Conference Presentations: Natural Products Expo East 2009

I recently gave three presentations at Natural Products Expo East for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association (FTSLA), along with others who are doing some great work to advance sustainable organic farming and socially responsible business practices.

The presentations are posted here (PDF), with a few notes.

1. FTSLA Workshop: Organic Systems and the ValueProposition for Long-term Sustainability

“Measuring & Communicating Sustainability Benefits”

2. Expo East Educational Session: What Certified Sustainable Means for Organic

“What Certified Sustainable Means for Organic”

3. Responsible Packaging Forum

End User Engagement: Communications and Collaborating for Shared Solutions (promoting sustainable packaging benefits, working with suppliers on improvements, getting consumers and customers to do their part and reuse, compost, recycle packaging)

Notes

FTSLA Workshop: Organic Systems and the Value Proposition for Long-term Sustainability

Other presenters included Tim LaSalle, Ph.D. (CEO, Rodale Institute) and Tom Wright (sustainablebizness.com). Cecil Wright (Organic Valley) led a facilitated discussion. You can access all presentations at the FTSLA Website. This session focused on characterizing the ways in which organic farming confers broad-based social, environmental and economic benefits, how organic systems can be a framework for responsible business, and the importance of measuring and communicating these benefits. Tim LaSalle’s presentation was especially eye-opening, informing attendees that the US could realize a 25% carbon sequestration by converting all of its farmland to organic. The Rodale Institute has done groundbreaking work through its 20-year continuing study on the broader ecological benefits of organic.

New Hope Educational Session: What Certified Sustainable Means for Organic

Molly Anderson (Winrock/Food Systems Integrity) and Earthbound Farms also participated. This session focused on how the organic standard and the organic industry may be impacted by standards/certifications seeking to characterize “sustainable” agriculture. The primary focus was on the National Sustainable Agriculture Standard going through the ANSI process, but we touched on Food Alliance’s “Certified Sustainable” label, Rainforest Alliance and others. None of these includes organic as a baseline, which is a point of contention for many in the organic community. Those who are interested in the National Sustainable Agriculture Standard, and who would like a voice in the process, can participate as observers, join working groups and apply for periodic committee openings. More information can be found here.

Responsible Packaging Forum

Other presenters included Tom Wright (sustainablebizness.com), Michael Besancon (Whole Foods Market Green Mission), Mark Rossi (Clean Production Action), Chad Smith (Earthbound Farms) and Robert Combs (Burt’s Bees). All presentations can be accessed on FTSLA’s website. This session focused on strategies for creating zero waste/cradle to cradle packaging and identifying the most responsible biologically-based packaging materials as plant-based plastics and other newfangled renewable materials increase in the marketplace. The availability of local recycling programs, end-user willingness to recycle and compost, use of GMOs materials (PLA corn plastic), ease of composting “biodegradable” packaging, amount of post-consumer content, packaging weight and reusability are just some considerations.

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