3 ways business can be profitable by addressing climate change

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Jane Bender is president of the Center for Climate Protection. Powering the Bottom Line (nbbj.news/powering) is a recurring column from that Santa Rosa-based organization.

The climate crisis is intensifying and there is mounting pressure from the scientific community to curb emissions. Nothing we are doing is adequate enough when we think about what we’re leaving our next generation and beyond.

In light of this urgency, we revisited three of our sustainability super stars, BoDean Company, Jackson Family Wines and Straus Family Creamery. We wanted to know not just what they do but why they do it and why for them it is never enough. We wanted to see if there are some principles for us all in their work.

It is important to note that these companies represent industries that have often added to environmental degradation and climate change. It makes their work and orientation even more profound.

1. Sustainability is embedded in their corporate culture.

Many companies have done retrofits, adopted recycling programs, improved their company fleets, etc., but in these companies, sustainability is in their DNA.

Julien Gervreau of Jackson Family Wines explains, “The Jackson family has a long term vision to be responsible stewards of the land we farm.”

Joseph Button of Straus Family Creamery uses the words “…centered on social and environmental sustainability” when he talks about founder and CEO Albert Straus’s vision for his certified organic dairy and organic creamery operation.

And Dean Soiland has built his gravel and asphalt company on the premise that our world has finite resources and all of us are required to preserve them, an ethos he learned in college and has carried with him.

2. Long-term impact is integral to short-term goals.

Soiland probably describes this principle the most succinctly.

“I look at my operations always through my kids’ eyes.” He and his crew continually analyze and upgrade the efficiency of his specialized rock crushing and sorting machinery with the goal of exceeding governmental air quality regulations and curbing the CO2 which drives climate change.

Jackson Family Wines looked through the eyes of the next generation and concluded that water is a defining issue. Facing a future of extreme weather events, they build rain capture reservoirs, work to reduce the water needed to produce their wines, aim to enhance ground water recharge and employ innovative farming techniques to sequester carbon.

Agriculture has a huge impact on climate change from the production of crops, methane generated by livestock and the transportation of products across the globe. Straus Dairy Farm is all organic and their creamery is Non-GMO Project–verified. They work to sustain other family farms and revitalize rural communities, so critical if we are to see a future of local agriculture. They installed a methane digester in 2004 that converts polluting methane gas into electric powered farm vehicles including the first electric powered feed truck. Like Jackson Family Wines, they are developing new farming techniques which have already resulted in carbon sequestration.

3. Addressing climate change successfully drives the bottom line.

Unlike many industries today that spend millions of dollars fighting regulations, these companies turn climate change mitigation into profit. Protecting the environment is part of their business philosophy and part of their brand which appeals to customers who are increasingly concerned about the impacts of climate change. They are models for the kind of change required to meet the demands of this crisis.

Sustainability is paying off for them today but even more importantly their innovations and adaptations are ensuring their future profitability. Julien Gervreau of Jackson Family Wines summed it up, “Any business that is not actively pursuing a sustainability strategy will have trouble competing in the not too distant future.”

It certainly won’t be these three.

Jane Bender is president of the Center for Climate Protection. Powering the Bottom Line (nbbj.news/powering) is a recurring column from that Santa Rosa-based organization.

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