How to create a more sustainable company

The Packer
May 9, 2024

Founding board member of the Equitable Food Initiative and strategic adviser for Bon Appetit Management Co. Maisie Ganzler says many companies face challenges sharing the journey into sustainable practices.

In this episode of the “Tip of the Iceberg” podcast, Ganzler shared a personal anecdote during her time at Bon Appetit where she and the team wanted to discuss an important part of sustainable farming, but there wasn’t an easy way to do it.

“The people listening have similar challenges, where there’s some types of the sustainability story that are really complicated, or maybe not so appetizing, but we put great effort into it,” she said. “We want to get market credit for it because we are doing the right thing to do the right thing. But we’re also doing the right thing to build our brand.”

Equitable Food Initiative’s LeAnne Ruzzamenti mentioned that many produce retailers find it difficult to discuss sustainability efforts and positive stories as it opens the retailer up for criticism. This is where boldness comes in, Ganzler said.

“You are not going to be all things to all people,” she said. “You are not going to make everybody happy. But you need to be honest and clear and brag about the things that you do well.”

Transparency also is key, said Ganzler.

“A study just came out, from a group called Innova, of European and U.S. consumers, and it said that two-thirds of consumers would trust a company that is upfront about the struggle more than a company that does not share the details of their journey,” she said. “People will trust you more if you are honest and open about the details and challenges of your journey.”

She said those in the produce industry also should embrace a less-than-perfect picture of meeting sustainability goals.

“We want things that people will grab onto, remember and retell, and a good story with some wins, but with some losses, with some challenges, and then with success is more interesting,” she said. “So, I urge companies to be bold, to be honest, to show their warts so that they can then show their triumphs.”

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The Institute for Sustainability Africa (INŚAF) is an independent multi-disciplinary think tank and research institute founded in Zimbabwe in 2010 with the Vision to advance sustainability initiatives for Africa.