Which brand of granola you munch on in the morning might not seem like a big deal to you, but Nature’s Path takes its job of providing you with that wholesome breakfast very seriously. Deputy editor Karen Robock sat down with Jyoti Stephens (pictured above), director of human resources and sustainability – and daughter of company founders Arran and Ratana Stephens – to talk organic farming, granola love and why protecting the planet is so integral to the family business.
Why is giving back a brand priority?
My father grew up on a farm on Vancouver Island, and his father was a pioneer of organic farming methods. He taught my dad to always leave the soil better than he found it. That idea of stewardship and improving things was there when my parents founded the company, and it’s still at the core of what we do at Nature’s Path today. It’s at the heart of everything, from determining the way the ingredients are grown to supporting communities and farmers to providing healthy, nutritious products.
How do you do good?
One of our biggest initiatives is called the Bite4Bite program, which started with my brother and his wife. They came up with Love Crunch, a granola “favour” they handed out at their wedding, and they asked guests to volunteer in their communities instead of giving gifts. The granola was a hit, so we developed it for Nature’s Path and expanded the giving idea: For every bag of Love Crunch sold, we donate the same amount to food banks, up to a maximum of $1 million worth of food each year.
What’s your biggest initiative that no one has ever heard of?
One thing that’s really important to us is that we have organic farmland for the long term, so we work on protecting the land and engaging the next generation of farmers. One of the ways we do this is through farm partnerships. One example is a partnership we have with a family farm in Saskatchewan. Their son was actually working on the oil fields because they didn’t have enough land for the parents and the son to work. We partnered with them and were able to purchase more land – enough for all three of them to farm – and now we have a crop-share agreement for the harvest. It’s a good opportunity for all of us.
What are your giving goals?
Every year, we have a giving goal of $2 million in cash and food. In addition to that, we have $3,000 available per month in product sponsorship through our In-Kind program. This is for smaller donations, like a gift basket for a fundraiser that promotes a cause related to healthy living or organic, non-GMO or gluten-free leadership.
Are there any challenges to doing good?
Sometimes it can be a challenge to say no. Unfortunately, we can only do so much. We want to be impactful in the donations we make and the causes we support, so it can be hard sometimes to say no to groups that are doing great work. We try to make room for the causes that fit most closely with our values and brand aspirations, like supporting organic agriculture.
What’s the big deal about GMOs
Nature’s Path is a founding member of the Non-GMO Project and supporter of genetically modified organism (GMO) labelling legislation in Canada. The company even sponsored a documentary, released in 2014, called GMO OMG. If you’re still confused about the issues surrounding GMOs in our food – which include concerns about everything from human health to biodiversity to freedom of choice – watch this doc. It will definitely leave you exclaiming “Oh em gee!”