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Retailer of the Year West

New Seasons Market Strives To Improve Social, Environmental Efforts

Athena Petty

New Seasons Market, The Shelby Report of the West’s Retailer of the Year, is the nation’s first grocer to be B Corporation certified. Certified B-Corps are businesses that meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. 

New Seasons Market, like other B-Corps, undergoes a rigorous certification process to improve their social and environmental performance, according to the company’s Senior Manager of Sustainability Athena Petty. 

“B-Corps use their business efforts as a force for good. They use five different areas to assess the impact of their business, on the community, on their workers, on the planet. There is a whole framework that’s required to go through the B-Corp [certification] process,” Petty explained. 

The certification is given through a third-party nonprofit, B Lab. New Seasons Market must recertify every three years to maintain its B-Corp status. The grocer has maintained its certification for a decade, according to Petty. 

The verification process involves documentation across the entire business model. New Seasons Market’s parent company, Carson, California-based Good Food Holdings, has a Mission Advisory Council that works alongside the grocer’s executive team to direct best practices. 

According to B Lab’s website, certification requires demonstrating a high social and environmental performance by achieving a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above and passing a risk review. They must also make a legal commitment by requiring all stakeholders to play a role in the company’s governance, not just shareholders. Finally, B-Corps must exhibit transparency by allowing performance information to be available publicly on B Lab’s website.

“There are many benefits to being a B-Corp,” Petty said. “I’ve used the B-Corp framework to help  align the work that [New Seasons] Market is doing.”

Katie Schoen

New Seasons Market works to enact its “triple bottom line,” according to Director of Communications Katie Schoen. The TBL entails people, planet and profit working together. 

CEO Nancy Lebold said it aids in promoting a healthy work culture and provides strategic direction for organization and profit growth while balancing the company’s impact on the planet. 

Petty represents the company’s environmental interests. 

She said she is currently working on identifying what materials used by the company most impact the environment, alongside other projects. 

“We’re really focused on minimizing our own operational greenhouse gas impacts. There is a huge focus on refrigeration leak reduction. In terms of what our operations represent, refrigeration is a huge kind of technological area of opportunity. And there is a necessity to reduce,” she explained. 

According to data on the company’s website, there has been a 10 percent reduction in greenhouse gases associated with refrigerant leaks over the previous year. The company estimates that number to increase to 45 percent by 2026, and it will reach net-zero operational emissions by 2030.

Similarly, the company is undertaking HVAC retrofitting in its older stores, which will total “several millions of dollars,” Petty said. 

“We’re really making sure that the equipment that we’re using is far more efficient.” 

The company did achieve Energy Star certification in 22 percent of its stores in 2022. That number increased to 30 percent as of September. The goal is to achieve a 33 percent or higher efficiency rating with the new HVAC systems before the end of the year.

Waste is another focus for New Seasons Market. Food waste is one of the most common issue grocers face. It not only hurts the grocer’s bottom line, but it is also unsustainable. New Seasons Market relies on its employees and its community partnerships to lower its overall waste. 

“We’ve been working on waste reduction for a long time. We compost at all of our stores, and we have a number of really unique partnerships with reuse systems. They help our customers reduce their own waste footprint. And then we recycle as much as we possibly can … Food waste is a huge contributor to greenhouse gases globally. As a grocer, the more food we waste, the less we sell,” Petty said. 

In 2019, the company reported 4.7 percent total waste across its stores. That number has decreased. It lowered to 4.36 percent last year, just shy of the company’s goal. The company aims for only 3.93 percent of all sales this year to attribute to waste. Likewise, New Seasons Market plans to reduce its food waste 50 percent by 2030, according to its website. 

Similarly, the grocer’s landfill diversion rate reached 70 percent so far this year. It was at 64 percent in 2022, surpassing the com­pany’s goal. 

One of New Seasons Markets’ newest efforts is the return and reuse program, a recent addition, according to Lebold. Funded through a grant, the program has partnered with a woman-owned business to encourage customers to return glass jars for reuse. 

Likewise, New Seasons Markets offers in-store recycling for items that customers can’t recycle at home, such as plastic film and clamshell food containers.

Other sustainability programs include:

  • Portland Bold Reuse program – Customers can take their food in reusable to-go boxes and drop the containers back off for washing and reuse. This program is specific to stores in the Portland market.
  • Neighbor Rewards – A community donation program donates a 5 cent reusable shopping bag refund to one of three non-profit organizations.
  • Partner Brand products – Select private label packaging offers recyclable paper trays with 91 percent less plastic. The packing also extends the shelf life of its pasta products. 
  • Cans for Kids program – Donated aluminum cans and bottles support neighborhood schools. Each can equals a 10 cent donation. This program is only available in Oregon. 

The company’s Partner Brand products are unique in that the manufacturer is clearly labeled as the products are produced locally, according to Lebold.

“Our Partner Brand does not necessarily have to be the best-selling item in a section. It’s the best quality product that we can find in that category…We are not looking to be the cheapest can of beans or the cheapest pasta on the shelf. We’re looking for the best quality with the best partnership with a local vendor,” she explained. 

Petty explained how the grocer works with its vendors to create sustainable private brand products. 

“We had an opportunity to work, both upstream and downstream, within our supply chain to create a brand new circular recycling system. We worked with the packaging producer to develop a custom-sized container that was optimized for the types of contents going in. We removed a bunch of the plastic weight from them,” she explained. 

Products are also made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled content. 

“That means it was all coming from recycled feedstock…so they bring them home. They use them. Then we set up infrastructure at each of our stores where customers can bring them back to us, and we recycle them. That feedstock comes back in the containers themselves.”

The program has been a success thus far.

“It’s been about five times more successful than we expected,” Petty said. 

The grocer has collected more than 100,000 pounds of recyclable material, according to Schoen.

The Partner Brand products are also made with local producers. A portion of the products’ proceeds is redistributed through the Partner Fund. The fund provides low interest loans designed to support underserved community members, according to Schoen.

“LGBTQIA+, women-owned, folks who are in the background,” she said. 

Speaking about the partnership with Portland-based Ground Up PDX, Schoen explained how New Seasons Market was able to provide help. 

“It is a woman-led company that employs women who are either formerly incarcerated or working their way out of homelessness. They needed a new mixer, so the Partner Fund bought them a new mixer.”

Dave Kauder

Since its launch, the Partner Fund has distributed more than $250,000 to local businesses. 

Even white label products are scrutinized by the retailer before they are allowed on shelves, according to Dave Kauder, SVP, merchandising and store development. The grocer does not offer heavily plastic items such as single-serve bottled water. However, large refillable plastic jugs are available to purchase and refill. 

“We eliminated single-use water bottles for Earth Day in 2021,” Lebold said. 

Even though the decision was controversial, Lebold said many customers understood. 

“Customers at New Seasons understand what we’re doing and appreciate it. That’s why they shop with us. They know we’re committed to the planet,” she explained.

Read more from The Shelby Report’s Retailer of the Year sections.

About the author

Sommer Stockton

Web Editor

Sommer joined The Shelby Report in January 2022 after graduating from Brenau University in Gainesville, GA with a B.A. and M.A. in Communications and Media Studies. Sommer is excited to learn about the grocery industry and share her findings with The Shelby Report's readers!

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