Bob's Red Mill heralded as gold standard in sustainability
Bob's Red Mill, the Milwaukie-based whole-grain brand is being recognized for its sustainable practices.
Sold in more than 60 countries across six continents, the brand announced on Thursday, Oct. 7, that Clackamas County had awarded it a gold certification in sustainability, the county's highest honor bestowed to a business leading the charge in minimizing waste, conserving energy and water, preventing pollution and more.
With the certification, Bob's Red Mill is now featured in Clackamas County's Green Business Directory, a repository of the county's most environmentally responsible businesses.
In May, the company hired Julia Person as its first sustainability manager to advance the company's existing efforts and oversee its sustainability committee. The hire was part of the company's commitment to creating a sustainable future with a "vision to be a global leader in promoting a healthy planet."
With more than a decade of experience leading sustainability efforts for a number of brands, Person represents Bob's Red Mill as one of 24 members of the Community Advisory Task Force, a county-approved board of community leaders working to implement the county's Climate Action Plan to reduce net carbon emissions to zero by 2050.
"I think it is the duty of any business to act responsibly," Person said, adding that sustainability is especially critical to agricultural businesses such as Bob's Red Mill that are directly impacted by the effects of climate change.
Person highlighted four key categories of focus that Bob's Red Mill has worked toward as it continues efforts to reduce harmful environmental impacts: making food with integrity, nourishing a healthy planet, sourcing ingredients and packaging materials responsibly, and fostering wellness in the community and within the company itself.
"Day to day, we really look at: 'Where are we seeing waste; and where can we eliminate that?'" Person said, speaking of the sustainability committee. "We're really looking at our carbon emissions and a project like our solar panel install addresses that goal.
Person is referring to a 120 kW solar panel system installed across every square foot of Bob's Red Mill's Whole Grain Store & Bakery in Milwaukie, completed in March to provide on-site renewable energy for daily operations.
"Since (the panels) came online, we've saved 87 tons of CO2 by forcing renewable solar energy, and that's equivalent to if we had planted 1,300 trees," Person said, adding that the company also installed electric vehicle charging stations in its parking lot with energy sourced from renewable solar energy.
Bob's Red Mill has partnered with a number of national and statewide organizations to aid efforts toward its goal of nourishing a healthy planet, committing to climate change action as a member of the Climate Collaborative and working with the Energy Trust of Oregon to boost efficiency in sustainable operations.
The company also recently joined the Pacific Coast Food Waste Commitment to collectively cut food waste in half by 2030.
"Sourcing responsibly is another big one, looking throughout our value chain and supply chain and at the practices at the farm where we're sourcing our foods," Person said, adding the company prioritizes regenerative agriculture practices, watershed stewardship, protecting human rights and fair wages for workers.
"We're also looking at our packaging, what we can do to make our packaging smarter to decrease the footprint throughout its whole life cycle," Person said.
As an employee-owned business, Person said the company is committed to fostering a community of employees who adopt sustainable practices into their daily lives even beyond work, regularly enlisting employees to volunteer with community organizations working to benefit the environment.
Over her years of work in the field, Person said she has seen an increase in the environmental consciousness of businesses and consumers alike, which she speculates is largely due to recent tangible changes in weather underscored by last year's devastating wildfire season and subsequent ice storms in Clackamas County.
"These climate events that we've been living through this past year, it affects everyone firsthand, so I think that is bringing more awareness to the challenge of our times," Person said.
She added that a common misconception among companies is that implementing sustainability practices is expensive or laborious: "It does take effort, but why that's good for business is because it comes right back and it saves you money, so the synergy is there," Person said.
At Bob's Red Mill, Person said a company culture that supports sustainability action is the most important factor in its ability to implement initiatives that have tangible impacts.
"We have the support from our executive leaders, so our leadership is demonstrating that this is important and that's something we're really lucky to have here, and it's really integral to our success of any of our sustainability initiatives," Person said.
??"We're super proud to be here as a local business," she added. "We love Milwaukie and we love Clackamas County so we want to continue to be good stewards of our local community."
To learn more about sustainability practices at Bob's Red Mill, click here.
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