In anticipation of the 2020 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative Awards, we're talking with the leaders of our 2019 award-winning companies to learn a little bit more about what drives their climate leadership.
Our fifth interview is with Jyoti Stephens, VP Mission and Strategy at Nature's Path, winner of the 2019 Outstanding Company Award.
Congratulations on winning a 2019 National Co+op Grocers Climate Collaborative award! What are you most proud of, when it comes to your company’s climate work?
Jyoti Stephens: What I’m most proud of is our commitment to the organic food movement. Nature’s Path has been supporting organic agriculture practices, preventing the use of toxic agricultural chemicals and genetic engineering since inception. In addition to this rich history, we also have a strong drive to improve and evolve our practices to live into our mission of leaving the earth better than we found it.
What were the key factors to success in getting you where you are today on climate?
JS: We are doing our best to mitigate our contribution to the climate crisis, from supporting 100% renewable energy for all of our operations and head office since 2008, to achieving zero-waste certification for all of our manufacturing facilities and using organic and regenerative farming practices. All of these things help to reduce our carbon impact.
We’re grateful to have dedicated industry partners that are collaborating to support climate initiatives. These partners include the Sustainable Food Trade Association, the Climate Collaborative, OSC2, the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, the CERES BICEP Network, and the Catalyst Business Coalition in Canada.
What are the challenges? Do you see a way for companies to work together on overcoming some of them across the industry?
JS: Since my parents began Nature’s Path 35 years ago, we have seen firsthand the impact of climate change. Extreme weather events continue to worsen year over year, impacting our business and the many family farms from which we source our ingredients.
We believe we all have a part to play in addressing our climate impact and increasingly, customers are looking to their favorite brands to take a stand on the issues they care about. With climate change and environmental sustainability such pertinent topics, we think customers and team members will lose faith in brands and corporations that aren’t willing to take a stand and advocate for real change.
Preventing the use of chemical fertilizers and toxic pesticides, supporting renewable energy, moving away from fossil fuels, lobbying the government to put a price on carbon, supporting the youth climate movement and innovative packaging, are some of the ways our industry can advocate for real change.
How do you keep climate action as a company priority, and keep your goals ambitious? What does that look like internally?
JS: Nature’s Path has a series of sustainability goals and targets that are part of our strategic and annual business planning process. This includes carbon neutrality for our operations by 2020, and having all our packaging be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025. Making bold and ambitious commitments and engaging our internal teams to achieve them is a powerful way to solve complex issues.
Looking forward with your own climate work—and the opportunity for industry action on climate—what are you most excited about?
JS: While agriculture accounts for close to a quarter of carbon emissions, if we manage farmlands with deep organic practices, we have the potential to draw down almost a third of all the present carbon emissions.
As passionate believers and supporters of the principles of the organic movement, our company has been pioneering organic farming techniques on our own Legend Organic Farm in Saskatchewan, Canada to maximize yields, protect the environment and increase the ability of soil to sequester carbon.
We are excited to see more companies join the organic movement to build up healthy soils that can sustain us for generations to come.
What’s your advice for others in the industry looking to tackle climate change in their operations?
JS: Companies can play a tremendous role in inspiring customers, team members and other businesses to take a stand to bring positive change to our planet. At Nature’s Path we are constantly thinking: what is the legacy that we want to leave behind?
As a third-generation family involved in organic food and farming, and as a mother and aunt to the generation to come, I think of them and all the other children around the world who will inherit this planet from us. Amidst the gloom and despair, I see so much positive change in the world and every day I am grateful of the position I am in, to help guide Nature’s Path to be a force for good in the world.