Nikki Rodoni founded Measure to Improve (MTI) in 2014, with the goal of becoming a full-service sustainability consulting company committed to helping growers/shippers and processors collect, validate, and communicate their sustainability initiatives and credibly respond to environmentally and socially conscious consumers inquiring about where, what and how their food is produced.
MTI has worked with their clients on a variety of sustainability programs, including water management, energy and waste reduction programs, and responding to buyer surveys.
OPN Connect: What did you see in the produce industry that led you to create Measure to Improve?
NR: Being in an industry that I was born and raised, it’s hard not to be passionate. Coupled with the experience I had as the director of sustainability for a vertically integrated farming/processing operation, I saw the value sustainability could bring to an organization and wanted to share that with other produce companies.
Some of the benefits of a sustainability program supported with data include building brand trust, saving money, saving resources, and increasing company moral. Employees like to work for a company that makes the effort to do the right thing. When the story is shared internally it creates champions within the organization — they are proud to be part of the positive impact.
During the five-plus years as a director of sustainability I would receive calls from other produce companies asking how to start a sustainability program and I was happy to help lend advice because that is how I got my start.
When I began this sustainability journey in the produce industry, there were not a lot of examples of companies that had comprehensive programs. I had to look outside the industry to find examples of how and what companies were doing, even how it was being defined.
Cheri Chastain, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company
One of my first calls was to Sierra Nevada Brewing Company’s Sustainability Manager, Cheri Chastain — a great example of a sustainable company telling their story.
After speaking with Cheri, I had the courage to set and accomplish ambitious goals like achieving zero waste, collecting and reporting GHG emissions and formalizing a sustainability department for the company I was working for.
OPN Connect: Your core service includes “Planting the Seed”, which provides clients with a baseline overview of their current sustainability efforts. Describe how this works.
NR: We created a sustainability index, Planting the Seed™, in an effort to support our agricultural clients with the development of their sustainability program. This tool can be used as a first step in evaluating and organizing your company’s baseline efforts if you don’t know where to begin your sustainability program.
Sustainability can be a complex and dynamic concept, difficult to both communicate and quantify. Performance indicators simplify the task by measuring and validating both current and future progress towards a more sustainable operation. MTI has identified the top twelve Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that cover the most critical aspects of a sustainable agricultural operation.
OPN Connect: What are some of the success stories you can talk about?
NR: Some of our most recent successes include:
- In 2018 we successfully guided 3 facilities to become Zero Waste Certified
- Ippolito International and Taylor Farms became the first in Monterey County to achieve this certification
- We are currently working on 3 other Zero Waste certification programs with Industry Associations:
- This year we had the privilege to work with an international industry association to help them define what sustainability means and identify areas of opportunity to help their members take a proactive approach in this area.
- On-Farm Pilot Project: Working on a long-term pilot project with a goal of creating “how to guide” for future growers to use.
OPN Connect: Earlier this year you partnered with Ten Greener Fields and PRO*ACT to reduce waste to landfills. What are some of the accomplishments of this partnership?
NR: The long-term goal of the Waste Reduction Pledge program is to achieve zero waste across the supply chain.
GFT is moving beyond surveys to guide and support their members in reducing waste to landfill and associated costs. In 2018 together, we were able to build the foundation of the program by building a baseline for their participants, helped establish a Supply Chain advisory board, developed a four-tiered Waste Reduction Pledge Program, provided step by step guidance to the 10 National Farm Partners through webinars and how-to guides.
Additionally, we are working collaboratively supply chain wide, to tackle some of the most challenging waste problems starting off with Wax Boxes and helping find cost effective and viable alternatives.
OPN Connect: Why is it important for a produce to communicate their sustainability efforts?
NR: There are many benefits to telling your story both internally and externally once you have the data to back up your marketing claims
Sustainability is a long-term investment that will take time and must start with a good business case that will translate into environmental and social benefits. We must work collaboratively to find solutions and fast track our efforts along the way. Sustainability is here to stay, and it is important to stay ahead of it rather than wait for it to be dictated in a way that doesn’t make sense