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What are the 3 Pillars of Sustainability?

by Sara Polon

April 7, 2021

Let’s talk about sustainability. This buzzword seems to pop up on everyone’s labels – from paper companies to beef jerky producers. But, what does “sustainability” really mean? What is a sustainable brand? Let’s dive in, shall we?

People often equate sustainability with the environment. Truth be told, that’s only a third of the equation! The EPA has defined three pillars of sustainability: environmental, social, and economic. Companies need to address all three pillars to truly claim they are sustainable.

Here at Soupergirl, we are working every day to incorporate all three pillars of sustainability into our company. We understand the importance of all three, and how they must work in concert to create a better world for earth’s current and future inhabitants.

Environmental Sustainability

How can a soup company take action to take care of the environment? By putting thought and effort behind our sourcing, energy, and packaging, we can work to make the planet a healthier, better place.

1. Thoughtful Produce Sourcing

Careless farming practices can cause tremendous damage to the environment. Heavy pesticide use can damage the crops and land and cause chemical runoff into our water. Single-crop agriculture (also called monoculture) can heavily damage soil, draining it of its nutrients and natural resilience to pests. This is the just the tip of the *melting* iceberg!

At Soupergirl, we work to source from farmers that are responsible stewards of the land and practice sustainable farming. Franklin Farm and Lancaster Farm Fresh Co-op are examples of farm co-ops from which we purchase seasonal produce. Both support sustainable agriculture techniques and are certified organic.

We also work to fight food waste by sourcing from companies that identify excess, imperfect, or “ugly” produce from their member farms. According to this somewhat depressing study, up to 57% of edible produce was left in the field.

Full Harvest is one of our favorite partners when it comes to fighting food waste We love purchasing wonky looking sweet potatoes! They make delicious soup and excellent pictures for Instagram!

2. Supporting Clean Energy

Sourcing clean electricity is a great place to reduce one’s carbon footprint. Thankfully, many companies offer businesses and individuals alike a myriad options to choose alternative energy sources. Here at Soupergirl, we’ve partnered with Arcadia to source much of our energy from the sun! We love Arcadia because they are actually working on building a solid infrastructure required to switch thousands of people over to renewable energy. Together, we can create a huge demand for renewable energy, driving down its cost, and simply making it more affordable than coal!

3. Reducing Plastic

To be clear, we hate plastic – with a passion. As of today, it’s the only way we can safely package our product. It’s a tradeoff to helping to support the economic and social aspects of encouraging sustainable agriculture and our other initiatives. But that doesn’t mean we’re doing it without thinking of the ramifications. By supporting rePurpose Global to remove and recover as much nature-bound plastic waste as our packaging uses, Soupergirl is officially certified Plastic Neutral. We know it’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a start as we try to find a way around our plastic use.

Social Sustainability

Being a socially sustainable company means being an active member of your local community. Caring for your local environment – the air, the water, etc., as well as your neighbors. We take social sustainability very seriously, and work from the inside-out to be responsible stewards of our community.

1. Taking Care of Employees

Our employees are the backbone of our business, we treat all team-members justly, respectfully, and fairly. We provide all full-time employees with fully subsidized health insurance, paid time off, and sick leave.

2. Supporting Our Community

As a small business with deep ties to our local community, we are dedicated to social sustainability in our neighborhood. One of our top priorities when it comes to supporting the community is working to reduce food insecurity in our community. We do this by working with a few local organizations (DC Food Project, Yad Yehuda, Frances on the Hill) that work to feed members of our community experiencing hunger. We are particularly proud of our work with DC Food Project that has helped feed over 600 families every two weeks during the COVID-19 quarantine and pandemic.

3. Encouraging Health

Through our food offerings and messaging, we try to encourage a plant-forward, sustainable diet that is healthy for humans and the planet. If we can help spread the word about the impact of our food choices, we can help change the world.

Economic Sustainability

Money and profit are necessary for any business and community to be sustainable. However, what is crucial is to run a business that can retain profitability, while respecting all stakeholders.

1. Providing Fair Employment

Once again, we begin our commitment to economic stability at home. We provide fair wages and safe working conditions to our team members. Employees know that they can flourish and grow within the company. Team members are paid for time off, sick leave, and are provided with full insurance benefits.

2. Encouraging Local businesses

Many of the local farms we support employ people from their surrounding community. Our local purchases help our region thrive and grow. We also proudly source many ingredients from smaller, women-owned businesses. For example, our organic quinoa comes from a local company called SIMPLI Good and our tahini is from a family owned business called Soom Foods. When small businesses support each other – we grow together!

Why Sustainability Matters

The truth is, sustainability is the key to a more equitable and prosperous society. It’s the key to the future of our planet as a whole. When you see a company claiming to be sustainable, keep these pillars in mind. We’re proud of our sustainability practices and as we grow, we promise to do even more! Join us in the journey!

Want to learn more about sustainability? Check out our blog. Or, support our mission by buying soup!

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