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Perishable Pundit
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Produce Business

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Sustainability and Social Responsibility

 

LIVING WITH A PURPOSE - Campos Borquez/Whole Foods/Fair Trade/The Workforce Form Partnership To Help People And Maybe Save The Reputation Of The Industry Project Unveiled  At The Amsterdam Produce Show what Campos Borquez is doing impacts all four focus sectors of the Knowledge Centre at the Amsterdam Produce Show & Conference (Innovation, Sustainability, Education & Health) and challenges the industry to go beyond “showcase projects” at the farm, to really consider what would enhance the life of the workers and their families, much of that life taking place not on farm property but back in their home villages. So we were fortunate when Sergio Borquez agreed to speak in Amsterdam. We asked PRODUCE BUSINESS Contributing Editor Kayla Young to seek a sneak preview of this meaningful presentation. 10/26/2016

Tomato World: A Horticultural Disneyland Of Dutch Varieties feels that no matter how many programs we offer and how many tours we conduct at The New York Produce Show and Conference, The London Produce Show and Conference and The Amsterdam Produce Show and Conference, there are many other things to see and do, especially in a place such as Holland where the produce industry is celebrated. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to pay a visit to one of many produce-related venues attendees could visit while in the Netherlands. 10/20/2016

Consumers Want To Know But Do They Know What They Want? And How Much Do They Care About Lunch? Michael Wilde And Steve Savage Speak Out reports that recently we received notice about a Dutch apple grower who consumers can learn about via a new code and website scheme. Certainly many believe that consumers want to know more about the production of their food, thus Wal-Mart’s full size cut-outs of local farmers. It is very nice that people can enter a grower code on a web site and learn about a farm or a farmer. But what percentage of consumers is interested in doing this for hundreds of food items they may buy? And even if they did it, how could they evaluate meaningfully the information available? We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more. 2/25/2015

Pundit’s Mailbag — The Irresponsibility Of Whole Foods’ 'Responsibly Grown' Campaign reports that we ran two pieces related to the new Whole Foods marketing campaign and they brought responses from a range of individuals. Whole Foods is telling everyone in America that it has a uniquely responsible supply chain — put another way, it is telling consumers that when they buy produce elsewhere, consumers are supporting irresponsible growing. That message is not true, and it is bound to depress consumption, which will hurt both farmers and the health of consumers. What kind of “values” would support such a campaign? For us, there are a few key points. 1/7/2015

Rooftop Greenhouse, Gotham Greens, Highlights Brooklyn Retail/Urban Ag Tour At New York Produce Show mentions how each year at The New York Produce Show and Conference, we run a series of industry tours. On this year’s Brooklyn Tour, the highlight is the cutting-edge Gotham Greens facility sitting atop the Whole Foods Store in Gowanus, Brooklyn. It is a fascinating project and we asked Pundit Contributing Editor Mark Hamstra to find out more from Viraj Puri, Cofounder and CEO of Gotham Greens. 12/1/2014

Provoking Questions: How To Get People To Eat More Fruits And Vegetables Barny Haughton Speaks Out describes how an important element of The London Produce Show and Conference is our University Interchange Program. This year we reached out to a unique Italian University which has often presented at the London Show’s sister event, The New York Produce Show and Conference. Our friends at Università degli Studi di Scienze Gastronomiche are bringing students to London and have asked Barny Haughton, a Professor of Food Education Studies, to deliver a rousing wake-up call to the industry. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects editor Mira Slott to find out more. 6/4/2014

Nyenrode Business University’s Henry Robben Speaks Out: How To Win A Sustainable Business Advantage mentions how one of the unique components of The New York Produce Show and Conference is our University Interchange Program. In this program we reach out to the great universities and bring in professors to share with the trade the cutting edge research they are doing and students to expose them to the industry and excite them about becoming the next generation of talent to work in the field. This year we reached out to Nyenrode Business University. We are hosting eight students from this university and we asked Pundit European Correspondent Gill McShane to find out more about Professor Henry Robben’s talk. 6/3/2014

At The London Produce Show And Conference: ‘Room at the Top? — What U.K. Retailers Can Learn From U.S. Natural/Gourmet Retailing’ Cornell University’s Rod Hawkes Points Out That ‘Upscale’ Has Changed And That The American Experience Points To The Possibility Of Big Changes Ahead For UK Retailing reports that the fracturing of the UK retail market has mostly been about price. The recent growth of Whole Foods and Costco in the UK market may be the entering wedge by which market fragmentation changes from price to format. Cornell’s Rod Hawkes has carefully followed the healthy/gourmet sector in the US and has a theory about what might happen to UK retailing in the future. He titled his talk: “Room at the Top? What U.K. Retailers Can Learn From U.S. Natural/Gourmet Retailing.” We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more. 5/18/2014

Andrew Sharp To Address Global Trade Symposium On The Moral Dilemma Of Food Security describes how one of the reasons we count ourselves lucky is that in our line of work we have the opportunity to meet so many people who are passionate and engaged. Andrew Sharp is exemplary in these qualities. So when he offered to come to America and speak about sustainability and food security we counted ourselves lucky. We asked Keith Contributing Editor at Pundit sister publication, PRODUCE BUSINESS to learn a bit more about the subject of Andrew’s passion. 12/10/2013

Capespan International's Hazel Akehurst Talks About UK Retailing At The Global Trade Symposium mentions how each year we invite a special delegate from outside the US to participate in The New York Produce Show and Conference. For 2013, our distinguished delegate is Hazel Akehurst. Hazel will be on our main panel on Wednesday morning and will be addressing our student program. She will also be giving a presentation to the Global Trade Symposium, so we asked Tommy Leighton, a distinguished British journalist in the produce industry and the man spearheading the launch of New York’s sister event, The London Produce Show and Conference to find out more. 12/10/2013

SALAD BAR SPECIAL EDITION: Conclusion: Give Generously But Verify Effectiveness enthusiasm bubbles over for the donation of 350 salad bars to California schools, and one of the reasons is that the industry clearly sees business when a salad bar is put in a school. And as Diane Harris of the CDC points out: "There’s nothing bad about encouraging schools to bring in salad bars and try these activities." But Dr. Harris makes another point about the long term future of this effort. The produce industry, of course, cares about the moment at hand, but it also cares about the sustainability of the effort. That sustainability revolves around 10 questions. 3/18/2013

Costco, Sheri Flies, The James Beard Foundation Leadership Award And How Sustainability Differs From Charity extends a hat tip to Andreas Schindler at Pilz Schindler GmbH. He sent us a link to year-old video of Sheri L. Flies, accepting the 2011 James Beard Foundation Leadership Award. Costco is a fascinating company and, by all accounts, Sheri is a wonderful person -- not only highly competent but genuinely caring about the fate of people in the whole supply chain. She deserved this award, and Costco deserved the award — mostly because so many who address sustainability choose to ignore the ethical component. 1/22/2013

