5 Sustainable B Corp Supply Chains

Published on
Sep 8, 2020
Contributed by

How Dr. Bronner’s, Seventh Generation, Patagonia, Danone North America, and Ben & Jerry’s conduct environmental management

How connected is your shipping business to the rest of the world? Whether you move product across county lines or national borders, your shipping supply chain impacts more than the end consumer. The business decisions of each link in your value chain affect the surrounding population and environment. In a time when organizations across the globe are committing to doing the right thing, consumers and businesses alike are choosing to support companies that demonstrate corporate social responsibility. Shippers that consider the greater community in their decisions know that a profit-people-planet approach is more than just part of doing business nowadays; it’s the way forward.Thousands of companies worldwide have pledged to use business as a force for good by becoming certified B Corporations. Every B Corp undergoes a rigorous assessment to measure its impact in multiple areas, including Governance, Community, and Environment. B Corps develop high standards and implement best practices with the ultimate goal of creating a better future for all stakeholders, which include:

  • Their customers
  • Their suppliers
  • Their employees
  • Their communities
  • The environment

Incorporating sustainability into business operations — especially in global supply chains — is one of the biggest challenges that companies face today. However, B Corps have years of experience solving sustainability issues and can be a great source of inspiration when attempting to go green. We researched a handful of B Corps — Dr. Bronner’s, Seventh Generation, Patagonia, Danone North America, and Ben & Jerry’s — to discover how they’re using sustainability efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, conserve natural resources, and improve environmental performance.Here are some high-level takeaways:

  • They source and manufacture responsibly. These five B Corps maintain and enforce high standards for their vendors. Knowing that they’re asking suppliers to make systematic changes, these B Corps run sustainability programs with the intent of helping partners hit key performance indicators.
  • They reduce waste and carbon emissions. Transportation (the movement of vehicles) is the No. 1 source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. B Corps are using shared truckload shipping, partnering with responsible shipping companies, and utilizing eco-friendly packaging solutions to lower the environmental risks of moving their products.
  • They identify their goals and report on their progress. Each of the B Corps below outlines their sustainability goals, establishes starting points, and publicly discloses their progress on emissions reduction projects. They’re not afraid of change, and remain open-minded to new technology that will help them carry out their aspirations.

B Corps use feedback from their stakeholders as a moral compass. When a crisis strikes, B Corps lean into their core values for decision-making. We’re seeing this with the pandemic. As COVID-19 rattles supply chains all over the globe, B Corps are looking to their values for guidance. The companies that are upholding their sustainability initiatives are achieving greater resilience in their supply chains.Let’s dive into each company’s sustainability standards and practices.

Dr. Bronner’s

Dr. Bronner’s books shared truckload with Flock Freight

Dr. Bronner’s, a San Diego, California-based soap and sanitizer manufacturer, is an excellent example of a business that has leveraged sustainable practices in uncertain times. The B Corp adheres to good practices — like fair trade and environmentalism — and publishes its most recent breakthroughs in its annual All-One! report. During coronavirus, Dr. Bronner’s has been deemed “essential” and has kept working to meet demand. The need for its products is so high that the company has grown year over year by more than 30%.With large quantities of goods to produce, Dr. Bronner’s supply chain has been working overtime. The company sources 80% of its supplies — including organic oils — from countries like Sri Lanka, Ghana, India, Samoa and Palestine. Even though imports travel extremely long distances, schlepping them around on trucks creates a larger climate impact than shipping them overseas. (Ocean transit is the most environmentally responsible way to ship freight.)Once goods make landfall, Dr. Bronner’s uses freight trucks to transport them to a factory. Outbound shipments move on trucks, too. In assessing its carbon footprint, Dr. Bronner’s understands that trucking can be a significant source of fossil fuel consumption and is committed to continuously improving its environmental impact and reducing shipping emissions as much as possible. This led the company to try FlockDirect®. FlockDirect is a greener shared truckload solution offered by fellow B Corp, Flock Freight®.With shared truckload, shipments that are traveling on a similar route move on the same truck. Freight travels directly from its pickup location to its destination — without passing through hubs or terminals. This shipping mode is ideal for shipments that measure 8-44 linear feet and up to 36,000 pounds. Shared truckload benefits include:

  • Lower CO2 emission levels.
  • Virtually zero risk of damage.
  • On-time delivery.
  • Cost savings.

Dr. Bronner’s has been using Flock Freight’s shared truckload service for inbound shipments, receiving truckload (TL)-quality service for a fraction of the price. What’s more, the shipments that Dr. Bronner’s has moved with Flock Freight’s shared truckload solution since May 2020 (the beginning of their partnership) have resulted in a 24% emissions reduction compared to if they’d moved via less-than truckload (LTL) service. With shared truckload shipping, Flock Freight is helping the soap maker achieve supply chain sustainability in an unpredictable freight landscape.

