Membership Interview with Suzanne McDowell, Vice President of CSR and Sustainability of King Arthur Baking
Why is sustainability important to your business?
As a business that has been around for more than 230 years, King Arthur Baking has every intention of providing the same premium ingredients and best in class resources to each future generation of bakers. Our lengthy history and continued success are made possible by a mission rooted in sustainability.
Mirroring ASBN’s core pillars of sustainability, King Arthur Baking has always treated the term as a multifaceted value that applies not only in the environmental sense, but to each of our business principles. As a benefit corporation, we believe we have a responsibility to develop programs that will help benefit society and create a more sustainable world. Simply put, it’s about doing what’s right, getting involved, and making a difference. This matters to every stakeholder; from our farmers who depend on the health of our planet to our employee-owners who share the onus of running a profitable business that makes a tangible difference in the lives of our greater baking community.
How do you realize your vision for sustainability/what successes can you point to?
King Arthur Baking’s lasting power is not a result of stagnant business practices or values, but rather the opposite: over the past two centuries, our vision for sustainability has been realized through changes in our business structure and an openness to evolution. For example, our ESOP business model introduced in 2004 informs a truly collaborative environment with a shared sense of responsibility among all internal stakeholders. As an employee-owned company, we’re not beholden to outside shareholders who care only about the bottom line. We have the freedom to emphasize other values like social and environmental responsibility and the wellness and satisfaction of our employee-owners. This shared desire to leverage our work for good is the foundation of a sustainable, long-lasting business—one that customers and consumers who are increasingly aware of the social and environmental impact of their purchases are proud to support.
What public policy priorities are of greatest importance to you at this time and why?
As a company poised to make a difference in public policy, King Arthur Baking joined ASBN to learn, listen, and understand which conversations could benefit most from our voice. Engaging with experts and fellow businesses was one of the most compelling reasons to get involved with this movement, and we began the work by joining ASBN’s Circular Economy and Regenerative Agriculture & Justice working groups. Gathering valuable insights from advisors, defining principles that matter most to us, and hearing how other businesses have mobilized for these causes will help us determine where to position our resources in the coming years, whether that means elevating the voices of American farmers leading up to the 2023 Farm Bill or working with political leaders to bring the tenets of regenerative agriculture – a planet-positive approach that seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change – to conversations in congress. Continuing to be active and engaged members of these ASBN working groups will inform exactly how we leverage our platform and which public policies we pursue in the near future.
How does being part of ASBN help you to fulfill your goal(s)?
In all senses of the word, including environmental, sustainability has always been a core value at King Arthur Baking—especially as a company ingrained in the agricultural industry. Organizing and effecting change on a large scale in the climate sector is most viable when it comes from a broad network of businesses, which is the kind of opportunity ASBN offers. By getting actively involved with the 250,000+ fellow members of ASBN, working groups, and countless other resources the network provides, we have been able to greatly deepen our knowledge of the climate crisis and the many movements, solutions, and policies that King Arthur Baking can adopt or support in the fight for change. From pursuing regenerative farming practices with our farmer partners to supporting historically marginalized communities most impacted by the climate crisis, being part of a greater network of like-minded, equally motivated businesses has allowed us to commit to and follow through on bettering the baking world and beyond.