Twenty Lessons Learned From Tesco's Fresh & Easy Failure mentions how the year 2012 closed with the announcement that Tesco will probably exit its US business, Fresh & Easy. The year 2013 gives us the opportunity to draw business lessons from the debacle in the hope that we may do business better ourselves. As we consider these 20 points as lodestars to avoid in our own business affairs in 2013, we also think it worth making one point about sustainability. One of the reasons Fresh & Easy made few friends is that it was so sanctimonious on its claims of sustainability. 1/7/2013

Meet The Gastronomes — And Learn About Their Mission To Increase Produce Consumption — At The New York Produce Show And Conference shares how in a recent piece we highlighted two truly fascinating presentations that are being given by Professor Gabriella Morini at the upcoming edition of The New York Produce Show and Conference and the co-located “Ideation Fresh” Foodservice Forum. Professor Morini works for the Universita Degli Studi Di Scienze Gastronomiche in Italy, which is a new member of the University Exchange Program that is a key component of The New York Produce Show and Conference. We wanted to know more about the milieu of this university that is producing such interesting research, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott, to find out more. 11/12/2012

Ten Years, Ten Lessons Learned: A Look At The European Produce Industry Through The Eyes Of Freshfel’s Philippe Binard as the trade gathers for the PMA Fresh Summit convention in Anaheim, we thought we would look half-way across the world to Belgium, where Freshfel, sort of a PMA and United combined for Europe, is headquartered. It is a young association — just having celebrated its 10th anniversary. We reached out across the Atlantic and asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to ask Philippe Binard, Secretary General of Freshfel Europe, to identify ten lessons learned during the last decade. 10/25/2012

State Financing Of Refinery Versus Food Production Is No Simple Decision excerpts an opinion piece from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, titled, “Food for all our neighbors: We should invest as much in Western Pennsylvania agriculture as we do in a ‘cracker’ plant”. The author of the piece is Joseph Bute, the president of Hollymead Capital, a Gibsonia, Pennsylvania-based company that supports the creation of sustainable enterprises in low- and moderate-income communities. He makes an interesting argument, but we don’t think the solution is as obvious to us as it is to him. 10/15/2012

As Certified Greenhouse Farmers Look To Develop Guidelines, Mexico’s Protected Agriculture Industry Continues To Build Marketshare found that a trade association called Certified Greenhouse Farmers, which represents many greenhouse growers in North America, is calling for standard definitions for what it means when consumers are sold “greenhouse-grown” product. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from their president, Ed Beckman. Mira also spoke with Dr. Jeff Dlott, CEO and Chairman of the Board at SureHarvest, as well as Eric Viramontes, CEO of the Mexican Association of Protected Horticulture. 9/6/2012

Organics, Crop Yields And Feeding The World observes how media and public-policy types often get caught up in the buzz over organics, and the produce industry is mostly willing to oblige. It is, however, worthwhile to realize that organic food is really a comparably tiny industry. Steve Savage is a consultant who writes frequently on issues related to sustainability. He recently completed a deep dive into the data available on organic crops. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more. 2/15/2012

As Organic Produce Grows Beyond Local And National Borders, Will Government Step In To Set Definitions And Change Certifications? saw a piece in The New York Times titled, “Organic Agriculture May Be Outgrowing Its Ideals.” Nothing in the piece is new to industry members, but it is interesting, partly because it raises the question of what, precisely, the role of government ought to be in defining standards that presumably are supposed to help consumers make purchasing decisions. The piece focuses on the fact — shocking — that a producer can be organic and yet not meet various standards some might wish had been set for water usage, small scale, sustainable, etc. In fact, horror of horrors, some organic produce is grown utilizing “intensive irrigation.” 1/4/2012

Farmer Lee Jones To Keynote IDEATION FRESH Foodservice Forum At The New York Produce Show And Conference received a letter in response to our coverage of the cantaloupe crisis from Karl Kolb Ph.D., Chief Science Officer at The High Sierra Group, who is also food safety consultant to a small, but certainly not obscure, farm in Ohio that is known as The Chef’s Garden. The public face of this operation is Farmer Lee Jones, who speaks widely and frequently on topics related to farming, sustainability, chefs and similar topics. Now we are thrilled to announce that Farmer Lee Jones has agreed to keynote the IDEATION FRESH Foodservice Forum. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to meet with Farmer Jones and discover more in advance of his appearance. 10/27/2011

Cornell Professors To Present At The New York Produce Show And Conference: New Ways of Thinking About Local: Can The East Coast Develop A Broccoli Industry? mentions that among the most intriguing intelligences out there is that of Miguel I. Gomez from Cornell, and he is going to introduce us and all of the attendees of this year’s New York Produce Show & Conference to his colleague, Thomas Bjorkman who is Associate Professor of Vegetable Physiology, Department of Horticultural Sciences at Cornell University. This dynamic duo is working on the development of an East Coast broccoli industry that the researchers believe might be able to account for as much as 10% of US production. We also think that Professors Gomez and Bjorkman have posed an intellectual challenge that will cause many to rethink what sustainability and local actually means. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Manager Mira Slott to find out more from Professors Miguel I. Gomez and Thomas Bjorkman of Cornell University. 9/22/2011

Pundit’s Mailbag — What IFCO Was Told About Wal-Mart’s RPC Decision… And What Was Not Said our piece, Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s RPC Decision Is Part Of Its Bargain-Hunting Produce Procurement Strategy, brought several letters including these from Dave Diver, formerly Vice President of Produce at Hannaford, and Andy Hamilton, Vice President of Sales East with IFCO. We appreciate both of these letters, and Andy Hamilton has clearly laid out the official story. We have no reason to think that it is not the story that he has been told by Wal-Mart. As far as it goes, it is almost surely an accurate explanation. However, as with many things there is a back story. 9/22/2011

Pundit’s Mailbag — Wal-Mart’s RPC Decision Is Part Of Its Bargain-Hunting Produce Procurement Strategy received a letter from industry veteran Richard Kochersperger, Director of Food Marketing Group, who asked for an opinion on Wal-Mart’s decision to eliminate RPC's and return to corrugated boxes for produce. Wal-Mart’s commitment to sustainability has always been of a certain type. It endorsed sustainability for PR reasons and it tried to abandon conventional definitions of sustainability that included social, environmental and economic components. Instead it is focusing solely on those attributes of sustainability that could save Wal-Mart money. So the moment Wal-Mart executives decided that RPCs were costing Wal-Mart money by constraining its supply chain, the days of RPCs at Wal-Mart were numbered. 9/12/2011

McDonald’s, Happy Meals, Obesity, Produce and the Nanny State saw that the announcement that McDonald’s would add fruit to its child-focused Happy Meals has brought lots of publicity. We read this whole story more as a tale of sustainability in action at a high corporate level and as a cautionary tale as to why we are having trouble getting economic growth booming. Instead of focusing on selling its customers what they want to buy — only 11% of consumers take the long-existing option to get apples instead of fries in a Happy Meal — the executives at McDonald’s are busy trying to position the company in a way that heads off laws and regulatory action and that avoids reputational harm. 8/3/2011

