Sustainability Series: Pacific Foods
February 26, 2014
Founded in 1987 in Tualatin, Oregon, Pacific Foods offers a wide variety of all natural and organic food and beverages including soups and sauces, broths, non-dairy beverages, meals and sides. The company’s products are sold throughout the U.S. and Canada in mainstream grocery and natural food stores. We talked to Rory Schmick, Director of Sustainability and Environmental Affairs for Pacific Foods, about the importance of knowing where your food comes from and about the importance of raising products with a respect for the land, animals and people.
How does your business define sustainability?
At Pacific, we believe in using an integrated approach to sustainability practices. We want to raise organic to a higher standard and use our experience in organic food and agriculture to create shared value. Our philosophy is to look at the interconnectedness of every aspect of food and build a model that optimizes social responsibility, environmental performance, animal welfare and human health benefits.
How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?
The triple bottom line of sustainability is built right into our company mission, core values and key goals. Our management system tracks environmental performance and social responsibility, along with more traditional business metrics. By incorporating sustainability into our business model, we are able to invest time and resources into reducing our environmental footprint and increasing the value we create in the communities we operate in.
What are your short term and long term goals?
We want to change the way people think about what they eat by inspiring them to know more about their food – where it comes from and how it’s grown. We strive to close the loop on our food production, making sure we waste nothing and are as sustainable as possible in our production process.
We chart our course with a set of aspirational goals, including end-to-end ingredient integrity and becoming a leading corporate citizen, and then track our progress with quantifiable scorecard measurements. For example, in our journey towards becoming a zero waste-to-landfill company, we have been able to improve our recycling and composting rate from 40 percent to nearly 80 percent in five short years. We have also been able to reduce our electricity consumption by 25 percent in the same period of time by aggressively investing in energy efficiency.
Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?
Our unique ability to see a problem and create a solution is where we feel we can make the biggest impact on the food industry. For example, our 20+ year relationship with the Oregon Food Bank has led to some innovative partnerships in support of our shared commitment to fighting hunger. By dedicating 2,000 cases per month to hunger alleviation, our recipe development teams are working directly with the food bank to make soups that use up excess produce donations from local farms and other food companies. In this way we are able to provide 576,000 free meals a year and serve as a model of collaboration for other food companies across the country.
How do you measure your progress?
At Pacific, we are continually working to improve our practices around energy and water conservation, recycling and sustainable ingredient sourcing. By seeking to optimize social, economic and environmental performance in all of our business decisions, we are able to create win-win-win situations. For example, by diverting over 250 tons of “waste” per month from the landfill and redirecting it to recycling markets, we are able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save significant money from avoided landfill tipping fees, and re-invest in our business by creating jobs. Similar investments in a wastewater treatment have served to divert organic material to waste-to-energy biogas plants, composting soil amendments and animal feed.
In addition to refining the efficiencies of our production facilities, we seek to make an impact on the food industry by proactively strengthening a sustainable supply chain for our foods. Approximately 80 percent of our annual ingredient purchases by weight are certified organic – produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering, sewage fertilization or irradiation. We are continually working to improve this percentage as new ingredient sources that meet our high standards become available.
How do retailers factor into your efforts?
We are constantly looking for opportunities to share our sustainable practices with our customers, as well as partner with them on their own sustainability projects. This includes bringing retail partners out for site tours of our production facilities and partner farms, sharing best practices in energy conservation and greenhouse gas reduction, and partnering on educational opportunities such as the important role pollinators play in our agricultural systems.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?
It is our belief that the way plants are grown and how animals are treated affect the quality and taste of the food we eat. Armed with that knowledge and a unique collection of resources (production facilities, our founder’s farms, etc.) we feel that we have a responsibility to respond to the current state of the food industry by proactively creating sustainable solutions for the challenges we face.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?
Today’s consumers are looking for minimally processed foods with clean, easy-to-understand ingredient panels. Subscribing to sustainable business practices inherently allows companies to move towards providing these types of products.