California Giant Berry Farms, Watsonville, Calif., partnered with Measure to Improve (MTI), Salinas, Calif., to introduce a new sustainability initiative.

The consulting group is guiding California Giant’s sustainability initiative to increase efficiencies, increase profitability, reduce costs and engage employees, as they take a proactive approach throughout the project in three key areas—people, planet and profit.

The company’s initiatives include an on-farm sustainability program with Rich Uto, a San Francisco-based strawberry grower, to develop a how-to guide for their entire farming community, an energy efficiency project at their cooling facilities and a zero-waste program at the headquarters.

"This is a path we see the industry as a whole is taking, and it's one we are proud to be involved in," says Nick Chappell, director of retail sales for California Giant Berry Farms. "When we heard from some of our key customers that increased on-farm sustainability and social accountability was something they wanted to see more of from their top berry suppliers, we listened and got to work. But, not only that, we were eager to pave our own unique sustainability path with MTI.”

The process of ensuring on-farm, in-office and cooler facility sustainability initiatives requires involvement and participation from every California Giant employee. With that, the company hired Eric Valenzuela as food safety manager and founder of the company’s internal “Green Team.” 

“It’s not necessarily about ‘being green;’ it’s about being smart,” says Valenzuela. “It’s about ensuring our employees are happy, ensuring we’re producing the best berries as efficiently as we can and protecting our planet and future generations. We have started this sustainability journey, and it’s up to us to follow through and pave the way for others in the industry. We want to be better at being sustainable, not just in one category, but every category.” 

California Giant’s “Green Team” consists of various employees from diverse departments. Each member is responsible for representing the company’s sustainability efforts by meeting monthly to discuss progress, data and findings and improvement for the future. Their duties in-office are to serve as advocates to educate and encourage employees on recycling, their zero-waste program and the MTI story.

“Giving back to our community is part of the California Giant mission; it’s what we do on a year-round basis through various philanthropic endeavors,” says Valenzuela. “This is just another way we plan to give back to our communities. We strive to deliver quality berries, food-safe berries and sustainable berries by using less water, energy and resources, while producing the same flavor and freshness our customers can count on.”

California Giant Berry Farms plans to be fully sustainable by the end of 2019.