Pundit’s Mailbag – On Supervalu Bags, Wegmans And American Airlines our recent piece, Supervalu May Learn That Cutting Costs Without Customer Concern Will Ultimately Affect The Sales Side Of The Equation, brought a response from Daniel Barth, General Manager of Super King Markets, that claimed we didn’t make our case, one of his points being that we “leave out the fact that there is broad public acceptance of the “reduce” component of stewardship of resources.” Although sustainability is a big issue, reduction is not always more sustainable. In the trade, if we weaken the cartons so more fruit arrives damaged, that is neither good stewardship nor more sustainable. Equally if the shopper’s eggs break in the garage because they didn’t get a double bag, that is likely to be neither good for the environment nor a policy supported by consumers. 4/7/2011

Fraudulent Farmer’s Markets ‘Detrimental To Legitimate Farms, Retailers And To Consumers’ our piece, Fraud At Farmer’s Markets, focused on the issue of fraud committed by vendors at these markets who sell produce that the vendors claim is grown on their own farm, grown locally, grown without the use of any “sprays” etc., etc., but in reality is conventional produce bought at the local wholesale market. We received a number of letters and thought this one particularly thoughtful from David Sasuga, Owner of Fresh Origins. David once wrote us pointing out why the whole industry needed to be concerned about a possible deception being perpetrated against organic consumers. The same logic, of course, applies to consumers being defrauded at farmer’s markets. 2/9/2011

Is Wal-Mart’s Local Produce Initiative A Public Relations Stunt? saw that The New York Times ran a piece titled, “Wal-Mart to Buy More Local Produce,” which detailed some new Wal-Mart goals surrounding its commitment to locally grown produce. The article also revealed Wal-Mart’s plans for the Sustainability Index. There are a lot of goals being conflated here and for the most part it is difficult to know if it means much at all. In fact, all this sounds like a marketing gimmick. 10/21/2010

A New Hypothesis On Local: To Boost Sales, Sell It Through Supermarkets... Cornell’s Miguel Gomez Previews His Upcoming Talk At The New York Produce Show And Conference reveals that a part of undertaking the New York Produce Show & Conference has involved an outreach to local centers of learning where we have sought out brilliant young scholars who are working hard to better understand issues of concern to the trade. Within this category is Miguel I. Gomez of Cornell University. Professor Gomez will be coming to Manhattan to discuss a research project on local supply chains. We asked Mira Slott, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, to see if she could give us a sneak preview as to what attendees would learn at The New York Produce Show and Conference. 10/1/2010

Are Critics Of Local Programs Devoid Of Taste Buds? reports we continue to receive letters related to our series of pieces on the UC Davis/Sodexo procurement system. Here we share another from a most interesting individual, Anaiis Salles, Grass Roots Organizer with the Menu for the Future Collaboration. Whether Ms. Salles or the Pundit prefer food from a local area isn’t important. The question is, in fact, whether there is some public policy at issue to justify overriding people’s preferences. When the students want and would pay for grapes in the winter — should that decision be made verboten? 10/1/2010

Rational Thinking On Locavore Movement A Welcome Sight highlights Virginia Postrel as among the most provocative and insightful people writing today. The Wall Street Journal just gave Ms. Postrel a bi-weekly column and she devoted her first iteration to the locavore movement: “No Free Locavore Lunch.” On her blog she captures perfectly the real appeal of the locavore movement in a piece titled, “From Exotic to Local: The Changing Nature of Produce Glamour.” In general, Ms. Postrel got it right. On a guttural level, the local movement is mostly a high-end rebellion against the ubiquity of formerly exotic and gourmet produce. The produce industry should supply local for the same reason the dress industry supplies mini-skirts one year and maxi-skirts the next — it is a matter of consumer demand. 10/1/2010

Stewardship Index Still Has High Hurdles To Overcome received a letter in response to The Battle Over The Stewardship Index: Will Wal-Mart Wind Up Taking Over, from Jeff Dlott, President and CEO of SureHarvest; Hank Giclas, Vice President of Science and Technology, Strategic Planning at the Western Growers Association; Hal Hamilton, Co-Director of the Sustainable Food Lab; Jonathan Kaplan, Health Program Staffer with the Natural Resources Defense Council; Kathy Means, Vice President of Government Relations & Public Affairs with the Produce Marketing Association and Tim York, President of Markon Cooperative. We appreciate the effort that went into this letter but must confess it leaves us in a quandary…and the nature of the quandary speaks to some of the points about mission drift that were raised in the article. 10/1/2010

Pundit Mailbag — Where Does ‘Affordability’ Fit Into UC Davis’ Local Decision our coverage of local and sustainability — and particularly our series on the UC Davis/Sodexo procurement program — has engendered great interest and brought this letter from Stan Foster, Sales Manager with MOARK LLC. We think Mr. Foster cuts to the chase. To give ‘local’ preferred treatment in procurement has to mean buying local when one otherwise would not have purchased the product. So either the local product did not meet some specification or required more staffing to procure, or the local product was more expensive. 10/1/2010

Pundit Mailbag — Taste Trumps Over ‘Local’ our extensive discussion of the “local” phenomenon has recently included three pieces revolving around the procurement policies at Sodexo/UC Davis and a related workshop held at the PMA Foodservice Conference. These pieces have brought a number of comments, including this one from Chris Puentes, President of Interfresh, Inc. Chris’ comparison with the COOL movement is apt in many ways—and some quite scary. 10/1/2010

SUSTAINABILITY SPECIAL EDITION The Battle Over The Stewardship Index: Will Wal-Mart Wind Up Taking Over? Wal-Mart has been an important player in leading its supply base to think of sustainability in particular ways. Many involved in the stewardship process have approached us with doubts about the Stewardship Index. Some feel there has been “mission drift,” and the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops is moving toward prescriptive standards. Others have asked on what basis people came to be in charge and what kind of governance has been set up on this process. One of the most public critiques has come from a respected industry consultant John Vendeland, Partner with Cirrus Partners, LLC. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from him. We also sought input from the man organizing the process, and so Mira reached out to Jeff Dlott, CEO, and Chairman of the Board at SureHarvest. The problems here are numerous and obvious. 9/21/2010

Dissecting The Meaning Of Local, Sustainable And Flavorful publishes a letter from two distinguished UC Davis faculty members who moderated the original panel discussion on the “local” phenomenon at PMA’s Foodservice Conference. We greatly appreciate that Dr. Hardesty and Dr. Feenstra took time to write. This is an important issue for the industry, and their expertise can doubtless enlighten us all. Yet we confess to being confused when reading the argument laid out in the way it is in this letter. 9/10/2010

Reaction to Agriprocessors Raid Leads to A New Jewish Ethical Trading Initiative For Food: But Is There Really a Jewish Position On The Minimum Wage? describes how the modern sustainability movement was hardly the first to call for such consciousness. Those who “keep kosher” or follow the laws of kashrut are obliged to be conscious of each bite they place in their mouths. After the recent Agriprocessors raid, this led some to object that when consumers buy kosher food, they expect more than simply food prepared in the ritualistic way required to meet standards of kashrut. They expect food that is raised in accordance with Jewish ethical principles. This move to tie morality and ethics to food seemed intriguing, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, Mira Slott to find out more from Rabbi Paul Drazen, with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism and Kimberly Rubenfeld, with the Hekhsher Tzedek Commission. 6/16/2010

