Consumers frequently encounter lists to help them live more eco-friendly and sustainable lives, but businesses often struggle to implement the same tips. It is easier for customers to change their shopping or eating habits than for businesses to overhaul all their practices. However, in a recent interview, the co-founder of PRANA snacks Marie-Josée Richer shared how her company made sustainability changes and what others can learn from the process.
1. Do a Life Cycle Analysis
A Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) evaluates the environmental impact of an item during its entire existence, including its creation from raw materials to its disposal. Richer explained that PRANA did an LCA before making any changes to its snack business.
“We worked with an external Life Cycle Analysis agency during the data collection process, as it ensured credibility. Reflecting on our values, it was critical to align with a like-minded agency partner. So, we selected a fellow B-Corp company based in Montreal, which allowed for easy communication. We defined an aggressive project scope with our LCA partner, which provided clear guidance on how we wished to conduct the assessment and confirmed how we could best maximize analysis,” Richer said.
2. Collect Data From All Sources
Richer explained that during data collection, some of the information came from internal sources, such as the company’s electrical use, water consumption and employee transportation. A small amount of the data was available through research. For example, the average amount of water required to grow a certain ingredient was already in a published database.
“Overwhelmingly, we found that a large amount of data was very complex and not easy to find. This required a clear partnership between each department and our suppliers. All of this data, once gathered, was built into a custom matrix that was made specifically for our project by our LCA partner,” Richer said.
3. Make Your Own Databases
During the LCA, PRANA tried to access data on its organic ingredients and realized there was little information available. This forced the company to create its own database and track details that were relevant for its goals of environmental sustainability.
“We had no choice but to challenge ourselves to create our own database by gathering all of the information directly from our suppliers. We are calling the database the ‘Better Food Model,’ which will focus on each ingredient’s water footprint (its water consumption for agriculture purposes) and the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission footprint, caused by transportation to PRANA and, for our fruits, the energy used to dry the ingredients,” Richer said.
PRANA continues to collect environmental data on its top twenty ingredients, so it can analyze what initiatives still need to be developed and will have the most impact.
4. Implement Changes in Phases
PRANA made the decision to changes its source for almonds by partnering with Spanish suppliers and saved 715 Olympic pools of water in one year. The company is considering other changes, but it is implementing them in phases and paying attention to the information it collects in the Better Food Model database.
“In light of our findings during the LCA, we knew there was a critical next phase of action for our team. Soon, we hope to be able to utilize our database to guide us in our supplier selection and even help them develop the tools necessary to do better. By creating a database of this nature, we will be able to access the footprint of new products early in the innovation process, which will largely guide the development and production processes,” Richer said.
The Better Food Model database will be instrumental in helping PRANA examine the impact of its existing products and spotlight how it can reduce the company’s footprint. Sustainable packaging is on the priority list, so PRANA has assembled a team and is working with technology firms to develop creative solutions.
5. Think Long-Term
Food sustainability practices require a long-term approach. PRANA is thinking ahead by considering how it can work with suppliers and farmers to help them grow food with a lower environmental impact.
“We would love to work with our farmers to implement projects that will improve the sustainability of their agricultural practices, such as helping them to reduce waste or to utilize sustainable energy. But first, in order to ensure the program’s success, we need to better understand their reality and needs. So, that’s why identifying our long-term partnerships has been a priority for us this year,” Richer said.
PRANA is also working to improve the traceability of its products. The company recognizes that consumers want to know where their food is coming from and how it is produced. Part of a successful change to better sustainability is being transparent and sharing progress with consumers. As PRANA continues to make changes, it is keeping all of this in mind.