The more we learn about nutrition, the more we recognize the importance of fresh, whole foods. At the same time, we are recognizing the effects of climate change and the ways that our food systems contribute to carbon emissions. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), agricultural emissions have doubled in the past fifty years, and they’re still on the rise, set to increase by another 30 percent by the year 2050.
It’s not all bad news, though. There are a handful of companies committed to leading the charge when it comes to the changing needs of our food system, and Sprouts Farmers Market is at the head of the pack.
From its inception, Sprouts has been committed to making fresh foods affordable. Way back in 1943, Henry Boney opened a single fruit stand in San Diego, launching Sprouts legacy and commitment to offering fresh, natural foods for people who wanted to eat well and spend less.
Members of the Boney family carried on Henry’s legacy, working as longtime San Diego grocers and finally opening the first Sprouts Farmers Market store in 2002. The company was able to grow rapidly through acquisitions, and today, Sprouts Farmers Market is one of the nation’s fastest-growing retailers, employing 27,000 people in 15 states.
Sprouts understands that a well-balanced diet should be rich in fresh produce and that customers shouldn’t have to break the bank in order to maintain healthy eating habits, which is why they aim to give their customers a neighborhood experience in each of their stores.
In addition to delivering high-quality foods at low prices, Sprouts is committed to what they call, “Responsible Retailing,” which is broken down into four core tenants: Responsible Sourcing, Responsible Operations, Responsible Neighbor, and Responsible Building.
Start at the source
In their commitment to responsible retailing, Sprouts’ first step is to make sure that their products are sourced responsibly. What does “Responsible Sourcing” mean?
Sprouts is dedicated to sustainability, ethical purchasing, and transparency, so they require that their suppliers comply with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP). These guidelines are set by the USDA and require suppliers to limit their use of water, prioritize employee hygiene and safety, and comply with auditing programs.
Animal welfare is another tentpole of Sprouts Responsible Sourcing practices. They’ve long been at the forefront of the move to cage-free eggs. In 2015, 65 percent of the Sprouts brand eggs sold were cage-free, and Sprouts is working with suppliers to transition to 100 percent cage-free eggs by 2022.
Sprouts is working to eliminate the need for dehorning cattle by encouraging farmers to develop humane breeding practices that yield naturally hornless cows. Throughout their dairy supply chain, Sprouts advocates for the humane treatment of animals. For this same reason, they don’t purchase or sell any genetically modified salmon.
Operate with integrity
Sprouts understands how important it is for a business to be mindful of their environmental impact and to be a force for good for the health and safety of the community. There are two major components to their Responsible Operations: their Food Rescue program and their Food Waste to Farmers program.
The U.S. leads the world in food waste, throwing away as much as half the food that’s produced. Grocery stores contribute to this waste with food that is no longer fit for sale. Instead of letting that food rot in a landfill, Sprouts Food Rescue program works to donate the foods that are no longer fit for the shelves but are still good to eat. They work with local agencies to distribute the goods to people in need within the community.
The food that’s not good for humans to eat? Sprouts makes sure it’s either composted or sent to cattle through their Food Waste to Farmers program. By sending the produce to cattle, it gives the cattle a nutrient-rich diet and it helps to reduce carbon emissions.
Doing the right thing for the community
Sprouts believes in more than just their profits. For Sprouts, supporting local community groups is part of being a Responsible Neighbor and has been since their first store opened in 2002. The Sprouts Healthy Communities Foundation, founded in 2015, works to directly impact the neighborhoods surrounding the stores so that they can improve the lives of their customers, employees, and the communities.
Sprouts works with local food banks, service groups, and supports wellness-based initiatives. They have also partnered with larger organizations, including Autism Speaks, Connors Cause for Children, and REAL School Gardens. Sprouts ultimate goal with their involvement in these programs is to make the world a better place.
Building with a conscience
Sprouts Responsible Building shows that building retail stores can be done ethically. They are committed to using energy efficient equipment whether they’re doing a new build or updating older construction.
All of Sprouts new locations are built to LEED Silver specifications. LEED, which stands for Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design, is a certification program run by the U.S. Government to promote greener building practices.
Sprouts doesn’t just stop there. They are always looking for different ways to improve their buildings to make them more efficient to conserve both energy and water consumption. They’ve installed skylights to reduce lighting needs and installed low-flow water systems to tackle these issues, and they’re starting to focus on solar panels and battery power— because Sprouts is committed to putting their money where their mouth is.
Sprouts is always looking towards the future with an eye for responsibly-minded innovation. Given their commitment towards ethical food retailing, it’s easy to celebrate that Sprouts Farmers Market is one of the fastest-growing companies in the U.S.
Sprouts is a holding in our Healthy Living portfolio.