Wal-Mart’s Auction System Leads To Less Sustainability received a letter from Rod Farrow of Lamont Fruit Farm Inc. who sees the drop in costs from Wal-Mart’s new produce procurement operation being absorbed by the grower, and further states that this creates an unprofitable and unsustainable situation for growers. We appreciate Rod’s input and think he has an important point but think that the point needs to be more tightly focused. Rod’s point is to note the contradiction between Wal-Mart’s self-professed desire to emphasize sustainability and its willingness to put farmers into competition with one another on an auction basis, which challenges sustainability on at least three levels. 3/22/2010

With Penny-A-Pound ‘Victory’, Coalition of Immokalee Workers Looks To Justify Its Actions our most recent piece, titled Big Ramifications For Industry As Florida Tomato Growers Exchange Agrees To Penny-a-Pound Program, brought this response from the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, in part, explaining that their "campaign is designed to keep demand in Florida, and for that demand to seek the highest standards of social responsibility and sustainability by rewarding growers who are willing to do the right thing." We don’t find CIW’s argument persuasive as to why raising the price of Florida tomatoes will not disadvantage Florida vis-a-vis other production areas and alternative eating options. 3/22/2010

Big Ramifications For Industry As Florida Tomato Growers Exchange Agrees To Penny-A-Pound Program found that the move to so-called penny-a-pound programs seemed inexorable to us. The Florida Tomato Growers Exchange had all kinds of reasons why it couldn’t participate. They claimed anti-trust issues, practical impossibility and on and on. In the end, they changed their stance and announced their own Social Accountability Program that includes a Florida Tomato Grower Code of Conduct. We wanted to get another perspective and Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott spoke to a knowledgeable observer of the industry. 3/5/2010

Efforts To Minimize Food Safety And Sustainability Conflicts Laudable But Don't Resolve Conflict points out one of the biggest battles that produce growers have had to deal with is how to wrestle with the competing values of food safety and environmental concerns. Now comes word that there has been an effort to resolve this dilemma. The Nature Conservancy recently produced "Safe and Sustainable: Co-Managing For Food Safety And Ecological Health in California’s Central Coast Region" a report for Georgetown’s University’s Produce Safety Project. We have nothing but praise for people who do the hard work of trying to solve industry problems. Alas, having read the results of all these efforts, we confess that we think they fall short. 3/5/2010

Flaws In Wal-Mart’s Produce-Procurement Thinking highlights a piece in The Financial Times that reports on Wal-Mart’s efforts to reduce supply chain costs. Although Wal-Mart’s claim that apple procurement costs went down 10% in the Washington pilot project is mysterious, the bigger point is that even if Wal-Mart’s number is correct, it is surely only a portion of the story. There is an obvious Achilles heel. If it produces a 10% lower cost of produce it is a violation of everything Wal-Mart purports to believe about sustainability. It goes beyond price, it doesn’t give producers the assurance they need to invest for the long run. It encourages them to do anything to beat the other bid, whatever the long term implications. 1/5/2010

Climategate: Dangers Of Relying On Manipulated Science explains that although many are going on as if the recent news regarding the release of a large number of e-mails and other data from the Hadley Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at Britain’s University of East Anglia doesn’t matter, it most decidedly does. Of course, it does not prove there is no global warming, but it means the scientific foundation for belief in anthropomorphic global warming is so weak that there is no basis for the world to adopt exceedingly expensive policies to fight global warming. Really the science needs to be looked at from square one. This won’t kill off sustainability, however, as that has morphed into a kind of business management system that involves consciousness of all costs. 12/9/2009

When Child Labor Laws Don’t Necessarily Help Children saw that when ABC broadcast an expose on child labor in agriculture and specifically focused on the Adkin Blue Ribbon Packing Company, the reaction was both predictable and inevitable. The United Fresh Produce Association sent out a letter to its members, basically saying that everyone has to redouble their efforts to make sure there is no illegal child labor in their operations. Buying organizations, of course, wanted to distance themselves from this illegal activity. Still, it is worth a moment to think about the practical effects of this law and of everyone’s reaction to the expose. 11/9/2009

The Next Big Industry Challenge: Water reports that although discussions of sustainability have often focused on carbon emission, many experts in the field see water as the issue of the future. The California State Legislature finally came to a water compromise agreement that, though surely not perfect, has been widely hailed. Most observers see the package as a breakthrough and significant achievement, even if much more work will need to be done. Prior to the announcement in Sacramento, the drought in California had prompted us to ask Mira Slott, Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor, to speak with an expert, Holly Doremus, Ph.D., Professor of Law at the University of California, Berkeley to get some historical perspective and context. 11/9/2009

Tesco Goes LEED, But Is LEED Sustainable? finds Fresh & Easy has received a LEED Gold certification from the United States Green Building Council for a store in Cathedral City, CA. However, there is increasingly a question about whether the LEED certification process does anything useful at all. A recent article in The New York Times helps to illustrate the problem. LEED gives lots of points for things that don’t contribute to the actual building’s energy efficiency, and the effects of which are never measured. And, many of these buildings get LEED certification based on efficiency standards at which manufacturers say the equipment can perform. But actual achievement of these efficiency levels requires optimum maintenance regimes, which many owners and occupants don’t follow. Wouldn't we be better off looking at “continuous improvement” models? 10/2/2009

Got Produce? Look Closer At Packaging And Handling To Increase Consumption comments that during our coverage of the proposed generic promotion board for the produce industry, we’ve had quite a number of produce executives point out to us that they believe the biggest difficulty in boosting consumption is the fault of the produce industry itself — selling the wrong varieties, harvesting it before it is fully ripe, etc. Well we wanted to add packaging and handling to the list of industry vices. Sustainability often involves little more than being conscious of the impact our choices have on the environment, social concerns and economic returns. Looking at all our products and packaging from a standpoint of consumer delight seems prerequisite to success in boosting consumption. 9/29/2009

Wal-Mart’s Global Food Sourcing Initiative Closes The Peterson Era And Threatens Sustainability Of Agricultural Base this summer Wal-Mart has decided to proceed with their Global Food Sourcing Initiative. The gist of the program is a decision to completely reform the procurement of perishables worldwide. In order to maximize the pool of vendors available to sell Wal-Mart the goal is to, ultimately, eliminate all vendor-replenishment functions. The very goal of expanding the pool of vendors runs counter to Wal-Mart’s initiatives for GFSI and Sustainability. A small number of high quality vendors will meet these standards, so expanding the pool of vendors will inevitably mean sacrificing Wal-Mart’s standards to obtain cheaper prices. How are vendors to fund the Produce Traceability Initiativeenhanced food safety efforts or improved sustainability efforts — if they simultaneously are being told to make do with even thinner — or perhaps negative margins? 8/13/2009

