Kalsec CEO talks B Corp certification: ‘Our core values help differentiate us in a crowded global industry’

By Katy Askew

- Last updated on GMT

Kalsec discusses the benefits of B Corp certification Pic: GettyImages-Karendaev
Kalsec discusses the benefits of B Corp certification Pic: GettyImages-Karendaev

Related tags b corporation B Corp Kalsec

Ingredient supplier Kalsec recently achieved B Corp Certification, meaning that it operates a ‘rigorous’ set of environmental and social standards. These values are part of Kalsec’s ‘DNA’, chief executive Dr Scott Nykaza says. But B Corp certification is also a useful tool to ‘differentiate in a crowded global industry‘.

Flavours, colours and antioxidants producer Kalsec has achieved B Corp Certification. This means the company has met rigorous social and environmental standards that represent its commitment to making ethical and sustainable decisions that serve consumers, customers, employees, communities and the environment.

The certification process was something of a natural evolution for Kalsec, which has embodied the principles behind the B Corp movement since it was founded more than 60 years ago, chief executive Dr Scott Nykaza told FoodNavigator.

"Kalsec has acted like a B Corp since our founding in 1958, and our goal is to be a sustainable organisation for the next 100 years, which starts anew every day. Honesty, integrity and fairness are our core values. When we learned more about B Corp certification and the global movement to use business as a force for good, we knew we had found our community.”

B Corp: Business as a ‘force for good’

In using its business as a 'force for good‘, Kalsec has proven its commitment to socially and environmentally responsible practices relating to energy supplies, waste and water use, worker compensation, diversity, and corporate transparency.

In addition to its certified organic manufacturing facilities and sustainably sourced ingredients, Kalsec is also working to 'actively protect the planet‘. For example, the group‘s headquarters in Kalamazoo is equipped with solar arrays and electric vehicle stations, and compostable service ware is used for sensory tests and by employees.

Kalsec’s supply chain management follows its Responsible Sourcing Policy and uses Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI) Farm Sustainability Assessment tools in the field to measure and improve sustainability of its agricultural supply chain. Furthermore, Kalsec’s ethical operations promote responsible sourcing practices, including practices designed to prevent slavery and human trafficking.

“Environmental stewardship and social justice have been a part of our DNA since Paul H. Todd, Jr. founded the business more than 60 years ago. Our ingredients are sustainably sourced all over the world. We uphold the Kalsec legacy from Kalamazoo to Shanghai and everywhere in between. We enhanced our responsible sourcing program in 2019, received an EcoVadis Gold rating in 2020, and to date, we’ve reached 70% of our global supply base assessed for sustainability standards. We also partnered with suppliers crops in new geographies, like South America and China, on sustainability and traceability of some of our major agricultural crops,”​ Dr Nykaza elaborated.

“We are environmentally conscious in our energy and waste and water use, and we have taken a stand against slavery and human trafficking. We are proud to support the United Nations Global Compact, the world’s largest corporate sustainability initiative.”

GettyImages-oleksajewicz spices flavour
Kalsec invests in sustainable procurement for its raw materials / Pic: GettyImages-oleksajewicz

Doing business differently: ‘We balance purpose and profits’

Globally, more than 3,500 businesses are B Corp, or B Lab, certified.

B Corp businesses – which are for-profit and include the likes of Danone and Ben & Jerry’s in the food sector – are committed to helping reduce inequality, lowering levels of poverty, supporting a healthier environment and stronger communities and creating high-quality jobs with ‘dignity and purpose’.

A B Corp impact verification audit is extensive. The B Lab team sets standards for social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability, and prioritises third-party validation claims.

“As a B Corp, we balance purpose and profits. Corporate decisions are made considering the potential impact on all stakeholders, specifically our employees, community and the environment. We view capital in a different way than some companies in this industry. Profits help drive efficiencies, but we also invest in reducing our carbon footprint, enhancing our safety practices, ensuring a sustainable supply chain, supporting our employees and their families, and contributing to charities that align with our company values,”​ Dr Nykaza explained.

Kalsec earned a passing score in its first audit, ‘but we still have room to improve’, Dr Nykaza said.

“It’s a continuous journey to retain B Corp membership. We need to complete verification every three years to maintain our certification.

“B Corp certification provides a framework to further engage our employees, our channel partners, suppliers and customers, with a unified vision of how we approach our business model.”

B Corp Certified
B Corp Certified / Pic: Kalsec

Collaboration between B Corp members is an important benefit to the certification scheme that helps members on this journey of ‘continuous improvement’.

“The B Corp framework allows us to measure our impact while learning from other like-minded organisations in a plethora of industries around the world. B Lab has invested a lot of time and energy in setting targets for businesses to put people and purpose before profits. As a certified B Corp, Kalsec has access to the B Hive, a global online community of peer organisations and leaders, where we can exchange ideas. Additionally, local communities of B Corps organise conferences by employees, called B Corp Leadership Development.

“Being a B Corp guides our actions as we work to improve our sustainability, equity and inclusion, and global community-building efforts. The Todd family, the board, the officers, our employees and all stakeholders are now on the same page on how to move Kalsec forward ethically and sustainably for the next 100 years.”

Connecting with customers and consumers

Pointing to consumer research carried out by the company, Dr Nykaza noted that environmental issues are becoming an increasingly important consideration for consumers. This, he said, is having a knock-on impact on commercial discussions with food industry customers.

“Environmental sustainability is gaining significance among consumers globally, which influences commercial discussions and actions within the food and beverage industry. According to Kalsec consumer research, many consumers aspire for a clear label, meaning that the products they choose to purchase are sustainably sourced and packaged and are safe for the environment and people.”

The coronavirus crisis has served to accelerate this journey and underline why it is a necessary one to take. “We pursued B Corp certification long before the COVID-19 pandemic or the exposure of social injustices caused seismic shifts to our world. 2020 underscored why Kalsec chose to become a B Corp.”

While Kalsec has long backed the principles that underpin the B Corp movement, Dr Nykaza observed that certification is proving an important communications tool. “We recognise the value of transparency to our stakeholders and how emphasising the core values that make Kalsec unique helps differentiate us in a crowded global industry.

“We have seen our certification have an impact on potential partners. For instance, one of our scientists attended a conference earlier this year and when word got out about our B Corp status, she was virtually swarmed by millennial entrepreneurs. Millennial and Gen Z customers and consumers are not just eager to work with socially responsible companies – they expect it.”

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