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Important steps forward: The Sustainable Food Trade Association

by Redaktion (comments: 0)

Sustainability is one of the greatest needs and opportunities for businesses today. The member companies of the Sustainable Food Trade Association SFTA have committed to the on-going implementation of sustainability initiatives across all operations. The companies use a standardized reporting framework and methodology and explore areas of collaboration to further demonstrate the social and environmental benefits of organic food production and processing. The annual member Sustainability Report 2013 shows best practice. (Picture: Mom's Organic Market is a member of the SFTA)

The Sustainable Food Trade Association (SFTA) is a non-profit trade association that represents North American organic food companies. Since 2008, SFTA members have written and shared 61 annual sustainability reports in an effort to strategically imbed sustainability within a collaborative community of best practice. 20 member companies submitted reports to SFTA in 2012. The Member Sustainability Report 2013 features aggregated data from these reports and company examples of social and environmental sustainability achievement. 
(Picture: Food Coops are often very committed to sustainability)


100% of the reports included a dedication to organic agriculture by only selling / producing organic products or stating a goal to increase organic purchases or sales in the coming year. All reports stated a formal commitment to energy efficiency through policies and practices. In addition, 37% of members reported they have invested in on-site renewable energy generation. 80% of the members submitting reports are tracking and focusing on efforts to reduce water use in their operations, a 20% increase over the previous year. The average amount of waste diversion from landfills was 76%, an increase of 18% more being diverted compared with the previous year as well as a 34% increase in members reporting taking action such as auditing and managing their waste streams. 85% of the members reported investing in tracking and integrating carbon management into their business operations, a 25% increase over reports submitted in 2011. (Picture: Mom's Organic Market on the East Coast)

Without a mechanism to set sustainability benchmarks it is incredibly difficult to evaluate and prioritize decisions, pursue innovation, and effectively respond to stakeholder requests and expectations. The Sustainable Food Trade Association and its members have collaboratively developed a sustainability framework for the organic food trade. It identifies eleven specific areas of operations for the organic food industry called the Declarations of Sustainability: organic, distribution, waste, water, energy, climate change, packaging, animal care, labour, education and governance. From the Declaration of Sustainability, members have created a set of sustainability metrics designed for the organic food trade. (Picture: Sustainable Living Roadshow tours through the USA to educate consumers in sustainability)

The annual sustainability reports written by SFTA members are available for other members to review. In addition, members receive feedback and guidance through a peer review committee on completion of their report. These reports help companies become more strategic about the implementation of sustainability, ensure goals are both set and met, and are a powerful tool for demonstrating the sustainability attributes of the organic food trade.


The growth in the ideas and values of sustainability has happened because of the investment in the widespread commitment of companies to educate their employees, customers and stakeholders about its importance and the actions people can take. SFTA members have taken this to heart: each member described their internal training programs as well as using their various communication channels to tell the story of sustainability including, but not limited to, Facebook, Twitter, websites, product packaging, newsletters, blogs, events, calls to action, and annual sustainability reports. The primary focus for each of the SFTA reporting members is the development of their employees, including robust benefits packages, opportunities for career progress and growth, health and wellness, as well as training. SFTA members reported donating approximately US$4.4m (about EUR4.4m) in cash and in-kind donations, a 26% increase over the previous year. 100% of reporting members participated in charitable contributions of volunteering, cash or product donations. (Picture:  There are many initiatives of young people who stand up for a sustainable lifestyle)

Organic Valley, for example, converted three more fleet trucks to biofuels, bringing the total to seven, in addition to the three member-owned tractors that all run on straight vegetable oil. Annie’s conducted a category-level life cycle assessment (LCA) of a representative sampling of their products. They specifically chose to focus the analysis on carbon to identify the environmental impacts through all stages of a product’s life. Clifbar highlighted the amount of pesticides and fertilizers avoided from the years 2003-2011 by their switch to the use of organic oats and soy in their products. This precluded the use of 30,000 pounds (about 13,600 kg) of pesticide active ingredients and more than six million pounds of fertilizers. The company has a goal of 80% certified organic ingredients by 2015. (Picture: Organic Valley farmer Jon Banson in Oregon)

PCC stores hosted a proof-of-concept Harvester developed by the WISErg Corporation. Installed at PCC’s Issaquah, WA store, this enzyme-driven digester makes it possible to process the store’s food scraps on-site. The resulting liquid is refined by WISErg into an organic liquid fertilizer sold at PCC stores. Straus Family Creamery began using a reusable pallet wrap that will help the company eliminate disposable plastic shrink wrap. During the first three months of implementing the new pallet wrap the company avoided the use of 1,800 pounds of plastic shrink wrap. Organically Grown Company increased biodiesel for their fleet of 16 trucks to 42% of fuel purchases, of which 95% is derived from used cooking oil.

For 2013, SFTA anticipates more reports from their members. In a desire to provide efficiency and harmonization for the organic food industry, SFTA’s Supply Chain Working Group has developed a voluntary Organic Labor Code of Conduct that mirrors the core elements of many codes of conduct for other industries and aims to be developed through the lens of the organic food trade. The first draft of this code is complete and available for members, their suppliers and all those involved in the organic industry to review by 15 April 2013. (Picture: Organic shop in Boston: Local purchase contributes to sustainability)

In order to ensure that the SFTA metrics continue to be current and relevant to the industry, the organization will facilitate a full metrics review every two years beginning in 2013. A Metrics Review Committee will be convened in early 2013 to facilitate the review. SFTA will also launch  sector-specific working groups this year. SFTA offers a monthly webinar series, focused on specific sustainability topics and trends and facilitates four full-day intensive workshops in 2013. The full report as well as further information on SFTA is available here:




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