measure the impact, or they are being asked about their sustainability strategy but they don’t know where to start or how expensive it will be, or that they have been discussing it internally but have never taken an initiative to implement it.
If these concerns resonate with your business, consider adopting a data-driven approach. This method facilitates targeted improvements that align with your unique goals. It emphasizes bespoke solutions, enabling better decision-making and tangible sustainability results. Adopting sustainable choices benefits not just the environment, but also business practices.
Your Business’ Superpower
After assessing and mitigating your environmental impacts, capitalize on the market benefits of sustainable practices. Transparent communication of these efforts is vital for earning consumer loyalty.
Set Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-Bound (SMART) goals for your business and communicate your initiatives and projected emission reductions. By using third-party validations, you can enhance transparency and receive unbiased approval, bolstering your brand’s credibility and sustainability commitment. Highlighting your achievements will further strengthen consumer trust in your sustainability efforts.
These efforts will not only win the hearts of consumers but also create a business that’s ready for the future. After all, sustainability doesn’t just make environmental sense, it makes good business sense.
- Julie Schack Petersen is co-founder and head of product at Nature Preserve