Measure to Improve's Founder and CEO Nikki Rodoni Discusses Sustainability
- by Andrea Allen
SALINAS, CA - As an industry, how do we define sustainability? And how do we define it in such a way that garners a response strong enough or inspires companies to enact change? These are the questions that Measure to Improve’s Founder and CEO, Nikki Rodoni, strives to answer.
“One of the first things we do when we start the conversation about sustainability with our potential customers is to ask them, ‘What does sustainability mean to you?’” Nikki shares with me. “We never get the same answer twice. Sustainability means something different to everyone and some of the examples were, ‘It means more work,’ or, 'We know that it’s something we have to do but we have no idea where to start.’”
A few included some expletives; one response was along the lines of, “It’s warm and fuzzy BS.”
Luckily, these companies have a resource like Measure to Improve on their side. Part of Measure to Improve’s role and responsibility is to educate its clients and others on what sustainability truly means. Sustainability starts with a good business case that translates into environmental benefits. It’s about planning for the long term and building a company culture around thinking and acting sustainably for the overall health of the business. Even though the word can be intimidating—we hear it all the time in the produce biz!—it doesn’t have to be.
Previous definitions have come from the 1990 USDA Farm Bill and the 1992 Brundtland Commission, both of which define sustainability in less than intuitive terms. The Farm Bill defines it as something that satisfies human needs over the long term, while enhancing environmental quality, making the most efficient use of nonrenewable resources, sustaining economic viability, and enhancing the quality of life. The Brundtland Commission stated that sustainability is “that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
“More simply, sustainability has three pillars: people, planet, and profit. You must include all three to really define something as truly sustainable,” Nikki explains.
Within each of these pillars, MTI provides examples for areas that can be used to measure the sustainability of one’s business.
The key takeaway is that the sweet spot of sustainability is all about where these three pillars overlap. It isn’t just about environmental factors or profit or social accountability, it’s about where companies can find synergy between all three. Sustainability should make good business sense.
“When we define sustainability in this way, it becomes an ah-ha! moment for so many of our clients,” Nikki shares. “It really resonates and it begins to mean something when you provide real-life examples. We’ve heard responses like, ‘Well, heck, I’ve been doing this all along!’ And that’s what is key: making sustainability easy to understand by visualizing it and helping organizations understand they are already doing it. Once people realize they don’t have to start from scratch, they’re thrilled and motivated. The next and most important step on the sustainability journey is to begin to set goals, measure progress, and communicate your story both internally and externally. This in turn begins to build brand trust and help your organization discover opportunities for improvement, mitigate risks and find real ROI.
To follow the Measure to Improve journey, and how the produce supply chain is getting involved and becoming a part of the sustainability discussion, check back in with us at AndNowUKnow for the next segment.