Chief Commitments: Measuring Progress
At Yakima Chief Hops, we take great pride in operating our business responsibly, which involves a focus on long-term success and the conviction that constructing value for both local communities and the planet is every bit as crucial as shareholder value. We work tirelessly to reduce our carbon footprint, lessen dependence on natural resources, and eliminate waste while empowering our communities along the way. We recognize that industry collaboration is the pivotal force for driving meaningful change and hope to inspire others to join us in creating a sustainable future.
When you think of sustainability, what comes to mind? Is it something ‘green’? Recycling, composting, a bike lane? These are important pieces, but our approach to sustainability at Yakima Chief Hops targets a bigger picture. We’re dedicated to leaving an overall positive impact on this shared rock we call home. That includes employee engagement, what materials are used in our packaging, and how our actions affect the agricultural lands we love so much. For Yakima Chief Hops, sustainability initiatives aren’t just a ‘nice to have’—they are essential to guiding our business decisions.
Our sustainability efforts are grounded by our Chief Commitments, a framework representing the touch points in our value chain where YCH has direct influence over our impact. Areas of focus include initiatives to improve water conservation, reduce emissions associated with our operations, and give back to community organizations.
From an environmental perspective, it is our goal to reduce waste and make our impact a positive one. Our growers helped us to establish the Green Chief program, which includes the planting of cover crops, adopting drip irrigation, and reducing the amount of tractor passes through the fields. All inputs are quantified in our very own Sustainability Portal that provides growers with carbon and water footprints of their fields. This in-house life cycle assessment accounts for all farm-level activities and inputs as well as transportation of hops, and field applications. This tool provides our growers with the opportunity to make input decisions based on associated environmental impact.
Last year we identified that the average farm footprint was 6.5 lbs. of carbon per acre and a water use average of 600,000 gallons per acre. Moving forward, we are continuing to focus on farm-level carbon reduction strategies that include the use of alternative soil amendments and sprays that have smaller emission factors associated with their applications.
Operationally, we have reduced our carbon emissions through facility upgrades. Our CO2 recapture system has effectively reduced our emissions by 40%! That is a massive reduction in CO2 being delivered and consumed within our extraction facility thanks to the ability to clean and reuse CO2 in our process. This upgrade alone has allowed us to redirect saved costs to other areas of our business.
We have also continued our quest to identify a more sustainable packaging material to replace our mylar bags. We have successfully converted the packaging for all our core samples shown during Selection to be 100% compostable. We collected 22,000 sample cores from 38 varieties to present to 400 customers from across the globe, and all that material was sent to our local composter to be turned into compost for farms to reapply on their lands as a positive soil amendment. Hop selection was big this year, but the impact on our waste stream was minimal.
Our Chief Commitments also challenge us to step up for our global communities. To deepen our commitment to the principles of effective corporate altruism, we expanded partnerships with numerous organizations in 2023. We are proud to have supported 63 non-profit organizations in the last year, directing over $275,000 into the communities where we work, serve, and play. It is our vision to encourage our industry to engage with real-world issues through collaborative approaches. Giving back is built into our DNA, and our volunteer efforts largely focus on giving back in ways that help the planet and uplift our communities. That’s probably not surprising, since we’re a company that relies on a clean and healthy environment to grow the ingredients you use in our favorite beers. Our employee giving and engagement program enables our employees to support their communities in two ways, via service and funding. We encourage employees to volunteer on company-paid time. Last year, Yakima Chief Hops employees volunteered nearly 1,000 hours, bringing our total to 4,000 hours volunteered since the program began in 2018.
At Yakima Chief Hops, we recognize that impact reporting goes beyond merely celebrating successes; it necessitates an honest reflection on our shortcomings. It is crucial to hold ourselves accountable, acknowledging that our sustainability journey is ongoing and that there is still much ground to cover. We understand that true progress requires a comprehensive understanding of both achievements and setbacks.
As we strive to be a socially responsible business, Yakima Chief Hops is committed to transparency and continuous improvement. We believe that our stakeholders, including customers, employees, and the community, should take pride in aligning with our vision. We embrace the responsibility to contribute positively to the industry and understand the importance of sharing not only our triumphs but also the lessons learned from our challenges. From our growers to our brewers, we are here to serve and provide value to the industry we love so much – taking an aggressive approach to our climate and social commitments in a way that benefits us all. Business practices may need to change along the way, but we are deeply committed to running things as ethically and sustainably as possible. We are aligning our goals with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) using their globally adopted framework as a lens to focus our impact work. The SDGs are a set of 17 global objectives established in 2015 to address pressing issues such as poverty, inequality, climate change, and environmental degradation. These goals serve as a framework for global collaboration, emphasizing the interconnectedness of social, economic, and environmental challenges. We believe the SDGs are crucial for fostering a more sustainable and equitable world by providing a shared vision and guiding collective efforts to achieve positive global impact.
We extend an invitation to join us on this journey through collaborative partnerships. By working together, we can drive positive impact throughout the industry and foster a shared commitment to sustainability. At Yakima Chief Hops, we firmly believe that we are all in this together, and it is through collective efforts that we can create a lasting legacy of responsible business practices for the benefit of the environment and society at large.