Dangers And Broader Implications Of Wal-Mart’s Sustainability Index as we detailed in Wal-Mart Must Include Adequate Return On Capital In Its Sustainability “Index” Or It Will Do More Harm Than Good, Wal-Mart’s sustainability initiative is extensive. So we focused in on one glaring problem: Wal-Mart’s decision to exclude the economic sphere from its proposed index. Sustainability is typically considered to contain three spheres of responsibilities: The environmental, the social and the economic. We would go so far as to say that speaking of sustainability without all three of the spheres makes no sense. Wal-Mart’s initiative is far broader than retail produce. We wanted to examine how it might interact with other industry initiatives in sustainability. To do so, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to explore the topic more by speaking to Tim York, President of Markon Group. 8/11/2009

Wal-Mart Must Include Adequate Return On Capital In Its Sustainability ‘Index’ Or It Will Do More Harm Than Good observed that Wal-Mart announced a major new sustainability initiative, it is, however, a train wreck waiting to happen and will probably do real harm to the world. Sustainability, dealing with three separate spheres of responsibility, the social, environmental and economic, is inherently complex and value-driven. Despite many attempts to posit an analogy between sustainability efforts and accounting balance sheets, there is no “triple bottom line” that can represent sustainability efforts. If this Sustainability Index ever happens, it will not represent some kind of “natural” level of sustainability but, instead, the result of decisions to spend money to achieve a higher ranking. In many cases, however, this higher ranking will be achieved at the horrible, humanity impoverishing cost of wasted capital. 8/5/2009

In Converting Onion Waste To Electricity, Gills Sets Example Of Sustainable Leadership had the great pleasure recently of flying out to Oxnard, California, to be part of the festivities surrounding the launch of a new Advanced Energy Recovery System at Gills Onions. In reality it was a celebration of sustainability done right. What Gills Onions provided is an example for the industry, indeed an example for the world, not just of a scientific and engineering achievement but also, and with more long term significance, a model path by which companies ought to engage with sustainability. Every company has to face its own challenges, grasp its own opportunities and build its own future. 7/23/2009

‘Eat Seasonably’ Campaign Another Example Of Misguided Intentions heard that a battle was brewing in Britain between eating seasonably advocates and the fruit and vegetable industry, and asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Nigel Jenney, President of the Fresh Produce Consortium. Visit the UK and one quickly learns that sustainability and food miles are used as protectionist weapons and that consumers see it as an outlet for nationalist sentiment. We did some focus groups on sustainability in the UK and found consumers waxing poetic about “local” and the need to limit “food miles.” So you have British nationalism, overlapping with protectionist forces and the most mindless kind of sustainability ethos that demands no evidence or proof but simply like to do things to “feel good” and you have a recipe for a mess, which is pretty much what this “eat seasonably” program is. 7/23/2009

In Defense Of Cosmetically Challenged Produce recalls that back in November, Sainsbury’s pulled its planned line of “Halloween produce,” because EU standards prevented the sale of such items to consumers, and then launched a campaign to change the regulations. Sainsbury’s efforts have paid off. Effective July 1, 2009, the old rules have been abolished. The question of whether grade standards are encouraging the industry to focus on the right things and whether grade standards serve as a consumer-protection device has long been debated. With the sustainability movement focusing on avoiding waste, this move in Europe may presage even bigger changes both in Europe and in the US. We thought it worth understanding the situation better, so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more by speaking with two representatives of the pan-European produce trade association: Philippe Binard, Secretary General, and Frederic Rosseneu, Secretariat of Freshfel Europe. 7/14/2009

Publix Wins Sustainability Award From PRODUCE BUSINESS Magazine had the opportunity recently to visit the Publix headquarters in Lakeland, Florida for the presentation of the 1st Annual PRODUCE BUSINESS Retail Sustainability Award. We looked extensively for an organization in which sustainability grew authentically out of the values and business systems of the retailer. This brought us to Publix. If you haven’t read the article PRODUCE BUSINESS published, titled Publix Super Markets: Subtle Sustainability With Substance, you can do so right here. 7/1/2009

A Historic Sustainability Decision Allows Industry To Snatch Victory From The Jaws Of Defeat our extensive efforts and those of many others, all linked to sustainability, have done some good. We received a letter from Thomas Parker Redick of Global Environmental Ethics Counsel, the most prominent attorney monitoring these issues that, considering where we started, reports a minor miracle. It also speaks to a broader sustainability including how we sustain civil discourse. SCS didn’t really want a dialog; it wanted to impose its vision on a hostile industry. The defeat of the SCS vision of sustainability is a reminder to all who wish to create change: Men are not meat; the more you pound them, the tougher they get. 6/16/2009

Pundit's Mailbag — Mike Stuart Of FFVA Speaks Out On Ballantine And Buyer/Seller Relations received many letters on our recent piece, Did Wal-Mart Have A Role In Ballantine’s Fall?, which focused on the implications of the story for the future of the industry, including this one from Michael J. Stuart of the Florida Fruit & Vegetable Association. Mike asks the question precisely: “At the end of the day, how are these firms going to make significant investments in food safety, traceability, sustainability and other important industry initiatives if the profitability of the business is squeezed to the breaking point? How are they going to survive at all?” Yet issues such as food safety, sustainability and traceability are so in the public interest that the government may lose its patience with such games. Indeed, a free nation values a farming sector that is not merely productive but also manned by free and independent men and women, not supplicants to an oligarchy of buyers. 5/15/2009

United Fresh/Bayer CropScience Launch Global Sustainability Center declares it was near and dear to our heart to learn at this year’s United Convention about a new industry resource: the Center for Global Produce Sustainability. This is an important area and one that has seen some pullback to the recession, so it is terrific to learn that Bayer CropScience is forward-thinking enough to look beyond the present situation and invest for the future. We needed to learn exactly what both Bayer CropScience and United Fresh have in store so we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Tom Stenzel, President and CEO of United Fresh Produce Association and Greggory Storey, Ph.D, Industry Relations Lead with Bayer CropScience. 4/28/2009

Produce Takes Greater Role In Sustainability Standards one of the important criticisms we made of the initial attempt to establish an ANSI sustainability standard for the industry was that a draft standard was submitted and changes required advocacy. Instead of starting from scratch, a rebuttable presumption had been established. This was profoundly unfair. Much hard work has finally led to the rejection of that draft standard and thus given the industry an opportunity to rethink the whole process. Still, progress has been made and the possibility of a more inclusive kind of sustainability has been created by the formation of a group developing methods of measurement for the produce trade similar to what we reported Keystone is doing for other parts of agriculture in our piece here. For an update on both sustainability tracks, we asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to speak with a man whose activities intersect both projects: Tim York President of Markon Group and for additional perspective on the ANSI project, Mira touched base with the Leonardo Academy to get an update from Amanda Raster, Sustainability Standards Development Manager. 2/27/2009

