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Optimizing Change

Optimizing Change

The world of agriculture can certainly be unpredictable. Ask any producer in this sector, and they’ll be wont to agree. Despite the challenges—or perhaps due to—resilience is a key aspect seen and felt throughout the produce industry.

Dole plc is a testimony to this. What began as an entrepreneurial enterprise has grown into a business that moves the needle on progress, embracing new technologies, introducing revolutionary new varieties to market, and even developing its own fleet.

On this journey of innovation, Dole has made a clear commitment to changing the world for the better. As the industry faces uncertainties in the wake of large-scale climate change, the grower acts as a guiding light.

A beacon toward which advancement moves.

“Dole’s evolution as a grower and distributor of tropical fruits took the company into rural, more isolated locations with limited infrastructure. Growing our business in these areas presented both a necessity and an opportunity to do much more than planting and picking fruit,” begins Xavier Roussel, Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer. “It meant our presence could make a big difference to local economies and that we could make an even bigger difference by directly supporting employees’ and communities’ health, education, and other needs. Going beyond the normal expectations became an integral part of Dole’s way of doing business. That continues to define how we go about our work today.”

This quite literally translates into The Dole Way, a firm commitment to provide safe, high-quality fresh produce that’s good for people, for nature, and for food.

“It paves the way for further improvements in areas where we believe we can make the biggest positive impacts,” Xavier adds.

These impacts stretch across the globe. Employing a staggering 38,500 people, Dole plc is committed to being an employer of choice, supporting local communities and protecting human rights across its supply chains. By committing to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi), the company places climate action at the forefront of its priorities, along with water stewardship, biodiversity, waste management, and packaging reduction and innovation.

“One of our key environmental challenges is climate change. This includes carbon reduction, water availability, and loss of biodiversity. The world is currently on a path toward significant global warming, and to maintain a safe operating space for society and business, general scientific community consensus is that we must limit it to 1.5° Celsius, in line with the Paris Agreement,” remarks Laura Bagnasco, Corporate Sustainability Analyst, before breaking down the potential effects of global warming on ag operations. “Global warming will cause more frequent extremes like temperatures, precipitation and flooding, stronger hurricanes, agriculture droughts, and sea-level rise.”

Most, if not all, of these phenomena will impact our industry. When speaking to Xavier and Laura, it’s obvious they understand the responsibility and role that companies can play in working to prevent this.

“Although already robust, we are continually placing more attention and efforts on reducing impacts within our own operations and those over which we have influence,” Xavier notes with vigor. “We invest in renewable energy projects, we are modernizing our shipping fleet, and investing in research and innovation for new farming techniques.”

Dole already achieved a 4 percent reduction in carbon emissions for 2021 over 2020 in scopes 1 and 2 due to its investment in new and more efficient vessels to transport produce from Latin America to the United States Gulf Coast.

“Our two newest vessels, Dole Maya and Dole Aztec, use the latest in sustainable technology, including hydrodynamic efficient hulls and best-in-class main and auxiliary engines. These ships utilize exhaust scrubbing technology, reducing sulfur oxide emissions, and the propulsion and power plant engines are all certified TIER III compliant,” Laura explains. “We have also been replacing our fleet of refrigerated containers, which reduce energy usage and leakage of refrigerants, resulting in a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.”

Wherever it operates, Dole is enacting change. From its wind turbines in Soledad, California, to its fresh water initiatives in Colombia and Ecuador, one thing is certain: If there’s a better way to do something, Dole will explore it.

"Going beyond the normal expectations became an integral part of Dole [plc’s] way of doing business. That continues to define how we go about our work today.”

Xavier Roussel, Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer, Dole plc

“In our Fresh Vegetables division, two GE 2.8 Megawatt wind turbines were installed at our Soledad salad processing plant. Both turbines are projected to produce over 19 million kWh of clean electricity and reduce carbon emissions by an estimated 14,000 tons per year,” Laura lays out. “At our Belfast site in the United Kingdom, we installed a new solar panel energy system with a capacity of 120 kWp that will generate 20 percent of the site’s annual requirements, reducing grid reliance and reducing carbon emissions by an estimated 30,000 kt per year.”

Dole’s new developments in improving water management continue to make steady progress.

“We are proud to be a member of the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) as we invest in the responsible management of water. In total, 20 farms have been recognized for their sustainable water management practices across Colombia and Ecuador, including Dole-owned and Dole independent producers,” Xavier says. “AWS certification is widely respected and includes a legal framework, promoting best practices around optimization, discharge and sanitation of water, and encouragement of collaboration with others that address needs and challenges within the watershed.”

Continuous agricultural science and technology innovations help growers increase yields and produce fruits and vegetables more efficiently, and these revelatory ways of approaching ag are often better for the planet and for society.

“Not the least of which can mean using less water, energy, and land to produce nutritious food to help feed the world’s growing population,” Xavier affirms.

Facing a rapidly changing Earth is daunting, to say the least. As the company looks toward the future, it has outlined several goals across nature, people, and food.

For “Nature’s Health,” Dole is committed to setting near- and long-term company-wide emission reductions in line with Science Based Targets. By 2030, the company intends to reduce water usage by 10 percent in high-risk areas on all Dole-owned farms, and make 100 percent of Dole packaging across divisions recyclable or compostable by 2025.

For “An Equitable Future,” Dole continues to track and publicly report diversity, equity, and inclusion metrics across the company. In Dole Latin America operations, the company hopes to significantly reduce poverty in households by 2030 and impact at least 20,000 people by 2040.

Change can only happen if it happens at the system level. It’s not dependent on one company; it takes an entire supply chain to change. It can only be achieved by partnership.”

Xavier Roussel

For “A Healthier World,” Dole commits to donating 2,500 tons of fresh fruit and vegetables to communities by 2025, as well as implement a social standard in 90 percent of Dole’s fruit and vegetable suppliers from high-risk countries. By 2030, Dole aims to implement technology such as blockchain product tagging or other advanced solutions.

“Dole’s mission is to make the world a healthier place. This promise encompasses both our environment and the communities we serve. We are committed to a healthy lifestyle through nutrition education as well as inspiring and encouraging people to adopt a healthier diet to include more fresh fruit and vegetables,” Xavier expresses, touching on another key aspect of the company’s ongoing efforts.

In 2022, Dole renewed its national partnership with Share our Strength’s No Kid Hungry campaign to help end childhood hunger in America. This partnership delivered donations to cities as well as nutrition education, wellness events, and retail initiatives to ensure all children have access to three healthy meals a day. Dole is also the presenting sponsor of a series of livestream wellness and fitness sessions called Get Fit, which helps raise funds to provide healthy food to children.

Some within the industry may wonder: Why? Where’s the return on investment? To which Xavier’s response is simple.

“There is a misconception that investing in these efforts negatively impacts the bottom line. We have found the opposite to be true. These changes make our business stronger. Data shows consumers care about sustainability and reward companies who share similar values. Consumers want transparency,” he asserts.

Dole is committed to action, but it can’t change the future alone.

“Change can only happen if it happens at the system level,” concludes Xavier. “It’s not dependent on one company; it takes an entire supply chain to change. It can only be achieved by partnership.”

Our industry is faced with great challenges. To make light of this fact would do an injustice to the thousands who have dedicated their lives to ensuring that, a hundred years from now, the world will be a better place.

To be optimistic is to change, and in the case of Dole, it’s to change things for the better.