Seven Questions with Shauna Sadowski, VP of Sustainability and Industry Relations for Annie’s

From foodtank.com by Shauna Sadowski
Seven Questions with Shauna Sadowski, VP of Sustainability and Industry Relations for Annie’s

Food Tank, in partnership with American University, is hosting the 2nd Annual Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. on April 20–21, 2016. 

This two-day event will feature more than 75 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for panels on topics including food waste, urban agriculture, family farmers, farm workers, and more. 

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with Shauna Sadowski, the Vice President of Sustainability and Industry Relations for Annie’s. Annie's is one of the sponsors of the summit.

Food Tank: What initiatives have you launched recently, or are planning to launch, that will further your company’s sustainability efforts?

Shauna Sadowski (SS): Sustainability has been core to Annie’s since our founding in 1989. We constantly strive to understand our decisions within the context of the larger food system, seeking to make decisions based on our impacts on the planet, people, and profits. We measure and manage our performance through this triple bottom line lens. While our programs address different areas of impact, this year we’re expanding our commitment in three areas: increasing our commitment to growing more organic farmland, being transparent in everything we do, and connecting kids to real food.

FT: What drives you and your company to push for sustainability?

SS: When Annie Withey co-founded Annie’s in 1989, she wanted to show by example that a successful business could also be socially responsible. The same founding principle drives our business today as we make efforts to do things differently and act as a successful mission- and values-driven business. In short, we are committed to sustainable practices because it’s the right thing to do for people and for the planet.

FT: What is the biggest food related issue facing our planet right now? How is your company working to solve that problem?

SS: Climate change is one of the biggest food-related issues we face today because agriculture not only contributes to climate change, it is also one of the most vulnerable to increasing temperatures and changes in weather patterns. Annie’s believes that resilient agriculture is necessary to mitigate the effects of climate change, which is why we invest in, support, and advocate for organic farming methods that prioritize the health of the soil and ecosystems rather than energy-intensive inputs. Furthermore, research demonstrates that organic farming practices can help sequester carbon in the soil, serving as yet another tool to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change. More research remains to be done, but we’re excited to support this work and continue to do our part to restore balance in the system.

FT: Do you have any enlightening stories to share of collaboration between your business and other businesses or organizations that have changed your business practices?

SS: Annie’s is committed to a momentous shift in the food industry. We believe in collaborating with others to drive towards a more sustainable food system. Currently, we partner with over 15 expert organizations that are dedicated to improving the lives of others and the Earth’s natural resources. Here are a few ways we’re collaborating to make a positive impact:

  • Advocating for more sustainable food policies. Annie’s is an active member of the Organic Trade Association (OTA), an organization committed to promoting and protecting the growth of organic to benefit farmers, the environment, the public, and the economy. The OTA plays an active role in advocating for organic at the policy level, and we support their efforts through Hill visits and engagement with Congress. This is a very important component of organic advocacy because of the tremendous role policy plays in our food system.
  • Expanding organic grains production. Through the Organic Grain Collaboration, we partner with like-minded companies like Organic Valley, Stonyfield, Clif Bar, and others to address supply challenges facing the organic grain industry. In collaboration with these companies, we’re taking a systemic approach to address key challenges to expanding the supply of organic grain in the United States.1 
  • Actively engaging in industry groups. Annie’s EVP and Chief Innovation and Quality Officer, Bob Kaake, serves on the board of The Organic Center, and I am on the board of the Sustainable Food Trade Association. Both groups seek to make progress towards more sustainable business models.

FT: What changes would you like to see from the U.S. government to support sustainability in the food system?

SS: There is tremendous potential for U.S. agricultural policy to contribute to a more sustainable food system. Research tells us that dietary choices play a significant role in people’s health, and access to diverse, nutrient-dense foods is a critical part of a healthy diet. It would be great to see better alignment between what the Farm Bill encourages farmers to grow vis-a-vis the foods that people should be eating for optimal health. A diverse diet is a key factor for people’s health. And, as it turns out, diversified cropping systems also play a key role in promoting environmental health on the farm. If U.S. federal policy supported greater food diversity for farming and consumption, it would go a long way in helping to create a more sustainable food system.

FT: What was a turning point in your company and why?

SS: Annie’s first organic product, Organic Shells & White Cheddar, launched in 1999 and is a testament to our commitment to organic and our position as leaders in the industry. Today, 85 percent of sales come from organic products, and we seek to drive further organic innovations by investing in organic whenever possible.

FT: What three things do you want your customers to know about your company?

SS: Annie’s believes that the most successful businesses are those that are purpose-driven and have a strong mission dedicated to positive change.

Annie’s believes real ingredients make the best, most delicious foods and those foods come from farmers who care about the land and who strive to make it better for biodiversity, water, soil, and people.

Annie’s is dedicated to transparency and ensuring that consumers know where their food comes from, how it’s grown, and the impact it has on both people and the planet.

1 Reaves, E. (n.d.). Organic Grain Shortages: Organic Companies Work Together to Address Supply Challenges in Organic Grain. CERTIFIED Organic, (Fall 2015), 22-24.

To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the livestream HERE.

To join us at Food Tank's São Paulo, Brazil Summit in September 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Sacramento, CA Summit on September 22–23, 2016, please click HERE. To join us at Food Tank's Chicago, IL Summit on November 16–17, 2016, please click HERE

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from last year's Food Tank Summit? Please click HERE

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Washington, D.C. include: Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Chaia DC, Chipotle, Clif Bar, D.C. Government, Driscoll's, Edible DC, Elevation Burger, Fair Trade USA, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Global Environmental Politics Program of the School of International Service, Greener Media, Inter Press Service, Leafware, Niman Ranch, Organic Valley, Panera Bread, and VegFund. 

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