Natural Foods Merchandiser

Companies with a cause: Nature's Path

Nature’s Path was founded on the principle that nutritious foods don’t have to be boring and tasteless. A quarter-century later, the company is now proving that sustainability doesn’t have to be tedious and expensive.

The Canadian manufacturer of organic cereal, granola, bars, cookies, waffles and baking mixes was one of the first companies to sign onto the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association’s Declaration of Sustainability to promote sustainable practices in the food industry. Over the years, Nature’s Path’s green initiatives have included everything from retrofitting lighting at all its facilities and reducing packaging to working with colleges on a technology to cut the amount of natural gas used by the company’s ovens. Employees get a $1,000 subsidy toward the purchase of a hybrid vehicle, and the company has even developed a system to capture the condensate in its manufacturing plants and reuse it in washing equipment.

“We’re living in an increasingly resource-restrained world,” says Jyoti Stephens, Nature’s Path’s director of sustainability and stewardship. “As a company striving to make a positive impact, [the initiatives] are just core to who we are.”

Stephens, daughter of founder Arran Stephens, consults with Nature’s Path’s 350 employees to further the company’s goal of developing and sustaining organic agriculture as well as minimizing its carbon footprint. Staff suggestions the company has implemented include:

  • An experimental green roof on the headquarters building
  • Zero-waste certification this year and complete carbon neutrality by 2020
  • A worker-managed organic garden and compost program
  • Donation of 1 percent of sales from Nature’s Path EnviroKidz line to species and habitat conservation programs worldwide
  • $25,000 grants this year to two U.S. nonprofit organizations to establish organic gardens for communities and people in need

The results of Nature’s Path’s sustainability efforts read like an environmental statistician’s dream. The company says its new, smaller eco-pacs—cereal packages with a block bottom that can stand on shelves and are recyclable—save 825,540 gallons of wastewater, 437 tons of paperboard, 7,464 million BTUs of energy and 1.4 million pounds of carbon dioxide. Nature’s Path’s new, smaller granola boxes conserve more than 34 tons of cardboard and 65 tons of paperboard, and its reduced-size granola-bar boxes save 472,000 gallons of water and 50 tons of waste.

But what does a company’s carbon footprint have to do with its customers? Plenty, says Debby Swoboda, a Stuart, Fla.-based retail marketing consultant and founder of “If I’m wondering whether to buy this cornflake or that cornflake, which do I choose?” she says. “I think a lot of people are interested in sustainability, and sharing the company’s story can push them over.”

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