McCormick is a global seasoning corporation, known for its spices, extracts, and sauces. While McCormick has some promising environmentally sustainable initiatives, they hide information on sourcing, labor practices, and tangible steps they will take to achieve their 2025 goals. As a result, I give the company’s Ground Cinnamon product an overall score of .5. McCormick, spice up your company with some more transparency!
McCormick’s ground cinnamon has one ingredient: cinnamon. Cassia cinnamon, the specific type, comes from the bark of the Cinnamomum cassia evergreen tree. The cinnamon evergreen trees take between 15 and 20 years to mature and reach their maximum flavor, and they grow in low altitudes with moist climates. McCormick states that if a product does not have an ingredient list, the only ingredient is the spice itself. Of course, this versatile spice is more than just its name, but McCormick provides little information on how this variation ground cinnamon is produced and where it is sourced from. The Q&A section on this ground cinnamon product page, indicates that this cinnamon is grown in Indonesia. The sourcing and variety of cinnamon was difficult to find on the website, which means McCormick’s need to be more transparent with its product information and sustainability efforts.
McCormick describes the process of cinnamon production in vague terms, making it difficult to assess whether or not the company’s production practices are truly sustainable. I would consider this to be indirect greenwashing.
McCormick says that cinnamon trees grow in Indonesia for 15 to 20 years before harvesting the cinnamon bark. After being harvested, the bark is, “uniquely packed and shipped to control moisture level...” and then cleaned and packaged in McCormick’s spice mill and processing centers. The tree’s bark, when properly handled and ground, becomes ground cinnamon. A massive company stripping trees for their bark, shipping the tree’s inner contents around the world, and selling the final product in plastic containers sounds environmentally and socially unsustainable.
That’s all the information I could find about McCormick’s cinnamon production process. What does “uniquely packed” mean—what makes its packing, unique? These phrases distract the consumer from the fact that cinnamon production requires immense tracts of land to be cleared, which releases CO2 into the atmosphere. Cinnamon trees also require a substantial amount of water. Cinnamon production is not inherently unsustainable; the dried inner bark of the cinnamon tree has been harvested, processed, and traded for thousands of years. McCormick’s however, conceals how they produce their spices, often pay farmworkers too little, and degrade the land they use, all of which is unsustainable.
Funded by McCormick & Company, more than 1,000 acres of cinnamon trees in Indonesia have achieved the Farm Sustainability Assessment’s global sustainability standard, which is a global initiative for sustainable food and agriculture. The FSA outlines sustainability requirements for the food, agriculture, and beverage industries, and it encompasses social, environmental, and economic practices.
To achieve the FSA standard, a company must minimize damage to forests and protect the farmworkers in their production and harvesting activities. While this achievement seems like progress for a global spice company, it still does not provide much information on how McCormick treats its workers across its spice supply chains, the lack of transparency forcing me to reduce McCormick’s sustainability score.
While I found minimal details on McCormick’s labor practices for its production positions, the company details a range of environmental, labor, and social goals they hope to reach by 2025, which the U.N.‘s SDG helped inform. That said, the vagueness of these objectives makes me question how hard McCormick is striving to reach them. They include attractive stats such as, “50% women in senior leadership positions globally,“ ”90% of products with improved transparency,“ and ”30% ethnically diverse talent (EDT) in senior leadership positions in the U.S.“ This seems to be a positive start, but in reality these goals are vague, and are more focused on corporate employees than those working to produce McCormick’s goods. I also wonder what these percentages actually mean -- how many people make up these statistics? What is the number that McCormick aims to reach? I would like to know why McCormick is aiming to improve its transparency in 90% of its products—why not 100%?
Environmental sustainability objectives also encompass the 2025 goals. These include: sourcing all of its herbs and spices “sustainably” (but with no description of what sustainably means), various reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water use, and overall carbon footprint of McCormick facilities. They also aim to reduce amount of packaging, and incorporate a greater percentage of recycling and waste recovery in their facilities. These sustainability initiatives hold a lot of promise, but I find McCormick’s use of percentages with no accompanying data and vague language to be a sign of greenwashing.