Seventh Generation explores alternative trucking solutions

Like Dr. Bronner’s, Seventh Generation has experienced heightened demand for its cleaning products during the pandemic. As a B Corp that specializes in consumer goods, Seventh Generation has made efficient, sustainable shipping a priority. In fact, the Burlington, Vermont-based company calls itself “a pioneer in corporate responsibility” and measures the environmental performance of its consumer products from manufacturing through disposal. Seventh Generation also embraces the precautionary principle, applying only planet-friendly processes and skipping any with unknown environmental effects. The company’s philosophy has helped it construct a sustainable supply chain.According to an article in Forbes, Seventh Generation’s entire supply chain “... involves internal product development, outsourcing of production to a contract manufacturer, and outsourcing of logistics to a Third Party Logistics (3PL) firm.” Seventh Generation’s shipments generally don’t fill an entire truck, so it partners with 3PL Geodis (formerly Ozburn Hessey Logistics or OHL) to optimize LTL distribution. With the help of Geodis, Seventh Generation uses a retail consolidation program to:

  • Boost efficiency.
  • Cut freight costs.
  • Make room in warehouses.
  • Improve shipping service.

In this consolidation system, Seventh Generation shipments move through a “... ‘hybrid’ network that is part traditional hub and spoke, like LTL networks, and yet also has components associated with the traditional retail consolidation model.” Eventually, the freight arrives at high-volume retailers, giving shoppers unique access to Seventh Generation products.The consumer goods company understands that trucking accounts for a large percentage of harmful emissions and is dedicated to reducing its footprint. To reinforce its commitment to sustainability, Seventh Generation is targeting 2025 as the completion date of nine goals in the areas of “Creating a sustainable environment,” “Building equitable communities,” and “Improving personal health.”“The goals align with the company’s mission to transform the world into a healthy, sustainable and equitable place for the next seven generations,” reads a press release. Here are the four targets that relate to the environment:

  • Sustainable sourcing. All materials and ingredients will be sustainable, bio-based, or recycled, and the company will replace 30% of palm kernel oil with non-land use, bio-based oils.
  • Zero waste. Seventh Generation will reuse, recycle, or degrade all materials. The company will procure only reusable, recyclable, or biodegradable materials.
  • Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The company will reduce the carbon dioxide equivalent emissions that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks in Scopes 1-3 here (inclusive of consumer use) by 50%. Seventh Generation will use a 2012 baseline for sustainability performance measurement.
  • Protect water. The company will not contaminate water during a product’s life cycle.

Seventh Generation announced these goals at the 2018 Ceres “We Are Still In” forum, in addition to others with a 2030 target date. The company shares its newest improvements in its annual Corporate Consciousness Report. Seventh Generation takes pride in partnering with organizations that share its mission to do right by the environment and isn’t afraid to adopt creative solutions — like its 2015 self-imposed carbon tax — to build a better business.

Patagonia picks suppliers based on environmental performance

Patagonia is another B Corp that’s aiming for continuous improvement in sustainability, striving to become carbon-neutral by 2025. The company includes its entire supply chain in this goal and holds itself accountable for the environmental performance of its factories. Patagonia releases its latest advancements in its Annual Benefit Corporation Report. While the company sets a high bar, it goes above and beyond to help its factories prioritize environmentalism. Patagonia sponsors training sessions about best practices and provides feedback on a regular basis to ensure supplier sustainability. According to the company’s website, it partners “with some of the most socially and environmentally responsible suppliers in the world.”Like most companies in the retail industry, Patagonia hasn’t had it easy during the COVID-19 crisis. The company halted operations in March, but reopened its online business in April to drum up sales. With stores in its distribution network closed, Patagonia began experimenting with curbside pickup at 10 of its locations in May. Though the pandemic has presented a variety of obstacles, the outdoor clothing and goods company hasn’t let its sustainability standards slip.Patagonia runs multiple corporate sustainability programs to improve its business practices, including:

  • The Social and Environmental Responsibility (SER) program. The SER team at Patagonia's headquarters in Ventura, California, meets once a week to screen prospective suppliers and decide which factories to order from. During decision-making, Patagonia uses a rigorous 4-fold approach, which analyzes sourcing, quality, social standards, and environmental benchmarks. The Fair Labor Association audits the SER program.
  • The Chemical and Environmental Impacts Program (CEIP). To minimize Patagonia’s environmental impact, its CEIP team audits manufacturers around the world to ensure compliance with the most stringent consumer product legislation. As a result, Patagonia can see which of its partners use responsible business practices. The CEIP manages the following areas:
  • Chemicals
  • Waste
  • Water use
  • Energy use
  • Greenhouse gasses
  • Other air emissions
  • The Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility Program. According to Patagonia’s website, “the purpose of [its] Supply Chain Environmental Responsibility Program is to measure and reduce environmental impacts of manufacturing ... products and materials.” Through this program, the company evaluates supply chain risk and finds suppliers with squeaky-clean processes.

To Patagonia, creating a sustainable supply chain is the right thing to do.

