King Arthur believes it can fully revamp its supply chain over the next eight years, but it knows the arduous task of doing so will require collaboration, both with farmers and other industry leaders.
The flour company released a set of sustainability goals it aims to hit by 2030 last month, which it believes will lessen the overall carbon footprint of its wheat operations. Specifically, King Arthur is targeting the emissions generated in its supply chain — 100% of the flour in its bags will be milled from regeneratively grown wheat, and its facilities will use 100% renewable electricity.
Other goals include achieving 100% circular packaging by using fibers produced without deforestation and containing a minimum of 50% post-consumer recycled content, as well as achieving zero waste to landfills from its facilities by 2030 through recycling and composting, King Arthur said on its website.
To help meet these targets, the flour company is building on its relationship with farmers and assisting them in implementation of climate-friendly practices. Farmers already used several regenerative farming practices, such as cover crops, according to Suzanne McDowell, King Arthur’s vice president of corporate social responsibility and sustainability.
“We’re not going in and saying ‘Here’s what you have to do,’” McDowell said. “Our approach has been to lean into the farmers and to learn from them what’s going to elevate them and make their farming practices easier.”
The regenerative practices will vary by region as different growing areas may require different strategies, said Brad Heald, King Arthur’s director of mill relations. More concrete details for the program will come in time and may also include phasing out herbicides and pesticides to promote biodiversity.
Regenerative agriculture is defined differently by companies, but some opt to have its ingredients certified as regenerative by a third-party body, like tea brand Tazo. King Arthur has not pursued certification thus far, but it defined regenerative farming as practices that improve soil health, increase biodiversity, sequester carbon and increase the nutrient density of its crops.
King Arthur said its approach to farming extends beyond its own operations, as it aims to make the whole grains sector more climate-smart. The company enrolled in a 20,000+ acre pilot program in Kansas with partner Ardent Mills.
Earlier this year, the flour brand also began partaking in a program at North Dakota State University to discuss soil, water, and crop-growing practices within a network of wheat growers and companies, Heald said. The program helps companies in the space learn from one another about the farming practices and how best to implement them.
“There are competitors of ours in the North Dakota program with us,” McDowell said. “We have an obligation to step into this work, so we’re pleased to have our competition working alongside us and looking to make improvements for the farmers on the farm.”
Some of the companies also involved in the program include General Mills, Anheuser Busch, Unilever and PepsiCo, Heald said. When growers talk to companies, he said they are very interested in where their grains go and want to develop a connection with the CPGs.
“Even though each individual company has a focus on different regenerative agriculture practices, we’re seeing that those things can align and we can work with those companies to be a voice,” Heald said.
Lessening the environmental impact of the grains sector will take a collective effort of all companies, according to King Arthur. McDowell said the company sees hitting its 2030 sustainability goals as part of a larger picture to improve the lives of its farmers while making less of a negative impact on the planet. Part of setting a time-based goal, according to McDowell, is allowing the company to learn how to best implement its regenerative agriculture goals and adapting its strategies as it gathers more information.
“So much of our work is through our partners: our mill partners, our sourcing partners to our farming partners.” McDowell said. “They are the best stewards of their land, and it’s been an honor to work with them.”