Kind today announced the company will commit to source by 2025 its almonds exclusively from bee-friendly farms that set aside land for wildflowers and do away with two bee-killing pesticides. The snack company will also fund a program at the University of California, Davis to monitor progress.
By encouraging growth of healthy bee habitats, Kind hopes to combat a decline in the pollinator population. Since Kind uses one to two percent of the world's almonds, the project will have significant impact and, according to an Environmental Defense Fund spokesman, can bring "long-term environmental benefits for soil health, water retention and regional biodiversity." Founder Daniel Lubetzky says his company is placing a real emphasis on environmental sustainability: "It's the logical next step."
It is hard to underestimate the importance of bees. One study published last month noted that: "Most of the world's crops depend on pollinators, so declines in both managed and wild bees raise concerns about food security." The study looked into seven crops in 131 locations across the US, estimating "the nationwide annual production value of wild pollinators to the seven crops we studied at over $1.5 billion." The study said a decline in pollinators "could translate directly into decreased yields or production for most of the crops studied."
Last year Kind competitor Clif Bar attracted media attention by publishing an ad in the New York Times where it challenged Kind to source organic ingredients. Lubetzky says he respects Clif's societal commitments and that the competitor is doing good things, but he continues to counter that Clif's use of sugar as a leading ingredient is a dissonance for a nutrition bar brand.
Today's announcement is the result of more than two years of stakeholder engagement with scientists and Kind's own supply chain to refine an environmental sustainability plan where the company can have real impact. "If bees end up collapsing we have a very very serious problem," says Lubetzky. "The hope is that three to five years from now these steps become standard practice."
After growing his snack company from the ground up, Lubetzky last year stepped down as CEO to become Executive Chairman. He gives his team the credit for developing the new sustainability plan, which also includes aspiring to reach 100% recyclability, compostability, or reusability across all its plastic packaging by 2025, and an investment in renewable energy.
During a Zoom interview Lubetzky continuously makes reference to his four children (who want his attention during our call), saying it's his responsibility to leave them a better world. That means a world with biodiversity, pollinators, good water management, and a steady food supply. Promoting a healthy ecosystem for almonds also means ensuring that Kind will be able to continue sourcing its key ingredient well into the future. "This is about enlightened self-interest," says Lubetzky.
He notes that in today's world the private sector "permeates our lives more than government... and with that power comes responsibility." While not every problem can be solved through market solutions, "when you're able to come up with business models to tackle challenges that exist, they can scale faster - I don't have to go around with a hat asking people for donations. So market forces are really powerful and you want to try to deploy them and channel those strengths to try to do the maximum that you can do in society," he adds.
Above all though, his advice to other business leaders is to be authentic. "I think that in the future it will become more of an expectation that corporate actors behave responsibly and holistically in a more long-term oriented way," he says. "But I'd rather a company that is transparent and authentic and just says 'I'm providing good jobs, I'm providing this type of products,' than a company that tries to jump on the bandwagon and is not authentic. If it's not authentic, if it's not real, it's not going to help."