Net Impact ’11 [week six]

Good works. When profits align with the interests of society and the planet, everyone benefits. But the journey isn’t always easy. In fact, it often takes us in surprising directions. (2011 Net Impact Conference)

Not surprising was my focus on the food & ag session track this weekend, but the quality of content, array of speakers and depth of discussion kept me amazed and inspired beyond my expectations. Here are some conference highlights:

David takes on Goliath: How Young Companies Challenge Established Brands

Seth Goldman, Co-Founder, President and TeaEO, Honest Tea
Jason Graham-Nye, Co-Founder / CEO, gDiapers
Sheryl O’Loughlin, CEO and Co-Founder, Nest Collective and Executive Director of the Center for Entrepreneurial Studies, Stanford University

Each spoke of founding their business based on finding something missing that was counter to what else was currently selling, bypassing what might have been the faster way to growth, instead sticking to what mattered, which paid off overwhelmingly. Whole Foods played an interesting open minded role in initial market positioning for each to gain recognition and footing for early growth. More and more customers are looking past products to the structure of the overall company while making their purchasing decisions.

Coffee, Tea, Wine & Beer: Sustainability in the Pacific Northwest Beverage Industry

Christian Ettinger, Brewmaster/Owner, Hopworks Urban Brewery
David Griswold, President, Sustainable Harvest Coffee
Michele Martin, Program Manager, Carbon Reduction Challenge
Steven Smith, Founder and Teamaker, Smith Teamaker
Kristen Rainey, Director of Brand Management – Sustainability, Sodexo (Moderator)

Technology in each represented industry has played a key role in improvement of production, workforce training and reaching customers – technology will continue to connect us to our food systems in increasingly complex ways.

Feeding the World by 2050 through Sustainable Intensification

Jason Clay, Senior Vice President, Market Transformation, World Wildlife Fund
Bill Even, Senior Manager, Biotech Affairs and Regulatory, Pioneer Hi-Bred, A DuPont Business
Chris Lambe, Director Social Responsibility, The Mosaic Company
Dennis Treacy, Senior Vice President of Corporate Affairs and Chief Sustainability Officer, Smithfield Foods, Inc.
Jennifer Biringer, Director, SustainAbility (moderator)

With the amount of food that will need to be produced doubling by 2050, the complexity of water and land use is of escalating importance. Time is not left to look for the perfect solution – we need to be looking for optimal ways of thinking instead rather than ways to just tread water. An interesting discussion of sustainable intensification, scientific collaboration and infrastructure development is essential worldwide to address these needs. Remedy of soil loss, decreased waste of existing food produced (via transport, spoilage or intentional) and agricultural policy must continue to develop the concept of how we value food.

An HONEST Journey: Integrating Life Cycle Assessment into Honest Tea’s Mission Report

Kelly Cardamone, Special-Tea Projects Manager, Honest Tea
Christopher Kral, Senior Consultant, Climate Change Services USA, DNV Sustainability & Innovation
Seidman, Marketing and Sustainability MBA Intern, 
Honest Tea

A descriptive exploration of the internal process the company used to examine its top to selling bottled beverage products through production, packaging, transportation and distribution. In a very honest (pun-intended) examination of how much data is needed to create thorough and accurate assessments, the challenge posed was both daunting to consider across one company, let alone industry wide. The multiple realizations and immediate benefits this one study made evident created a compelling case that the effort is more than worthwhile.

Farm to Table: Sustainability in the Milk Industry’s Supply Chain

Alice Hartley, Packard Environmental Fellow and Student, MIT
Steven Rowe, Senior Vice President & General Counsel, Northwest Dairy Association/Darigold
Sandra Vijn, Director, Sustainability Metrics, Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy (moderator)

A contrasting look at a LCA for a gallon of milk, this snapshot emphasized making sense of such outcomes in a local context. The description of the coop format of Darigold further emphasized the complexity involved in such evaluations and the challenges involved with advocating for the necessity of such measures across broadly diverse participant farms and factors. With cows being the largest contributor of carbon in the life cycle, an analysis of the impact anaerobic digesters could have followed in summary.


One response

  1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Amanda. I had to miss the conference, but felt like I got a good sense for what was going on from reading your blog. You might want to share it with John Gardner, our new Dean and one of the faculty members for the new Food and Ag certificate. I think he and co-instructor Tony D’Onofrio would appreciate your views about who would be the best resources for this new program, who we should bring in as CAIRs, guest speakers, etc.

    Good for you for taking advantage of the sessions most closely aligned with your interests. I’m particularly interested in the Honest Tea LCA.


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