Leading greenhouse-grown produce company NatureSweet is now a Certified B Corporation. Based on the company’s research of records provided by B Lab, the nonprofit behind B Corp certification, the achievement makes NatureSweet the world’s largest Controlled Environment Agriculture (CEA) employer to achieve this designation. The company directly employs more 6,000 Associates.
NatureSweet has long been known for its employee-centric business model and its mission of transforming North American produce — starting with its agricultural workers’ lives. The company reports that its pursuit of B Corp Certification serves as an invitation to the fresh produce industry to make worker and community well-being cornerstones for growth. NatureSweet cites an employee turnover rate of less than 1% — on top of high-quality fruits and vegetables — as proof its business model is working.
“For more than three decades, NatureSweet has revolutionized the fresh produce industry with the best tasting and highest quality products,” says Rodolfo Spielmann, NatureSweet President and CEO. “Our success comes directly from having the most committed and experienced workers growing and packing our produce.”
Spielman describes a business model where every Associate has the opportunity to earn a better income based on their individual effort and have access to education, psychological support and healthcare services.
“We are the largest CEA company that is Fair Trade Certified, Equitable Food Initiative (EFI) Certified, and now B Corp Certified,” Spielman continues. “I am incredibly proud of what our team has accomplished and look forward to strengthening our efforts. We hope our impact goes beyond NatureSweet and serves as a roadmap for the industry.”
NatureSweet certification highlights
NatureSweet reports a first-time B Corp certification score of 114 points, exceeding the 80-point minimum requirement. Notable achievements in categories including Workers, Community, Customers, Environment and Governance including the following highlights:
- Income sustainability: NatureSweet pays its workers more than double the minimum wage in Mexico. NatureSweet Associates earn almost 40% above the median wage of agricultural workers in Mexico, approximately 25% above the median wage of NatureSweet’s main competitors, and 53% above the average agricultural compensation in Mexico. NatureSweet agricultural workers also have an opportunity to earn up to 300% in bonus compensation.
- Community development: As a Fair Trade Certified company, NatureSweet has an employee-run fund known as the Fair Trade Premium. The fund generates millions of dollars annually and supports community development initiatives such as improved education, access to quality health services, accommodations, development projects and other basic services.
- Employee education: NatureSweet has created an educational program wherein agricultural workers can learn how to read and write and earn their elementary, middle and high school diplomas. The program will have helped more than 2,000 employees by the end of 2023.
- Environmental sustainability: NatureSweet’s greenhouse growing methods and processes include drip irrigation systems using approximately 80% less water than open-field agriculture for small tomatoes. Coco-fiber growing media increases water and nutrient use efficiency, reducing water waste by 30%. Fewer chemical products and fertilizers are used, compared to conventional open-field agriculture. NatureSweet is 100% non-GMO, and recycled plastic comprises 70% of the company’s packaging material volume. Recently, the company voluntarily conserved more than 120 acres of its land to protect endangered species.
Forces for good
Certified B Corporations around the world are recognized as meeting high standards of verified performance, accountability and transparency on factors from employee benefits and charitable giving to supply chain practices and input materials. These corporations leverage the power of business to positively impacting communities and environments. Reevaluated every three years, the certification is helps consumers identify companies whose missions align with these values. There are currently 7,020 Certified B Corporations representing 623,050 employees in 91 countries and 161 industries.
“As a sponsor of NatureSweet’s B Corp initiative, I am proud of the tremendous efforts by so many Associates throughout this rigorous process,” says Skip Hulett, General Counsel and VP of NatureSweet. “The Associates went above and beyond to show how much it means that NatureSweet be recognized as a force for good.”
Image: Associates at NatureSweet’s Zapotlan, Mexico facility, courtesy NS Brands, Ltd.