Sustainability is a hot topic in the food space—not just in discussions surrounding the environment, but in considering good business practices. KeHE Distributors is one supply chain operator that sees immense benefits to sustainability in more ways than one, and is urging the buy-side to get on board.
“Partnering with sustainable brands shows our commitment to sustainability throughout our collective supply chain,” said Laura McCord, Executive Director of Sustainability and Corporate Responsibility. “Our hope in highlighting sustainable brands is to bring about awareness of the issues they support and encourage retailers to stock brands that are making a difference. This includes tackling food waste, packaging, organic and regenerative agricultural practices, as well as the human aspect of sustainability: fair wages, employment opportunities, and safe work conditions. We believe we are only as successful as our brands and retail partners. When retailers support these brands, it’s a win for the consumer, a win for the retailer, a win for the brand, a win for the planet, and a win for us.”
The food industry specifically relies on a farmer’s ability to produce ingredients. With that in mind, natural disasters can severely disrupt the supply chain. As we continue to pollute the earth, we are directly increasing the risk of a natural disaster occurrence, as Laura relayed to me. Brands need to mitigate these risks, and to do so, the industry needs to collectively act by prioritizing climate in business models.
Laura explained that supporting sustainability also means backing KeHE’s triple bottom line: people, planet, and profits. For example, businesses can save money by implementing programs that reduce waste or reliance on fossil fuels, in turn saving money and supporting the environment. This can be as simple as making a switch to LED lighting.
“Consumers are looking for products that align with their values, and younger generations are willing to put their money where their mouth is. Retailers can’t afford to ignore these changing demographics,” Laura continued. “Furthermore, investors are becoming more interested in the risks associated with climate change and are requiring businesses to report on their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities. Employees also want to work for companies that align with their values and make an impact through a meaningful job with a higher purpose.”
Now more than ever, consumers are voting with their dollars and buying brands (and shopping from retailers) that support what is important to them. Laura emphasized that retailers can capitalize on this consumer shift and differentiate their store from the competition by sourcing brands with purpose. Smaller independent retailers specifically are seen as a part of the community and can reflect the unique needs and desires of the local market by making it easy for consumers to find these brands on the shelf.
“Taking climate action is a way for businesses to prepare for potential risks within their supply chain, attract top talent, secure investments, and satisfy consumer needs,” Laura added. “There is a race to the top, and you don’t want to be left at the bottom. The competition is too strong to not pay attention to what consumers want and what the planet needs. There is often a misconception that taking climate action is expensive, however, we have found programs that are not only good for the environment, but also benefit our bottom line. We have a responsibility to address the climate crisis not just because it makes good business sense, but because it is the right thing to do.”
To learn about how KeHE is creating a sustainable future, please click here.
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