Emory Knoll Farms strives to be a sustainable business in every way. In fact, when Ed and John founded the business, they made sustainability a part of the original business plan, and it has been a crucial component ever since.
Sustainability can mean different things depending on your viewpoint. Some practices that are environmentally sustainable may, in the end, turn out to be at odds with social justice and other measures of sustainability. To us, being sustainable means maximizing the benefit for people and the planet while maintaining a positive balance on the bottom line. Generally speaking, we’ve set up our sustainable practices based on the framework and principles of the Natural Step. Essentially, this means minimizing the inputs to our system (meaning our company, in this case), and growing the business in a way that does not compromise the resources that actually make up our company: the land, people, finances, and the materials we use.
Another way to look at sustainability is to think of the concept of the ‘Triple Bottom Line’. Rather than focus strictly on financial performance, we look at three different
bottom lines: Environmental, Social, and Financial. Each has it’s own measures, management practices, and values. It’s not only important to try to maximize performance in all three areas, but we must also maintain a balance. We cannot be environmentally responsible to the degree that our business is not longer viable and we put people out of work. All three areas must work together to maximize the sum of the parts, and they must be in balance in order to do that.
To break down the concept of sustainability into parts that are manageable by us, we start by focusing on our behaviors and the ways we interact with the world.
Reduce the consumption of materials and energy we consume. Conservation is the best way to be sustainable from a materials and energy perspective. If we use less to begin with, the problems that arise further down the chain are minimized. To learn about what steps we take to reduce our consumption, click here.
Reuse materials as much as possible. Often, most used “throwaway” items can be re-purposed. But it’s even more important to consider the possibility of reuse when acquiring new items. In the simplest example, one mechanical pencil (made of recycled materials, of course!) may cost more and have more embodied energy than a wooden pencil, but it may ultimately replace hundreds of wooden pencils. We try hard to think about the consequences of our decisions in all our purchasing. Click here to see what we do to reuse materials.
Recycle materials whenever we can. There are situations when – for whatever reasons – we can’t reduce consumption or reuse materials. Recycling is important, but we try to minimize the amount we recycle by always trying to reduce or reuse first. When people start to recycle, they are often amazed by the volume their ‘trash’ decreases. But when people make efforts to consume less, the volume of both trash and recycling decreases even more. Learn what we recycle here.
Energy is one thing we tend to consume a lot of, It’s kind of invisible, or at least, it’s hidden away in tanks and batteries. But energy has significant financial and environmental cost. Whatever your feelings on concepts like global warming, all business people can agree that lowering energy costs helps out on the bottom line. And the best way to lower costs is to reduce energy consumption. We do that, and we have a few novel approaches to energy that you can read here.
To call ourselves a sustainable company, we must consider the ways in which we interact with our community and all the people we meet and interact with in the conduct of our business: our employees, our vendors, our customers, and all the members of our professional and local communities. We owe a debt of responsibility to contribute to the prosperity of those around us. Failing to do that, we may win in the short term, but eventually we’d be living in economic wasteland.
And we realize that a key component of our company is the people who work here. We feel it’s important to cultivate the skills and capabilities of all our employees so that we can all be happy and prosperous. There is a common theme found in many business case studies and texts on how to build a long-lasting, successful enterprise: in situations where people feel like they are invested in the business and have a personal stake in it’s success, the company as a whole does better and is more prosperous.
Sustainability isn’t just about materials and physical things. We want our business to thrive, even when economic conditions work against us. So we think about financial sustainability, too. At the very beginning of creating this company, we wanted our business to be sound, yet frugal – austere, even. We’ve taken many steps to ensure we’ve built a lasting business.