This fall, Grimmway Farms will complete its second Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) report. While Grimmway has been an industry leader in responsible farming and business practices for more than five decades, Grimmway president and chief executive Jeff Huckaby likens the company’s formalized ESG reporting efforts to a “journey that’s never complete,” as new challenges inevitably emerge, and new technologies, perspectives and information evolve.
Huckaby explains the issues and goals inherent in the ESG movement and reporting are at the forefront of all the company’s decisions and actions, one way or another. “We know that what’s best for the Earth is also the best way to farm,” he says. “That respect for the environment sustains not only our land, but the jobs of our thousands of team members. We have always managed our business for the benefit of people and the planet, because we understand that’s at the heart of being a successful company.”
Grimmway’s commitment to sustainable business practices has been “baked in” to the company’s business plans and management structure. In 2021, Grimmway named Sara Oliver to the position of chief people officer, with ultimate responsibility over Grimmway’s ESG program. Oliver and her team also oversee the development of the company’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives, as well as talent development and training. Dana Brennan, Grimmway’s vice president of external affairs and corporate responsibility, coordinates companywide ESG reporting and works closely with media, industry associations, community groups and government officials, since Grimmway views them as vital partners in achieving the company’s ESG goals.
Huckaby notes that the “power of partnership” is front-and-center to the intersection of smart business and positive ESG outcomes. “We’re working with several businesses to explore options to extend the environmental benefits of growing carrots,” he says. “Carrots use fewer acre feet of water than many crops, and they also maintain a very high-water content after harvesting. Collaborating with innovative partners who want to use our carrots in their climate-friendly products, we can address water conservation and lessen food waste at the same time. That’s a win-win for the environment and for business.”
Beyond carrots, Huckaby sees dramatic growth and environmental benefits from “organic veg,” with the opportunity to not only feed increased consumer demand for healthy, fresh produce, but also to benefit soil health through organic practices, including the introduction of green waste back into the soil, resulting in millions of pounds of carbon being returned to Mother Earth. Other areas to be addressed in this year’s report include progress toward the company’s commitment of reaching Net Zero for greenhouse gas emissions on or before 2050, in line with the international goals set forth in the Paris Agreement.
Grimmway’s diverse growing environments, which include the Central Valley, Pacific Northwest, Plains and Southeast, provide a distinct environmental benefit and business advantage. The company can save on fuel and costs by shipping product from fields closest to the customer, and Grimmway can pivot or rotate crops to different geographic regions in response to climate change and extreme weather conditions.
Grimmway’s ESG 2022-23 journey will catalogue these and other “Climate-Smart” approaches, which result in: increased productivity to improve yields and address nutrition security; enhanced crop resilience practices to manage drought, pests and other climate-related risk; and reduced emissions to help mitigate climate change and improve air and water quality. Company commitments to community investments, employee development, and supporting an inclusive culture that values and honors all is at the forefront of Grimmway’s reporting.
Grimmway Farms recognizes that its ESG journey is ongoing and it is in the early stages relates Huckaby. “However, I am proud of the strides we have made, and our enterprise-wide commitment to doing even more in what is a challenging yet exciting time for exercising our commitment to future generations,” he says.
A link to Grimmway’s 2020-21 Inaugural Report can be found here: https://www.grimmway.com/esg/