Saturday, September 15, 2012

A Sweet Year of Apples and Honey

This Sunday evening (16th September), Jewish New Year celebrations will be held around the world and in the best of tradition, everyone will consume quite a lot of apples and honey, the symbolic expression of a wish for a Sweet Year ahead. As global consumption of apples and honey will probably triple during the two days of the New Year festivities, I thought I would take a look at the sustainability of these two special foods.

Carl Sagan said: "If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe." which is a very sustainability-ish type of comment. Of course, don't confuse apples with Apple, whose sustainability commitment is not so clear, as Fabian Pattberg, our sustainability conscience, explains, following the flamboyant iPhone5 launch. But in this post I want to refer to real apples - the kind that grow on supermarket shelves that you eat after scrubbing them with disinfectant to remove all the pesticides.

Sustainable apples may be TRU EARTH certified, such as those at the family-owned Ecker's Apple Farm, and others are the product of scientific agri-innovation such as that practiced by Bayer Crop Science. Actually, the science of apple growing is called pomology. There are 7,500 varieties of apple grown through the world, which makes for a lot of pomologists. Apples are fat, sodium and cholesterol free, which makes them ideal for a healthy (but not so much fun) diet, in fact, they say that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, which is a good thing, unless the doctor happens to be your wife, husband or best friend. You can find loads of amazing facts about apples here. I even found on the web what looks like a very interesting Spiced Apple Ice Cream recipe, which seems to be the perfect way to start the Jewish New Year.

Apples, of course, being a popular food, are often stars of Sustainability Reports. Using the PDF search facility at, I can find almost 2,000 Sustainability Reports that refer to apples (although some of them are the Apple kind of apple, some are components of pineapples, and one or two show up because they are mentioned in the word grapple (you'd be surprised how many times the word "grapple" comes up in Sustainability Reports. Wonder why that is?). However, this leaves the vast majority of reports with real apples, and while I won't mention the bad ones (bad apples, get it?), I will highlight just a few ways in which apples flavor Sustainability Reporting.

The Yummy Fruit Company in New Zealand supports the AppleQuest program by donating free apples to remote schools such as those in the Chatham and Pitt Islands - noted in the Giumarra Companies 2012 CSR Report.

The 2011 Annual Report of Club Mediteranee mentions a sustainable development partnership in Morocco which supports the professional development of fruit growers and the Village at Marrakech and made seasonal purchases of different varieties of apples and quinces.
Worcester College at Oxford University incorporated wildlife habitat into its garden design. They have an allotment and apple orchard (the apples are used to make apple juice that is sold at Waterperry Garden Centre in Oxfordshire). This is in the University of Oxford Environmental Sustainability Report for 2010/2011. So if you are ever incredibly thirsty and passing through Waterperry Gardens....

We even have a little blip about apples. Arla Foods 2011 Social Responsibility Report mentions that Rynkeby Foods added new details to the labelling on a blackcurrant fruit drink so that it states that the drink also contains apples. This change was made after a Danish newspaper drew public attention to the labelling error. The Power of the Press strikes again.
And General Mills Global Responsibility 2012 report recalls a little disappointment relating to apples: "In 2006, we launched Nature Valley Fruit Crisps. But the dried and baked slices of apple, with just 50 calories per pouch, didn’t meet consumers’ demanding taste requirements and were discontinued." Too bad. But maybe consumer taste has changed since 2006.

Enough about apples. Let's turn to honey.

Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. Aha, but did you know that honey bees transform nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation, and store it as a primary food source in wax honeycombs inside the beehive. But don't let that put you off. The value of honey was recognized in ancient times when honey was known as a wonder-drug for curing almost everything and even embalming corpses. But don't let that put you off. Honey tastes great and there are several hundred unique honey varieties from all over the world. The good thing about honey is that,  in the honeybee world, females do all the work. That way, you know it's gotta be good.
Honey-bee raising can be a great activity to encourage Green Employees and help them become aware of their natural surroundings. This is the case with Novus International (disclosure: my client), who started a Honey Bee Project which remains very popular, as reported in their last Sustainability Report.  Another Sustainability Report (2011), this time from Greif Inc., talks about Greif’s Pollinator Habitat Improvement project. "Timberland offers the potential to provide clean forage for the bees that are vital to agricultural productivity and economic viability, while bees offer improved landscape health on timber holdings. Greif is working with Pollinator Partnership to learn how pollinators impact wildlife food availability on timber landscapes. We are also studying the added values of hosting honey bees and beekeepers on the landscape and the best management practice for ecosystem services on forest landscapes."
Burt's Bees, however, published a Sustainability Update in 2009 in which someone stole the bees, or at least that how it seemed, as they reported about everything but bees. Bees are one of the species affected by changing patterns of human behavior and consumption and climate change, linked to early pollination. Colony Collapse Disorder has become responsible for massive bee attrition, brought on by use of pesticides and other factors. The UK website HelpSaveBees makes an impassioned plea to do more to save the gradual extinction of our natural honeymakers. But the real reason we should all save bees is ... yes, you guessed it .... more icecream !!!!!!!! See what Haagen Dasz are doing to save bees. That Buy a Carton-Save a Bee campaign is totally compelling. Wonder how many bees I can manage to save in one day ? Enough said.
All that remains is for me to wish all the CSR Reporting Blog followers, all Twitter, Facebook and other Social Media friends, all current and future (!) clients of Beyond Business, and just about everyone that is celebrating the Jewish New Year (number 5773) :
elaine cohen, CSR consultant, winning (CRRA'12) Sustainability Reporter, HR Professional, Ice Cream Addict. Author of CSR for HR: A necessary partnership for advancing responsible business practices Contact me via   on Twitter or via my business website  (Beyond Business Ltd, an inspired CSR consulting and Sustainability Reporting firm)

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