Sustainable Food Lab Professional Services

Part of the Sustainable Food Lab’s purpose is to directly support organizations in their sustainability efforts. Our vision is to see more and more of the global food supply in sustainability programs that support continuous improvement with measureable impacts.

The Food Lab team has designed and facilitated initiatives with a wide range of organizations—multinational food companies, values-driven entrepreneurial brands, environmental and social NGOs. Over the years we have developed close relationships with very diverse key players.

Our team has decades of experience with sustainability issues, along with capabilities at leadership development and organizational and supply chain strategy.

Professional services available from the Sustainable Food Lab include the following:

Strategic planning and supporting cross-functional teams to refine sustainability goals

Most organizations need periodic refreshes to align goals and execute across different functions. The Food Lab can lead your executive and management teams in a process to define priorities and set goals.  We draw upon our relationships and process expertise to ensure your strategic plan for sustainability will resonate in your operational culture, be relevant to your industry sector, and provide a coherent framework for action and results.


"The Sustainable Food Lab team led Sysco through a sustainability strategic planning process that included interviews with each member of our executive team and dozens of our employees, suppliers, and customers. The Food Lab team surveyed our operating companies, synthesized market research, facilitated the development of a Sysco Sustainability Steering Committee, and helped us to develop guiding principles and areas of focus for sustainability. Final recommendations from the Food Lab team give Sysco a roadmap for further development of work in each area of focus.

The Sustainable Food Lab knows the food industry well, including many of our customers, suppliers and the NGOs and university experts who work on sustainability. The Sustainable Food Lab team brought this expertise to us in a way that was sensitive to our own culture. They are such skilled facilitators that they became increasingly invisible through the process. We now own sustainability at the highest levels of our company more solidly than before this process. We are also better connected to the sustainability work of our suppliers and customers, and we are better able to report and communicate what we are doing."

--Neil Russell, Sysco Vice President of Investor Relations


Design and project management of value chain initiatives

Sustainable sourcing programs ultimately need to connect the goals of buyers with the goals and practices of producers, suppliers and
customers. The Food Lab brings years of experience in working through supply chains with diverse partners to address topics such as inclusion of small-scale producers in developing countries, strategies for low carbon farming, and sustainability metrics. Chain wide collaboration can be the critical element for resilient and efficient value chains. The Food Lab provides core expertise in establishing this collaborative framework.


The Sustainable Food Lab facilitated learning journeys and a workshop for Unilever and Cargill to explore how they could deepen their business partnership around sustainable sourcing.  The central challenges were to see where the two companies’ approaches to sustainability overlap, build relationships between key staff in the two organizations, and identify clear areas where they could develop and implement sustainable sourcing programs together. Out of this engagement were formed eight key commodity teams with people from each organization and a steering group they are each to report to.

One many comments from the post-Summit survey is representative of the general field of responses:

"I think the Learning Journeys were instrumental in helping to provide people actual experiences where they could "feel" the place that they were visiting and provided a venue for relationships to form and develop.  Many speakers commented that the room felt like a "team"  - I don't think the room would have felt like that had we not done the Learning Journeys."


The Sustainable Food Lab has enabled value chain projects with Costco, Superior Foods, ASDA, Sysco and many other companies, frequently in partnership with NGOs like Catholic Relief Services or International Institute for Environmental Development.

Facilitation and convening of pre-competitive industry groups

Tools and approaches are in some cases more efficiently created in a pre-competitive collaborative process.  Sharing among commercial partners or competitors requires creating a safe and creative space, taking advantage of the Food Lab’s combination of facilitation skills, sustainability expertise, and network of experts.


1. The Sustainable Food Lab is coordinating a US Beef Stewardship Collaboration that includes all segments of the beef value chain--from retail to cattle producers—as well as key NGOs including WWF, and The Nature Conservancy.

2. The Food Lab convenes a cross-sector community of practice around performance measurement in smallholder supply chains. The community is made up of sustainability measurement practitioners from Mars, Inc., COSA, ISEAL, IDH, Rainforest Alliance, Syngenta, CDI at Wageningen, CIAT, Unilever, and many other organizations. Its goals are to:

  • Propose and promote a shared approach to measuring the sustainability of smallholder supply chains;
  • Facilitate group piloting of that shared approach;
  • Encourage collaboration on measurement initiatives; and,
  • Identify and address the barriers to sharing smallholder data.

The group works towards these goals while keeping learning at the forefront.






Carbon footprint quantification and reduction

One of the first goals of most sustainability programs is to reduce the carbon footprint of operations, and subsequently the whole supply chain. The Food Lab co-developed the Cool Farm Tool with Unilever and the University of Aberdeen and supports its use in many farming systems around the world. Food Lab services include facilitation of grower involvement to support identification of practices that reduce their greenhouse gas emissions and simultaneously increase productivity or efficiency.


Sustainable Food Lab is supporting farm level GHG accounting and practice change scenarios with tomato suppliers to Heinz and egg suppliers to Costco.

Design and facilitation of sophisticated learning events with diverse stakeholders

The Food Lab specializes in events that maximize learning and quality relationships, drawing on the organizational learning, systems thinking, and Theory U community around MIT. Annual Food Lab summits are always preceded by carefully designed and facilitated learning journeys with diverse small groups.


The Food Lab recently led a series of cross-sector Learning Journeys in Ethiopia and Kenya followed by a workshop with ministry officials.  SFL also custom-designs Learning Journeys and strategy workshops with members and their supplier partners.

Contact Susan Sweitzer This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about how the Sustainable Food Lab team might support your team and initiatives.


JUNE 7-11, 2015
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