Is Tesco Defrauding Consumers? Promising Only Nature’s Choice Certified Product But Delivering Cheaper Alternatives? explains that retailers and large buyers dictate a set of standards to their vendors. The supply base is told to invest time and money to conform to these standards with the implicit promise of business from the buyer. Now, with value the watchword for retailers worldwide, this deal is disintegrating. From an industry perspective, the problem is clear: There are supply chain responsibilities in food safety, traceability and sustainability. Top producers in the industry strive to meet these responsibilities. Then, they are put in a position by many retailers of having to meet the price of vendors that have not met these responsibilities. The premise of Tesco’s Nature’s Choice program is that part of the value equation is safety, sustainability and traceability — if Tesco wants to offer cheap product that has not been audited for adherence to this standard, they need to inform consumers that when they buy this particular product, they are not getting all the assurances they usually do when shopping at Tesco. 1/22/2009

Subway Joins Penny-A-Pound Program While Tomato Growers Feel The Pinch reports that Subway Restaurants announced recently that it has joined with many other quick-serve restaurants in committing to pay Florida tomato pickers an extra penny-a-pound over their normal wages, this movement seems to be gaining momentum again. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more from Les Winograd, spokesperson for Subway Restaurants and Reggie Brown, Manager of the Florida Tomato Committee Executive Vice President of the Florida Tomato Exchange and Florida Tomato Growers Exchange. We find five reasons why this is one of those situations in which nothing is as it seems to be. 1/22/2009

Advice For Wal-Mart As It Asks Chinese Suppliers To Be More Socially Responsible relates how Lee Scott, CEO of Wal-Mart, flew to China and announced a “Global Responsible Sourcing Initiative” outlining a series of aggressive goals and expectations to build a more environmentally and socially responsible global supply chain. The initiative calls for companies working with Wal-Mart to comply with environmental laws, partner with them to improve energy efficiency and use fewer natural resources, accept higher standards of product safety and quality, and greater transparency and ownership. It also calls for a major effort to make Wal-Mart China stores a leader in sustainability. Yet, though Wal-Mart’s initiative is strategic and will surely have some good effect, there are really only three things Wal-Mart or any other buyer need to say and do if they want to boost the standards of their Chinese supply base. 10/23/2008

Bailout Analysis Ahead Of The Times thought we would give a two-minute shout out recapping a portion of our coverage of sustainability issues during the financial crisis to point out some of the really incredible value we’ve been delivering on the Pundit, and with all this value being delivered, if we bump into each other at PMA, or if you come by our booth # 515 to say hello, we don’t want to hear that you are not getting value for your subscription price. Oh wait, other publications charge hundreds of dollars for subscription. The Perishable Pundit? We don’t charge at all. What a value indeed. 10/23/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Sustainability In Bad Economic Times our recent piece, Oil Price Decline Dampens Alternative-Energy Fervor, brought a letter from Nelson Longenecker, Vice President of Business Innovation for Four Seasons Produce, Inc. which we very much appreciate because it gives us an opportunity to get to the heart of the quandary that surrounds sustainability. We agree with Nelson that sustainability has to make financial sense; it is hardly sustainable for a business to go bankrupt or achieve sub-par returns and thus be unable to attract capital to grow and expand. When properly deployed, sustainability makes companies more competitive and effective; done poorly sustainability efforts can weaken a company. 10/21/2008

Oil Price Decline Dampens Alternative-Energy Fervor with the news being that oil has now fallen near $70 a barrel, meaning that oil is down over 50% from its $145.29 high in July — one would think we have cause for celebration. Certainly lower oil prices mean some people who make a lot of trouble will have less money to make trouble with and may even have trouble keeping control of their own people. So there are many good things that come from lower oil prices, but there are big problems: that great sucking sound you hear is sustainability going out the window. 10/17/2008

Award-Winning Articles Raise Topics To Consider explains that we don’t like to crow about awards too much, partly because Momma Pundit taught us it wasn’t polite and mostly because we care more about accolades from people in our industry than editorial experts. We did, however, think it interesting to note the two columns The American Society of Business Publication Editors recognized for excellence are very topical a year later. One of them, a September 2007 piece entitled, Wages And Social Responsibility, which assessed industry vulnerability as the social component of sustainability gains traction — while also pointing out that what many claim to be “socially responsible” behavior may actually do much harm. 8/19/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — USDA Opposes Current ANSI Effort To Define Sustainability thanks Thomas P. Redick of the Global Environmental Ethics Counsel for passing along a most crucial document from the USDA objecting to the Draft National Standard for Trial Use Sustainable Agriculture Practice Standard, being undertaken by Scientific Certification Systems, containing a number of critiques of both the SCS proposal and the process that is being shepherded by The Leonardo Academy. 7/25/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Sustainability Needs To Be Embraced By Industry brought a letter from Blair R. Richardson of FreshSense, LLC explaining that converting his farming operations to sustainable practices is not an easy process, and a tough sell. Our work with consumers has indicated that although consumers are quick to punish producers and retailers for ethical or environmental lapses, they are slow to reward companies for doing what consumers think they should be doing. At its heart, sustainability is supposed to ensure that an organization or an industry can sustain itself into the future. 5/23/2008

The Keystone Center’s Sustainability Initiative Provides Insights For Produce discussed another approach being moderated in the industry by The Keystone Center called Creating Sustainable Outcomes for Agriculture. Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott spoke with Member of the Executive Committee, Dr. Jeff Barach, who is also Vice President and Center Director of the Grocery Manufacturers Association. He lays out a guideline for the produce industry to get involved with this effort and warned of the consequences if the industry does not. 5/23/2008

Will Wal-Mart’s Energy Efficient/Hispanic Store Make A Real Contribution? proposed that Wal-Mart’s introduction of energy-efficient stores and its first “Hispanic Community” store could open the door to many possibilities. Energy efficiency is part of Wal-Mart’s sustainability campaign, which can potentially lower costs. The Hispanic community store is a good idea, but may not go far enough. 5/14/2008

Another Company Says No To Wal-Mart’s ASDA reveals that earlier this month, a major potato supplier to ASDA also decided to say “No More” cutting its 32 million-pounds-a-year contract. Taypack’s walking away may or may not mean much for the British potato sector. However, if the land is diverted to biofuels or wheat, it will establish that growers have options, and that will change the dynamic between vendors and retailers. It is also intriguing that this matter is playing out in the UK, where sustainability discussions have been ongoing for many years. As we have discussed, sustainability is more than environmentalism; it includes conducting oneself in a way that sustains the supply chain. 5/13/2008

Sustainability Expert Provides Insights To A Similar Industry offers an analysis of how best to incorporate sustainable principles from another industry. We asked Pundit Investigator and Special Projects Editor Mira Slott to find out more about the California Sustainable Winegrowing Program from Jeff Dlott, President and CEO of SureHarvest in Soquel, California. 5/2/2008

