I’m going to be honest, there is nothing I love more in this world than granola. After a workout, for breakfast, as a snack, it is versatile. Hence, I always tried to choose products that were sustainable, seeing as I go through bags of them in a singular week. Overall, O Organics does a good job at addressing the necessary environmental and social sustainability steps. Through an extensive report, they require and suggest a multitude of steps their suppliers have to/should take. The organic products within this granola are meeting the USDA regulations. However, the company still has the platform to make more wide-sweeping changes that would improve its sustainability. I would hesitate to suggest buying this product because the company has a ways to go before it reaches 3 planets.
The first thing that comes up on the website when researching this product is that it is USDA Certified Organic. This is a very good thing. The standard requires that no pesticide is used at all within the growing of the crop, soil fertility must be maintained through natural practices such as crop rotation, and genetic engineering of the crops is strictly forbade. The Certification also addresses the standard for animals, however, this is not necessary to address in regard to the granola. The majority of the product is made of Organic Whole Rolled Oats and Organic Milled Cane Sugar. Oats have a relatively low carbon footprint with a moderate water footprint, making them a versatile and great choice for the company. On the other hand, cane sugar is extremely water intensive, one of the world’s most water-needing crops. Upon further research, maple syrup is a great substitute for cane sugar. Not only can a properly tapped tree exist fruitfully for over 100 years, but it incentivizes the farmers to maintain the forests and it has minimal energy demand. Then there is the use of Organic Expeller Pressed Canola Oil. This Canola Oil is a much more environmentally sustainable substitute for palm oil, however, the extraction process includes the use of hexane, which can be extremely dangerous for the workers who are required to aid the process. Moreover, the issue of the plastic packaging is never addressed. This plastic is never indicated as recyclable or used from recycled materials. This is extremely unsustainable and the company has to address it. Hence, the company’s usage of organic is environmentally sustainable and definitely a step in the right direction, however, the usage of some of the actual crops and products generates a cause for concern.
The company’s suppliers are given a Sustainability Expectations report. The expectations held by the company to the suppliers is extremely extensive, addressing the welfare of the workers, the sustainable practices of the crops, the process by which the suppliers reduce emissions, etc. However, the majority of the report merely states that the suppliers are “encouraged” to follow these guidelines. The company claims that they will be more inclined to partner with a supplier if they follow those guidelines. However, some parts of the report are “expected”. The terminology of expected implies that the supplier is supposed to follow these guidelines, but a few missteps is allowed. Such expectations include taking steps to minimize hazards in the workplace, following California’s “Transparency in Supply Chains Act” that requires company’s to illustrate that they are not using child labor or human trafficking, strive to reduce natural resource exploitation, and more. However, I believe those ‘encouragements’ must be absolutely necessary for all companies, organic or not. Moreover, the company gives no indication that they are planning on or have in the past used sustainable sources of energy. This lack of sustainability is extremely detrimental for the environment and I believe they aren’t addressing it because they likely are using fossil fuels. The company does little to address which of the suppliers follow this code of conduct or not and it is never addressed about the process by which the products are grown and processed.
Although, as mentioned earlier, the company aims to hire suppliers that partake in environmentally and socially sustainable practices, the company’s commitment to organic materials is note-worthy. Nonetheless, the company is moving in the right direction. They are creating suggestions and requirements for the suppliers, a step I believe all companies should take in order to increase transparency. However, certain aspects of the company, including the plastic use or the lack of requirements, raise the debate about whether the company is hiding being greenwashing. I believe that is up for discussion because many environmental and social issues are never given a real solution of how the company is working towards sustainability. However, similar to the majority of large companies in today’s current society, there is a long way to go. There are definitely granola companies that are more sustainable (including local farmers which also supports local businesses!!) and I worry that this may not be your best bet for sustainable purchasing. That is not to say that they have failed, they are doing seemingly the best with what they have, but much change is still needed in the future.