By Jennifer Rose
Since he opened the doors of SunRidge Farms, respect for others and the environment has been at the core of Morty Cohen’s business philosophy. He installed full-spectrum lighting and air filters to ensure that his employees worked in the healthiest conditions possible, and worked tirelessly to legitimize the idea of bulk food sales as a means to cut down on packaging and production-related waste. As he explains, “I wanted to create a business grounded in a commitment to doing what is right, both for the people involved in it and for the planet at large.”
Three decades later, Cohen has achieved just that. SunRidge Farms has not only emerged as a leader in the production of organic and natural bulk foods, but it has done so while reducing its carbon footprint. As part of its long-standing and ever-evolving “Green Commitment,” the company has installed 540 solar panels in its warehouse and converted its fleet of 17 delivery trucks to biodiesel fuel. It also relocated and consolidated its manufacturing and distribution operations by recycling an existing manufacturing plant that was no longer in use. In addition, SunRidge has installed an assortment of low-flow devices and a full spectrum fluorescent lighting system, which uses up to 80 percent less energy than incandescent lighting systems. The company also is in the process of converting its sales cars to hybrid vehicles as a means to further reduce its environmental impact.
SunRidge Farms has also upheld its commitment to providing its employees with “top-notch working conditions.” The company now offers employees access to two yoga rooms, a soccer field, and a workout room. Plus, it pays them five dollars each time they choose to ride their bike to work instead of drive.
“It’s all a part of our desire to promote a work-life healthy balance,” explains Cohen. “We do the best that we can to support our employees’ physical and mental fitness because we know it directly affects their health and the health of our company as a whole. When they feel good, we’re all able to do a better job.”
Adding to its environmental and human resource-oriented initiatives, SunRidge Farms has established a partnership with Defenders of Wildlife, a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to wildlife conservation. The partnership began after SunRidge made a $10,000 donation to aid the organization in its conservation efforts. “We realized that a valuable opportunity existed for us to collaborate and get consumers involved in Defenders’ initiatives,” recalls Cohen. Since then, SunRidge Farms has begun selling several of its products on the Defenders of Wildlife web site (www.defenders.org) and donating a portion of the proceeds to the Defenders’ cause.
Although the partnership is still in its infancy, Cohen is optimistic about the direction in which it is headed. Sales on the Defenders web site are growing, and plans are in place to develop packaging that highlights the SunRidge Farms-Defenders of Wildlife collaboration. “We feel confident that our collective efforts are really going to pay off in terms of the long-term health of animals and their natural surroundings,” says Cohen.
The push to undertaking more projects of this kind is ever-present, particularly as competition to ‘be green’ grows. Fortunately, Cohen says, SunRidge is up to the challenge.
“The notion of doing what’s right has been, and always will be, intrinsic to what we do. The fact that other companies are getting on board is a refreshing reminder that we are not alone in our desire to nourish each other and the earth.”