Sustainability Goes Beyond Best Practices presented another important contribution to our discussion from Tim York of Markon Cooperative, this time speaking jointly with Jeff Dlott of SureHarvest. The “best practices” sustainability model tends to be negative and heavily focused on environmental issues. Sustainability in a business context should be a process in which the collective wisdom of stakeholders helps an organization achieve its vision while developing and sustaining the environmental, social and economic resources necessary for success in the future. 3/20/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — SCS Takes Exception To Analysis of Sustainability Standard responded to a letter from Linda Brown, Executive Vice President of Scientific Certification Systems. We actually are in complete agreement on the need for a national standard. Our problem is not with the concept; it is with the specific execution being used in this particular effort. Our position is simple: the stakeholders must be in agreement with the methods used to develop the standards. 3/14/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Organic Icon DiMatteo Weighs In On Sustainability Standard discussed a response from Katherine DiMatteo of DiMatteo Consulting, a passionate advocate for organic agriculture, a recipient of many accolades and awards, and an icon of late 20th century agriculture. We hope she will join with us to recognize that mistakes were made in the way this particular procedure has been conducted. If she helps in this process, her influence is so vast and her guidance so respected, we may yet achieve an industry standard for sustainability. 3/12/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Food Safety Is Part Of Being Socially Responsible reprints a comprehensive letter from Nissa Pierson of Ger-nis International, LLC, an importer of Israeli and Dutch produce, addressing the responsibility of importers in food safety recalls and the importance of allowing growers to make a return and connecting these issues to questions of sustainability and social responsibility. 3/6/2008

Sustainability Standard Being Steamrolled — Does A Sustainable Vision Encompass Only Organics?

The Imperative For Action (Part 1) reaffirmed that sustainability and social responsibility as issues for the fresh produce industry to wrestle with have now reached a point where attention is not only important, but urgent. 3/6/2008

No Standardization Without Representation (Part 2) a highly debatable proposition has been put forth that only organic agriculture is sustainable. Based on this premise, Scientific Certification Systems, “in consultation with numerous stakeholders,” has authored a draft standard with the rubber stamp of “The Sustainability Experts,” the Leonardo Academy an ANSI-accredited standards developer. As soon as the draft was published, the outcry began. 3/6/2008

The Produce Industry Strikes Back (Part 3) presented a letter from Bob Martin of Rio Farms, who along with a group of California producers has reached out to the industry, including the buying segment, to bring attention to their consternation with the proposed sustainability draft standard. There are two very big problems with this draft standard. One is substantive and the other is procedural. 3/6/2008

Pundit’s Mailbag — Letter From Sweden About Nobel Prize ‘Sarcasm’ expresses that it is indeed possible, even likely, that eco-thinking will, as our Swedish letter author, Ake Lewander, Group Networking Manager for LCL World Wide Group writes “spread out of California.” In fact, we find most growers very interested in sustainability issues and think many Americans care deeply about the environment and sustainability — but caring doesn’t substitute for the critical thinking necessary to solve the problem. 1/29/2008

Sustainability And Gratitude offers a special thanks for all the letters offering sponsorship, participation on the steering committee, volunteers to speak, etc., after the announcement of our plans to conduct an industry conference on sustainability and corporate social responsibility. 1/11/2008

Sustainability/Social Responsibility And GMO Corn & Carrots acknowledged that what makes wrestling with social responsibility difficult for many businesspeople is that these initiatives often get constrained by either government or private action. These efforts also struggle in an environment of anti-GMO sentiment that is difficult to overcome. In spite of these travails, do sustainability and social responsibility enhance the financial bottom line? 1/17/2008

A Call For An Industrywide Sustainability And Social Responsibility Initiative comments on an important letter to us from Tim York, President of Markon Cooperative. In it, Tim raises the exceedingly important issue that sustainability and social responsibility are likely to pose an important management challenge for every executive in the industry and proposes that we should quickly come to consensus on a meaningful sustainability program. 1/8/2008

Wegmans Phasing Out Tobacco commented that Wegmans may well lose a lot of business as customers who use tobacco products may choose to do all their food shopping elsewhere. Is it an assertion of social responsibility? Of saying these products shouldn’t be sold? Perhaps tobacco, uniquely harmful when used as intended, is a special case. 1/8/2008

Michael Pollan’s Sustainability Arguments Unsustainable In Context Of Economics discussed Michael Pollan, author of numerous books related to the food industry and sustainability issues. With all the focus on sustainability, it strikes us that his efforts to define the word “unsustainable” are important and, also, that his definition is unsatisfactory. 12/20/2007

Florida Tomato Growers Reject Penny-A-Pound Initiative At The Industry’s Peril conveyed that the issue for the Florida tomato industry is that in the new world of emphasis on corporate social responsibility, the industry would do better to position itself as a leader rather than a retrograde industry. Many think that sustainability and corporate social responsibility mean locally grown and solar panels on the roof, but as we have been warning the industry, the actual vulnerability of the industry is labor issues. 12/14/2007Lessons On Social Responsibility From GAP’s Child Labor Woes reinforced that even though it may seem distant, with the increasing focus on corporate social responsibility, we can expect much more rigorous attention to be paid to the way the produce and perishable food industries operate, especially concerning farm labor, particularly in developing countries. 10/30/2007

Tesco, Polar Bears And Social Irresponsibility pondered why Tesco, a giant corporation with extensive resources, wouldn’t more carefully vet pop-culture environmentalism claims before it starts posting them in every back room and putting them on postcards sent out by the CEO. 11/30/2007

Report Card On ‘Green-ness’ Of UK Stores reprints a BBC report that a self-proclaimed consumer advocacy group, the National Consumer Council, is demanding the supermarkets in the UK go greener. ASDA Chief Executive Officer Andy Bond had the best quote of the piece in saying: “Customers tell us they want to do the right thing, but don’t want to pay more for the privilege.” The quote is intriguing in two ways; first because we can all agree that consumers, by and large, want to “do the right thing,” yet that leaves open the question of precisely what the right thing might be. 10/18/2007

Tesco Marks November Eighth As Launch Date For Six Stores profiles Tesco’s announcement of Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market first store openings in Southern California. Includes commentary on the “social responsibility” of these new stores touting healthy, private label products, high worker wages and benefits and “green” methodology. 10/10/2007

Wal-Mart’s ASDA Serious About Sustainability reiterated that Wal-Mart is pretty hot on sustainability initiatives, but its UK subsidiary, ASDA, is really focused. While we admire the push toward sustainability practices, we believe consumers are skeptical that all this stuff isn’t just another way to increase profits. 10/5/2007

Wal-Mart Joins Fray In Carbon Profiling revealed how Tesco in the UK was already asking U.S. exporters to do it; now Wal-Mart is asking suppliers of select items to ascertain the amount of energy they use and their total carbon footprint, which used properly, could be helpful, but there are dangers. 9/25/2007

Green Homes As Status Symbol asks if you want to know the degree to which “greenness” has become a status symbol, just take a look at this house being built not far from Pundit headquarters. CNN did a story pointing out that luxury home buyers now want environmentally friendly estates: Just don’t try to call it environmentalism. 9/25/2007

Wealth And Global Warming our piece, Reducing Carbon Vs. Increasing Wealth, dealt with the thesis of Dr. Bjorn Lomborg that global warming, though real, cannot be solved by efforts to reduce carbon output. Instead, he argued, the wisest course is to focus on increasing wealth so that we are better able to deal with climate change. His call for a “technological breakthrough” seems to us pretty much like a call to focus on wealth so as to fund the technological research that can really solve this problem. Smart people around the world are starting to realize that a focus on the carbon footprint of vegetables is a marketing gimmick, a distraction from the serious work at hand. 9/21/2007

