By Carol Radice
As a Midwest grocery company, being a partner in the community is important to the leadership team at Fareway. From supporting volunteerism to environmental stewardship, the grocer is heavily devoted to the neighborhoods in which it operates.
Some companies simply donate money to community causes, but at Fareway giving back and community outreach are part of the corporate culture.
The Lead with Love philanthropic platform, for example, embodies Fareway’s commitment to community. The company is entrenched in supporting organizations involved with addressing diversity and inclusion; food security; health and research; service members and first responders; and youth organizations, to name a few.
“It is important to us as a company that we take care of the communities that we work and live in,” said CEO Reynolds Cramer.
Garrett Piklapp, president of Fareway, expanded on this sentiment by explaining that investing in communities is a part of the company’s DNA.
“Our Fareway Family is full of exceptional people who believe in the importance of community outreach,” he said. “As an organization we stand behind and encourage these individuals to give back in their local communities to groups that make a meaningful difference.”
Community involvement also extends to partnering with local farmers to provide meat and produce sold at Fareway stores.
“Our footprint spreads throughout the heartland of America,” Piklapp said. “Many local farmers are our neighbors, customers and business partners. Supporting them and their efforts is very important to us.”
Beyond helping communities, it is important to the leadership team at Fareway that the company is also a good steward of the environment. From its massive recycling program to heat reclamation efforts, the company has never been one to just sit back. It actively promotes sustainable business practices wherever possible.
Among Fareway’s more recent efforts is installing car charging stations at key store locations. And in early 2024, the company will be opening its first store featuring solar panels in Norwalk, Iowa. The anticipation is that the panels will help generate enough electricity to offset the store’s utility costs.
Fareway also broke ground in June on a 1-megawatt solar field in the Boone Industrial Park, adjacent to its distribution center. Spanning six acres, the field will include about 2,000 solar panels.
Under an agreement with Alliant Energy, Fareway will receive lease payments for the next two decades, as well as renewable energy credits. The solar field is expected to be operational by year-end.
According to Fareway officials, once up and running the solar field will generate enough electricity to power more than 150 homes.
But to think Fareway is a relative newcomer to being green would be a mistake. Before it was hip to do so, the company was quietly working behind the scenes to be a good steward of the environment.
In fact, as far back as 1955, it was focusing on reducing its carbon footprint. The company began heating its stores by reclaiming heat generated by refrigeration compressors. By finding ways to conserve, the company uses less fossil fuel. And keeping heating costs down can help hold food prices in check.
This got the company thinking about other ways to save money through recycling. In doing so, Fareway discovered new uses for materials such as wood pallets, batteries, waste oil, tires, aluminum, scrap iron, plastic grocery bags and others.
Taking it a step further, Fareway has partnered with a company that takes the recycled material from plastic grocery bags and turns it into park furniture.
Each year the company recycles:
- 850,000 pallets;
- 12,500 tons of cardboard;
- 400 tons of plastic shrink wrap;
- 5,000 gallons of waste oil; and
- 4.5 million plastic grocery bags.
To minimize its carbon footprint and drive efficiency, Fareway also works with various manufacturers and shipping companies to coordinate backhauls. When possible, the grocer schedules it so that delivery trucks do not have to return home empty.
“Being a good steward of our resources has been important to our company since our inception,” Piklapp said. “We want to be smart about how we run our operation and the impact we make on the environment. Being ecologically conscious has always been important to Fareway.”
Cramer pointed out sustainability will always be at the forefront of how the company operates.
“Whether it is 1955 or 2024, we will never shy away from taking a closer look at what we are doing and how we are operating as a company to see if things can be done more efficiently,” Cramer said. “Times are tough. And anything we can do that keeps the cost of doing business down and helps the environment, we are behind that.”
Read more from The Shelby Report’s Retailer of the Year section.