Nikki Rodoni and Whole Foods' Matt Rogers Discuss the Monterey County Sustainability Working Group
MONTEREY COUNTY, CA – The idea of competitors sitting down together and discussing their companies’ strategies and initiatives may seem like a long shot to some, but that is exactly what the Monterey County Sustainability Working Group (MCSWG) does.
The Group's most recent meeting was held on Thursday, February 12th at Growers Express' main office and was focused on ‘Getting to know WHOLE FOODS Responsibly Grown Index’ with guest speaker Matt Rogers, Whole Foods Global Produce Coordinator.
Nikki Rodoni, one of the Group’s Founders, tells me that the MCSWG chose to focus on Whole Foods for this upcoming meeting because, “Sustainability surveys are becoming more common, and this was the most recent one to become public. The more we understand why retailers are asking these questions and what they are going to do with the information, the better we can prepare to respond confidently to industry surveys, buyer requests, and consumer demands for information on our sustainability efforts.”
I spoke with Matt about the meeting and what drew Whole Foods to the event. He told me, “It was a great meeting that featured a great collection of produce industry professionals dedicated to sustainability, each in a different way. This was a great opportunity for us. Many of our suppliers were in the room and we were able to have a detailed exchange.”
The Group was established in 2011 with the purpose of providing a resource for networking and sharing current sustainability efforts among agricultural producers and processors in the Central Coast region. Industry members are welcome to attend, but on the condition that they are ready to participate in the conversations. For the MCSWG, collaboration is key.
“Sustainability forces companies to evaluate many aspects of their operation that leads to increased efficiencies and lower operating costs. On top of that, I’ve even seen it boost company morale among employees who want to be a part of a company that ‘does the right thing,’” she says.
The Group provides an opportunity for the industry to take a proactive approach on how to stay ahead of mandates and appeal to the growing segments of environmentally conscious buyers.
“By sharing and understanding different strategies, we may reduce duplicate work, find efficiencies, and potentially create larger partnerships or programs shared between companies. Guest speakers and group members with expertise are invited to lead meetings on relevant topics to promote learning and the sharing of best management practices,” Nikki tells me.
The Group holds meetings every six to eight weeks or so, depending on availability. Companies that have been involved include: Measure to Improve, LLC, Driscoll’s, Pro*Act, D’Arrigo Bros., Duda Farm Fresh Foods, Markon, Mann Packing, Ocean Mist, Church Brothers, Taylor Farms, SureHarvest, California Giant Berry Farms, Dole, Lakeside Organic Gardens, Rio Farms, NH3 Service Co., NSF Agriculture, Grower Shipper Association, Wilber-Ellis, Steinbeck Produce, Stockman’s Energy Inc., Mission Ranches, Costa Farms, Golden Ag Assistance LLC, Ramco, Steinbeck Country Produce and Growers Express.
With collaboration at its core, the Monterey County Sustainability Working Group is bringing industry leaders together to find proactive solutions for all things sustainability.