Sustainability Strategy: Think Ahead, Remember the Money
Casey Ballin with a whole bunch of kale at B.Good's farm.
B.Good puts a lot of effort into being, well, good. With a long list of sourcing, animal welfare and local farming initiatives, the company is ahead of many peers when it comes to the practices environmentally minded operators and customers want to see.
The 78-location QSR brand based in Boston has a in-system farm, a complex and scaling local sourcing network, and an aggressive animal welfare policy that has already moved to 100 percent cage-free eggs, and more than 80 percent sustainable and Certified Humane chicken, pork, beef and turkey. Certainly these programs are easier to do in a smaller system with a majority of company-owned locations, but that’s kind of the point: to get ahead of the growth with these systems in place.
“When you look at the people who are making purchasing decisions, millennials and Gen Z really coming into their working years, those generations expect more out of brands,” said CEO Chris Fuqua.
Casey Ballin, the farm director at B.Good’s Hannah Farm, takes on a lot of that mission, and is amplifying the communication around the company’s sustainable practices.
“Consumers are demanding transparency now more than ever before—and they’ve come to expect that from brands. We’re fortunate that both transparency and sustainability have been ingrained within us since the start,” said Ballin. “However, we have certainly started talking about it more now that a growing number of consumers are seeking this information.”
Between actual farming, helping people experience the farm and learn about sustainability, he’s testing all sorts of programs with an eye toward making the company even more sustainable. But he’s doing it with a farmer’s grit and an eye on the bottom line during sustainability tests.
“Learning and optimizing is a big piece of how any project gets off the ground at B.Good, and sustainability projects are no exception. We’ll run trials in-store in order to prove out that the software or hardware we’re testing will in fact save us money to prove that there’s not only environment benefit, but also business benefit,” said Ballin.
He said packaging is one great example, as the sustainable packaging process the company follows also saves money. And he’s especially proud of the waste reduction projects.
“Our stores have very limited food waste, which is something that we’re proud of. It’s part of how our concept and menu were designed. Almost everything is cooked to order—proteins are put on the grill when ordered, salads are prepped when ordered, and salsas and slaws are made fresh in store,” said Ballin. “And earlier this year, we rolled out a major menu optimization project. A key objective was finding ways to cross-utilize products, which certainly helps reduce waste. As an example, if tomato ends are too small for our burgers and sandwiches, they can be chopped and used in our salsa.”
He said other companies out there looking to enhance their sustainability should look at the big picture, and get good practices in place early, before it’s harder and more expensive to change the habits.
“It’s important to think about sustainability holistically, what’s right for the people, business and the environment. All business conversations should be thought about in this way to ensure that the decisions we’re making today are still the right ones 10 years from now,” said Ballin.
And to get the bean counters, the investors and the CFO on board, he says the one taking on this kind of work has to look at the financial bottom line as well for costly updates.
“The easiest way to sell in a sustainability project is by identifying initiatives that will either help the business financially or improve the customer or team member experience, which ultimately impacts the bottom line,” said Ballin. “Once you can prove out the value of sustainability initiatives, it becomes easier to get buy-in on the larger projects that require higher investments or costs.”