What’s in a Label?
You can drive to the store, park your SUV, load a grocery cart with soda pop, candy bars, potato chips, and juice in the box, while sporting the latest and most fashionable outfit and still claim to be “green”, “organic” or “sustainable”. The marketplace that continues to engulf our everyday lives has certainly caught on to the rising demand for a more natural lifestyle. What started with a search to define food grown without chemicals in a more earth and health-friendly manner has ballooned into a whirlwind of green labeling. The issue now is, with the words organic, green, natural, sustainable, healthy and eco-friendly plastered across millions of products, how do you distinguish the true ground breakers from the impostors?
Solving this question was the topic of the most recent Sustainable Foods Summit in San Francisco. The Sustainable Foods Summit is a series of meetings bringing together leaders in the sustainable food industry to discuss top issues concerning sustainability and eco-labeling. Full Circle’s Frank Paganelli had the fortunate opportunity to attend this round of discussions, focused primarily on what role labels play in the food industry.
In an industry that is looking more and more towards the triple bottom line (taking ecological and social performance, not just financial performance into account) do labels already in place address sustainability from both the business and consumer perspectives? Or, is there a market for a new labeling system that certifies the sustainable business practices coming into play? Frank was thoroughly impressed by the number of respectable companies who came together to address these questions and assert a common goal. In our evolving food system it is a necessity to measure impact, socially, ecologically, locally, abroad and upon all employees in order to create a mission, metrics and labeling system that ensures all measures are properly accounted for and communicated to consumers.
“The fact that so many companies are making the triple bottom line their mission, and numbers are growing, must signify the beginning of a revolution,” said Frank.
The biggest question to address, Frank explained, is how to certify what you are doing as a company. Numerous bodies and organizations such as the Food Alliance and the Stewardship Index are already in action, but does creating individual mission metrics for your own corporation make more sense and allow you to set higher standards? At Full Circle sustainability initiatives are well in place; rooted beneath the company from the very beginning, but without labels to quantify success. To start, Frank has returned from the summit with goals for the upcoming year that will help measure and certify Full Circle’s actions. Measures such as the carbon emissions saved, land conservation, community education and food bank donations.
Companies such as Stone Bird Flour, Honest Tea, Organic Valley, Theo Chocolate and Strauss Valley Creamery have set high standards in the industry and are bounding ahead with new goals and labels to ensure consumers are well informed about the product they are purchasing. Positive energy and motivation is coming from all directions as the food industry revolution continues to evolve. For Full Circle, Frank noted, it is important to work ahead of the mainstream and continue to make progress, not just with new ways of labeling and ensuring products and services, but with every bite of quality food made available to a growing number of conscious individuals.
Learn more about the Sustainable Foods Summit and take part as a consumer to ensure the companies you support are upholding their claims and making progress to create a more sustainable food system.