Danone North America supports regenerative farming

Like Seventh Generation and Patagonia, Danone North America, a sizable organic food producer and the world’s biggest B Corp, is working towards aggressive environmental goals. In a 2019 Forbes interview, Vice President of Federal and Industry Affairs at Danone North America Chris Adamo said, “About over half of our company’s [greenhouse gas emissions] are from the farm, so to meet our ambitious targets, we have to start thinking about strategies that work with our farms and a different approach to innovate within our supply chain.” Danone North America is shooting for a 30% reduction in its overall greenhouse gas footprint — including Scope 1 and Scope 3 emissions — by 2030. The company has momentum; last year, its location in Bridgeton, New Jersey, reduced waste by over 40 tons, reaching one of the company’s zero-waste goals. Danone North America includes the headway it makes in the company's annual Integrated Report. With brands like Dannon, Activia, and Silk under its umbrella, Danone North America has an enormous supply chain. Still, the Denver, Colorado-based company maintains high sustainability standards for itself and its suppliers. Danone North America expects full transparency from its partners. To “help reconnect people with the food they eat, nourish lives and build a healthier world through food,” the company must know “where, how and by whom [the] food is grown, sourced, prepared and distributed.” Danone North America reserves the right to audit all of its suppliers’ locations and use a risk-based approach to evaluate compliance.To combat global climate change, one of Danone North America’s biggest supply chain initiatives involves regenerative farming. The company has found that working with farmers directly, implementing incentive programs, and providing funding are the best ways to drive innovation on farmland. Two partnerships that support Danone North America’s regenerative farming efforts are:

  • National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. Since March 2018, the United States Department of Agriculture ’s Natural Resource Conservation Service has been contributing $3 million of state and federal funding in the form of agricultural grants to finance regenerative farming practices on 26,000 acres of farmland. Danone North America has been facilitating implementation, collecting data, and helping farmers optimize their practices for soil health. In 2019, the company expanded the program to over 50,000 acres with a focus on organic farms.
  • rePlant Capital. rePlant Capital pledged $20 million in low-interest loans to help Danone North America’s farms transform land into organic and regenerative use. With these resources, rePlant Capital is giving farmers a way to make lasting change and Danone North America the ability to engage suppliers on a deeper level.

By taking an active role in the development of farming legislation, Danone North America has been helping the 770 family farms in its network modernize their processes, even during coronavirus. Though the last few months have required adjustment, Danone North America has kept working due to the essential nature of its business.

Ben & Jerry’s uses sustainable packaging and freezers

Ben & Jerry’s is another B Corp that’s remained hard at work during the pandemic without losing sight of its sustainability goals. A page on Ben & Jerry’s website says, “We know our footprint, are working throughout our operations to reduce it, and we report on progress annually.” The South Burlington, Vermont-based ice cream company tracks and aims to shrink its environmental impact in four areas: carbon emissions, energy, waste, and water. Farming contributes heavily to Ben & Jerry’s footprint, and the company — like Danone — is committed to reducing it. Ben & Jerry’s is taking the following sustainability measures:

  • Caring Dairy™ program: Ben & Jerry’s accounts for its suppliers’ environmental impact when it assesses its own. Through the Caring Dairy™ program, the company is helping its farming partners evaluate and improve their agricultural practices. Farmers can join Caring Dairy™ to make their waste “less wasteful” and learn how to “build soil health that includes increased cover crops, alternative tilling practices, rotational crops, and grazing techniques.” While farmers must meet some high standards — including signing up for environmental monitoring — to participate, the program offers financial incentives and ultimately sets them up for future success.
  • Sustainable packaging: In recent years, Ben & Jerry’s has been taking action to use recyclable and compostable packaging that doesn’t harm the environment. That means phasing out single-use plastics, making paperboard pints without (or with less) plastic, and seeking Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification. The company has already made significant progress in each category. Ben & Jerry’s 577 Scoop Shops around the world completed the transition to paper straws and wooden spoons in April 2019; the company plans to eliminate its use of plastic cups, plastic-lined cups, and plastic lids by the end of this year; and it has been using FSC-certified paperboard since 2009. Though the United States doesn’t currently recycle coated paperboard, Ben & Jerry’s has been teaming up with packaging manufacturers to find biodegradable coatings.
  • Hydrocarbon freezers: In addition to looking at its packaging and supplier practices, Ben & Jerry’s examined another critical aspect of its supply chain: Freezers. Hydrocarbon freezers are more environmentally friendly and energy-efficient than their alternatives. Approved for commercial use by the EPA in 2011, hydrocarbon freezers “use a natural hydrocarbon refrigerant with lower global warming potential than the hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) refrigerants commonly used in US freezers...” Ben & Jerry’s has dubbed them their “Lean & Green” freezers.

Ben & Jerry’s sustainable practices help the company pump out 400 pints per minute, ship them to happy customers in 38 countries, and minimize its environmental impact.

Now, it’s your turn to innovate

Dr. Bronner’s, Seventh Generation, Patagonia, Danone North America, and Ben & Jerry’s are all proving that companies can thrive when they use business as a force for good. Though the COVID-19 crisis has dealt these B Corps a difficult hand, they haven’t wavered in their commitment to sustainable supply chain management. Through self-assessment and perseverance, they’ve adopted sustainability practices that give them a competitive edge and serve as examples for other organizations to follow.