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Supply Chain
How Amy’s Kitchen Synchronizes Sustainability Efforts and Growth

Through its dramatic growth, Amy’s continues its commitment to positive impact — scaling sustainability while managing thousands of environmental metrics; data sources; and KPIs across different vendors, geographies, utility providers, infrastructure types and regulatory frameworks.

When family-owned, organic food company Amy’s Kitchen started in 1987 as a small California business with a vegetarian pot pie, founders Andy and Rachel Berliner made a firm commitment to environmental sustainability. Still independent but much larger, Amy’s is now North America’s leading provider of vegetarian and organic prepared meals — selling more than 200 products across several grocery categories. Through this dramatic growth, Amy’s continues to adhere to its commitment to positive impact — scaling sustainability while managing thousands of environmental metrics; data sources; and KPIs across different vendors, geographies, utility providers, infrastructure types and regulatory frameworks.

How is Amy's driving sustainability in an industry that faces a range of tough challenges — including high energy and water consumption, intense production demands and equipment maintenance schedules?

As Amy’s Director of Sustainability, I’ve seen firsthand the genuine benefits of managing resources with sustainability top of mind. My team and I are deeply invested in fostering the founders’ vision of promoting environmental stewardship. That starts with good data.

Amy’s has enjoyed sustained growth in the last four decades as we grew from the limited distribution of natural food stores to establishing a nationwide presence across retail channels, all while being a key force in the growth of the organic food movement and helping guide the establishment of national organic-certification standards.

Like most businesses built on a foundation of environmental stewardship, we’ve always devoted time and resources to understanding, tracking and mitigating our impact as much as we could — long before the recent ascension of ESG into the common business lexicon. As a food company, our supply chain is paramount. However, in terms of what we have direct control over within our own four walls, we generally look at a few key metrics: energy, water, waste and their associated impacts (energy-related GHG emissions, water scarcity and quality, and resource depletion vs circularity). Growth means more manufacturing plants, more vendors, more farmers, more water and energy — more of everything — to monitor. Recently, digging into our carbon footprint and thinking ambitiously about how to reduce it has helped us build on our foundational commitment to sustainability by developing a more nuanced understanding of our impacts and a more sophisticated process for reducing them.

When Amy’s Kitchen was younger, we could manually track most of the data we needed. One person using a spreadsheet could collect available information and do simple annual comparisons of gross consumption and expenses and basic plant or unit level efficiencies. But as we all know, building useful spreadsheets is prone to errors; and there must be some understanding of material dimensions alongside financial metrics in the basic structuring of the vast amounts of information being managed — spreadsheets-based impact accounting struggles to do that effectively.

Dedicated technological platforms provide the data structure and process that empowers our team to reduce waste, energy and water use across our operations; and we rely on technology platforms such as Atrius that help us measure and analyze how we’re progressing towards our sustainability goals. Tools like this accelerate progress by elevating access to the fundamental baseline data necessary to drive tangible insights across multiple sites and hundreds of different utility and vendor accounts.

Since we’ve automated data compilation to continuously track every detail we need, the whole process has become much less labor-intensive. But by far the most powerful attribute of our impact-data automation work – more than giving hours back to the team and the creation of a reliable system of record — is the ability to rapidly identify powerful, actionable insights. Once we create basic templates tailored to our sites and projects, they’re quickly replicated across other locations — providing easy access to high-resolution data and keeping sustainability information top of mind for action across organizational functions.

Over time, this process of deep data collection increasingly provides previously inaccessible insights and sparks innovation in the form of new initiatives to address opportunities identified. Just as accounting data is too limited in its view to guide meaningful understanding of environmental impact, consumption data on its own doesn’t tell the whole story without thoughtful use of normalization factors such as production levels, weather, building occupancy and square footage. The thorough understanding we’ve developed of our operations provides the foundation for data-informed decision-making and driving proactive solutions.

Most of the businesses we coordinate with every day also want to do their part to fight climate change; but many of them are just starting their sustainability journeys and wondering where to invest. We’ve found that the overused but powerful maxim holds true: What gets measured, gets managed. The fact of the matter is, despite all the recent hype around measuring and addressing Scope 3 emissions — and the very real fact that 75-95 percent of most companies’ value chain emissions are found in Scope 3 — those impacts are outside most companies' operational control, and most Scope 3 emissions have to be modeled.

In our experience, a more impactful approach for those companies working to accelerate their sustainability journeys is to instead double down on increasing the efficiency, accuracy and actionability of the impact areas they have direct control over. Focusing on tools that provide deep data insights across your entire operations can offer fresh ideas for innovation while lowering environmental impact and costs.

We’re fortunate that Amy’s sustainability journey started with the launch — as the founders cultivated the business to reflect their own values. And though we’ve always strived to operate in a way that minimizes impact through stewardship of energy, water and material resources, it wasn’t until we invested in an enterprise environmental-impact management platform that we uncovered timely, actionable insights that allowed us to do so to our full potential.

We have continued on this mission over the years and are proud to serve as a role model to other growing companies. As climate change effects become more apparent, we believe it’s even more urgent that all companies work toward reducing the internal footprint they can control — rather than spending all their time modeling supply chain impacts that, in many cases, are better addressed through qualitative changes rather than quantitative minutiae.

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