Earth Day was highlighted by the Center for Sustainable Enterprise’s UNC Sustainability Awards, sponsored by Bank of America and Trane Technologies. This year’s virtual event included a mix-along with Scott Maitland of Top of the Hill Brewery and Distillery and a dinner cook-along with Jacob Boehm of Snap Pea after the ceremony.
Tracy Triggs-Matthews, the Associate Director of CSE, was honored to present the 2021 Distinguished Alumni Award to Valerie Smith (MBA ’02). Val is an MBA graduate of Kenan-Flagler Business School and began her career as an Environmental Specialist in the Peace Corp in Honduras. Currently, Val serves as the Managing Director and Chief Sustainability Officer at Citi. As Citi’s CSO, Val oversees their global sustainability initiatives, including leading the banks Sustainable Progress Strategy and Citi’s $500 Billion Environmental Finance Goal. Val also serves as an advisor and spokesperson on sustainable finance, climate risk, stakeholder engagement, ESG integration and sustainability trends towards a low-carbon economy. Val joins prior alumni winners Lisa Shpritz, Brett Smith, Napoleon Wallace, Katie Kross, Dave Kirkpatrick and Chris Vlahoplus, who are all leaders in bringing the triple bottom line of People, Planet and Profit to bear on their work.
Jeff Mittelstadt, the Executive Director for CSE, recognized Seal the Seasons as the 2021 Distinguished Business in Sustainability. This year the undergraduate Sustainability Club nominated over 40 organizations doing business in North Carolina that met the criteria of innovation, initiative, and impact. They then narrowed the list down and conducted interviews to select the 17 finalists. The MBA Net Impact Club chose this year’s winner for their innovative and unique business model.
“Founded in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Seal the Seasons believes our communities are stronger when we support one another. The company’s belief in strong local economies set them on a mission to create a more localized food system that supports family farms and real people, while making more nutritious healthy food available to everyone in the community. Seal the Seasons envisions a world where “local grown” is not just available in every aisle of the grocery store, but an expected staple of the American food economy.
As a certified B-corporation, Seal the Seasons is committed to people-first business practices that create a positive impact on society, both socially and environmentally. Seal the Seasons is the first within the fruit and vegetable processing industry with the locally grown, locally frozen, and locally sold model, which both supports family farms with a reliable income, and reduces the carbon footprint of frozen fruit (80% of which is produced abroad). Through this innovative value chain, more than 93% of the cost of the good stays within the local circular economy. Each two-pound bag of frozen fruit sold offsets about 1.06 pounds of GHG compared to a foreign grown frozen fruit substitute.
Currently, Seal the Seasons is sourcing between 2 and 3 million pounds of produce, and sending more than 5 million dollars back to agricultural communities annually, directly benefiting 70+ family farmers. The frozen process allows for some cosmetically damaged produce which normally may go to waste if the fresh channel was a farmers’ sole sales channel. Furthermore, Seal the Seasons supply chain is intentionally built to allow the farmers to capture as much of the margin as possible by freezing and packaging the product, not just growing it.
Seal the Seasons has no formal profit pledge because the company does not expect to generate significant profits. Instead, the company spends significant staff time supporting initiatives to alleviate food insecurity. Recently Seal the Seasons partnered with the food bank of central and eastern NC to create their own line of locally grown frozen produce with custom Food Bank packaging. The Food Bank has already packaged over 100,000 pounds of locally grown product for distribution across NC.
On the business model side, Seal the Seasons is taking initiative with their investors, shareholders and farmers to address white supremacy and build out an actively anti-racist company. Seal the Seasons is asking potential investors important questions about their divestment from fossil fuels and the military industrial complex, as well as of investor’s political contributions. They are also partnering with Gilling’s School of Public Health to diversify their supply chain and bring business to socially disadvantaged growers.”