These days, the word “green” is attached to just about every agribusiness out there, from small, organic farmers to gargantuan meat farms with a single environmental initiative.
But in and amongst the chorus of agriculture producers claiming to be green-minded, there are a number that have really taken the mentality to heart. These agribusinesses know that being green isn’t simply a matter of launching a marketing campaign; rather, it means digging deep and reinventing farming and business practices to not only mitigate any current environmentally destructive habits within their work flow or supply chain, but to also contribute positively to society as a whole. This requires taking a holistic approach that considers both the environment and the well-being of the people who make that business run, which has recently been dubbed “anthro-green.”
But just what does that mean on the ground and what can an anthro-green approach do? Let’s look at the farm-direct flower company, Flower Muse, as a case study, and a few other cutting edge companies to see how they operate.
When agribusinesses are thinking about reinventing operation methods to fit an anthro-green model, collaboration right down the line is key, whether it’s with employees, suppliers, growers or distributors. The idea here is not for, say, a corporate headquarters, to issue a rigid, top down adjustment to production practices, but for change to come from within the a business’ wider community, with the corporation leading the way.
In some cases, like with the UK grocery chain, Sainsbury’s, collaboration means setting benchmarks and standards, and organizing educational workshops where farmers can exchange ideas.
In the case of Flower Muse, collaboration means keeping the supply chain as simple as possible — a feat best achieved by developing deep working relationships with family farmers who have the time, energy and resources to cut and ship flowers based on orders, rather than shipping en masse and storing extra flowers in warehouses with high energy costs.
“Tight employee-relationships also lead to greater adoption of sustainable farming practices, like developing organic fertilizers and pest control, using purified water and meeting environmental standards that surpass US and EU expectations,” says Vance of Flower Muse. In anthro-green businesses, relationship building is a matter of both social and environmental sustainability.
Looking After Employees
Sure, we all know that looking after employees is just the right thing to do. But it’s extra-important when it comes to getting teams on board with green initiatives, which may require extra work and thought. The happier employees are, the more engaged they are with an agribusiness’ environmental and social mission, the more likely they are to participate and offer their own innovative solutions.
At Flower Muse, this means providing services like free on-site daycare and schools for children of employees, healthcare facilities, free subsidized meals, and higher and continuing education scholarships for workers and their families. The idea here is that when the company views their employees as full people with needs, hopes, and dreams, they can better create an informed community in which employees can contribute and be heard.
Engaging the Community
Lastly, to truly create a holistic anthro-green model, agribusinesses must foster active brand investment rather than passive consumerism.
This helps the consumer develop a much more complete picture of what sustainable farming practices actually are and why they matter, while also developing a deeper relationship with and appreciation for their food.
Another example is Ben & Jerry’s, which is also famous for engaging consumers with their green practices, whether it’s a directly green initiative like their Climate Change College or using fair trade ingredients. While these initiatives are diverse, taken together they pass an environmental and social mission on to the consumer, creating greater engagement while achieving their deeper goals.
In the end, the term “green agriculture” should really be taken to mean dual consideration of a company’s environmental and social impact. Green initiatives can’t happen without the people that spur them forward, nor can the environment be helped without considering the human factor. Going green, in the end, really means going anthro-green, and taking a look at the whole picture.
Luke Clum is a Seattle based graphic designer, developer and outdoorsman. While he loves writing and creating unique designs, he’s most content hiking or alpine climbing in the North Cascades. You can follow him on Twitter @lukeclum