Going Green Only When It’s Convenient asserts everyone is into “green”, the big question is what will it all boil down to? We suppose some definition is in order. Although some people want to trumpet that being “green” is good business, we can’t accept that doing things simply because they provide a good return on investment deserves some special praise. An awful lot of the green initiative seems to focus on selling stuff, and to what degree those products are really environmentally friendly is unclear. If a company only does Green things as a prototype to learn from and get PR or, alternatively, only when it is profitable, how does that show consumers that a company’s owners or executives care about something? 9/20/2007

Reducing Carbon Vs. Increasing Wealth excerpts a fascinating piece on global warming from The New York Times based on an interview with Bjorn Lomborg. Dr. Lomborg is interesting because, although he believes in global warming, he argues that the way we are discussing the issue is preventing the optimal conclusion. The gist of the argument is that any change in carbon emissions is likely to have a very small effect on global warming. Although Dr. Lomborg agrees with imposing a carbon tax to offset some of the costs carbon emissions can impose on the world he says that the most important thing is to do what is necessary to increase economic growth. 9/18/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — The Meaning Of Food Miles And Other ‘Green’ Terms our piece, C.H. Robinson Launches Our World Organics Line, brought a number of questions, less about the line than about this phrase in our comments. One letter writer asks “Why does “Food Miles” not matter in regards to anything important? If a product is grown locally and shipped locally (or at least grown closer rather than further away), wouldn’t that be a positive thing in regards to the environment?” The answer is a decided “maybe,” and that points to why promoting “Food Miles” is not a good idea. 9/18/2007

C.H. Robinson Launches Our World Organics Line learns that C.H. Robinson, demonstrating it is in sync with all that its customers are thinking about, has announced a new brand: Our World Organics. Certainly someone at C.H. Robinson has its pulse on the trends. It is a big undertaking, and we hope C.H. Robinson isn’t setting itself up for criticism when consumer advocates note that it isn’t able to always do all these things, and certainly not all at once. Although we wish C.H. Robinson would drop the “Food Miles” language as that has now been clearly demonstrated to have no relationship to anything important, we are enormously impressed at the scope of C.H. Robinson’s ambition and its willingness to undertake a great deal to assist its customers. 9/14/2007

Food Safety And Sustainability Go Hand-in-Hand At Ocean Mist Farms announced news from Ocean Mist Farms that “in its ongoing commitment to sustainable agriculture, is creating a new position dedicated to environmental stewardship.” We suspect this won’t be the last we hear about companies creating positions that combine food safety with sustainability. 9/6/2007

The Problem With Food Miles excerpts a New York Times op-ed article entitled, “Food That Travels Well” on the hot subject of “Food Miles”. About the best one can say for this piece is that there seems to be movement on the subject so that defenders of the concept of “food miles” are giving up on defending the ridiculous — that the only thing that matters is how far the product is shipped — to defending the merely incorrect — that by carefully doing a “lifecycle assessment” of each food, we can determine where it is best to purchase food from. Yet what this author advocates is more dangerous because, as a result of studies, it adds the patina of science to what is really just made up garble. 8/10/2007

Food’s Carbon Footprint Not Easy To Measure cautions that before we in America acquire the British fascination with “food miles” we ought to look at what they are actually finding out in Britain as they look into the subject. The African Channel picked up an article we excerpt here by The Sunday Telegraph headlined “Locally Grown Food Has Higher Carbon Footprint Than Imported Products”. “Food miles” has nothing to do with the environment. It is just a marketing tool that supermarkets have latched onto in Britain. They should be ashamed of themselves for deceiving their customers into thinking they are doing something useful. 6/15/2007

Richard Branson Chimes In On Food Miles reminds that we have warned in numerous pieces the movement toward promoting “food miles” as something retailers and consumers are supposed to take into account in purchasing is not merely unlikely to achieve any environmental benefit but, in fact, could cause harms of all different types. Sir Richard Branson, whose mind has been focused on the issue because he owns an airline that has just inaugurated service between the United Kingdom and Kenya, has apparently come to the same conclusion as the Pundit. 6/5/2007

Wal-Mart’s Latest ‘Green’ Move Gives Pause To Explore Sustainability Rationale specified three categories for achieving sustainability initiatives: Those that produce positive ROI, those that produce a “reputational dividend” and those that lose money for a company’s shareholders. But really, what is all the fuss about? 5/10/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Global Warming’s Shameful Marketing Attempts our piece Carbon Footprinting Gone Wild! brought a letter from a European who is experiencing this issue on a level Americans don’t even approach. Global warming is an enormously complicated issue. To overlay this complexity with a simple-minded marketing message — don’t eat produce flown on a plane — is bizarre. It is an attempt by retailers to position themselves marketing-wise with total disregard to the actual issue at hand. This is not about the environment; this is marketing, pure and simple, and it is a shame. 4/26/2007

Carbon Footprinting Gone Wild! notes that everyone who is doing business with British supermarkets is getting inquiries about the “carbon footprint” their products impose on the environment. Telling consumers to make buying decisions based on some calculation of carbon use will backfire. What would make sense is to push politically for public policies that make sure the price of goods reflect their true cost to society. In other words, you want to make sure that the law does not allow people to pollute for free as this will encourage pollution. 4/25/2007

Pundit’s Mailbag — Chiquita’s Motivations our piece entitled Chiquita’s Shame — And Our Ineffective Anti-Terrorism Policy brought a number of responses, including this one from an executive who asked to remain anonymous. This note reaches across many areas to the nature of corporate responsibility. We don’t think the focus on “motivations” — did Chiquita pay the protection money because it valued the lives of its employees or did it pay the money because it wanted to stay in business — really makes sense. In an integral way, Chiquita both wanted to preserve its business and protect the lives of its employees. 3/26/2007

Air Freighted Foods Get Marks & Spencer Symbol announces Marks & Spencer has unveiled a new symbol to appear on all food that has been air-freighted into the United Kingdom. Guy Farrant, Director of Food, Marks & Spencer, said: “Our customers want to know more about how food is transported into the UK. We’re putting an aeroplane symbol on the small amount of food we transport by air because we know this is something our customers increasingly care about.” This is simply not a serious sustainability initiative, it’s a simple-minded trick to make consumers think they are doing something good for the world when, in fact, we have no idea if they do the world good or they do the world harm. 3/20/2007

Wal-Mart Advances Green Movement reported how ASDA, Wal-Mart’s U.K. operation, has announced a commitment that by 2010 it will stop sending any waste at all from its 307 stores to landfills. Everything will be recycled, reused or composted. This is very top-down driven, as Lee Scott has identified sustainability as a key focus. 8/8/2006

The Charity Of Business explained that charity is just sound business strategy and has nothing to do with whether corporations, particularly publicly held corporations, should be altruistic or have responsibilities beyond maximizing profits. 8/7/2006

 

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