Refocusing on sustainability in 2021

The natural products industry leads in social responsibility, mitigating climate change and innovation. Prepare your next projects with these resources.

Victoria A.F. Camron, Digital content specialist

December 11, 2020

3 Min Read
Refocus on sustainability as you look to the new year
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The natural products industry has led manufacturing and retail in employing sustainable practices, fighting to mitigate climate change and creating a fair food-supply chain.

When the novel coronavirus pandemic triggered the pantry-loading shopping surge, many consumers turned to organic and natural foods, in part perhaps, to ensure they and their families were eating nutrient-packed, better-for-you foods.

But organic agriculture is only part of creating a sustainable and equitable society and planet. Corporate responsibility extends to manufacturers and retailers, as well.

Refocus on sustainability as you look to the new year

Corporate social responsibility supports financial stability

Companies active in social responsibility issues saw their stocks drop less than other companies’ stock during the pandemic, according to Ross Levine, a professor of economic analysis and policy at the Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley.

Also, when companies face intense competition, they increase their social responsibility activities—even though such action did not directly contribute their bottom lines.

Levine and his colleagues, Wenzhi Ding of the University of Hong Kong; Chen Lin, University of Hong Kong; and Wensi Xie of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, wrote two different papers on the topics:

Refocus on sustainability as you look to the new year

Reimagine retail through a sustainability lens

Technology can help retailers be more sustainable. “Sustainability at its heart is about managing waste, reducing impact and building systems capable of regeneration,” reports the professional services company Accenture.

When you look at your bottom line, cutting your energy costs 20% has the same effect as increasing sales 5%, according to Carbon Trust, an organization that works with businesses—including Danone—governments and the private sector to help reduce the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

Not every store can make big changes for sustainability, but small changes can make a difference: use locally sourced materials, replace traditional lights with LEDs or other energy-saving bulbs, and reduce your use of plastic packaging and bags.

Current Daily highlighted nine companies that made at least one of their stores highly sustainable, including IKEA, Patagonia, Starbucks and Reformation.

Refocus on sustainability as you look to the new year

Manufacturing innovation boosts sustainability at many levels

Applegate changed the country’s meat industry when it stopped using antibiotics on animals. Now, the company supports organic, non-GMO and regenerative farming systems to help mitigate climate change and improve the environment. But just last month, it took a big step in advancing sustainable food systems.

The Haas School of Business at the University of California, Berkeley, includes the Institute for Business & Social Impact, where a variety of programs work together to solve social and environmental problems. Recently, Applegate became a corporate partner with the Center for Responsible Business to accelerate and scale the Center’s Sustainable Food Initiative. In return, Applegate can take advantage of the university’s researchers and thought leaders.

Of course, no university would be involved with sustainable businesses without looking at Patagonia’s practices. A 2017 case study, “Reversing Climate Change Through Sustainable Food: Patagonia Provisions Attempts to Scale a 'Big Wall'” is just one of the resources available through the Center of Responsible Business. Case studies can be found here, and most are available for less than $20.

While it’s important for businesses to include sustainability when it is creating and manufacturing food products, it’s equally vital that they consider the environment impacts of their packaging and products.

The popular, single-cup Keurig coffee maker was highly criticized as its coffee pods have not been reusable or recyclable. Well, on Dec. 8, Keurig Dr. Pepper announced that all K-Cup pods are now made from polypropylene No. 5 plastic and feature the How2Recycle label to communicate instructions to consumers.

The company started shipping the recyclable pods earlier this year, so nearly all pods available at retail should be recyclable.

About the Author(s)

Victoria A.F. Camron

Digital content specialist, New Hope Network

Victoria A.F. Camron was a freelance writer and editor contracted with New Hope Network from 2015 until April 2022, when she was hired as New Hope Network's digital content specialist—otherwise known as the web editor.

As she continues the work she has done for years—covering the natural products industry for and Natural Foods Merchandiser; writing up earnings calls and other corporate news; and curating roundups of trends and information for the website—she is thrilled to be an official part of the New Hope team. (She doesn't mind having paid holidays and vacations again, though!) Victoria also compiled and edited newsletters, and served as interim content director for Delicious Living in 2016.

Before working as a freelancer, she spent 17 years in community newspapers in Longmont, Colorado, and St. Charles and Wheaton, Illinois. Victoria is a Colorado native and a graduate of Metropolitan State College of Denver.

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