Natural Grocers Reports on ESG Progress

Specialty retailer highlights efforts in sustainability, community support and company growth
Lynn Petrak
Senior Editor
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Natural Grocers ESG
Among other initiatives, Natural Grocers summarized how its product standards were implemented during FY2023.

Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage Inc. has released its third annual "Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Report," recapping its efforts in the areas of sustainability, human health and community well-being.

The family-operated retailer invested in and rolled out a variety of programs and products that align with its ESG principles. Under the environmental umbrella, Natural Grocers highlighted its support of product standards that support a more sustainable food system and its encouragement of regenerative agricultural practices. For example, the grocer claims to be the first natural retailer to offer private-label eggs from farms certified as regenerative. 

Natural Grocers is also embracing eco-friendlier practices across its operations. Among other improvements, the retailer recently added a carbon dioxide refrigeration system to another store and opts for refrigeration systems with LED lighting and pull-down covers. The ESG report also summed up initiatives to cut waste and increase recycling, from donating $5 million of in-kind food and product to using recyclable, biodegradable and/or compostable packaging whenever possible for store brand items. 

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The retailer has also made strides in its social practices, encompassing affordability, nutrition education, community events and scholarships, equity, inclusion and diversity and talent development and retention. Among other accomplishments in fiscal 2023, Natural Grocers invested $6 million in providing free nutrition education, focused on its "Always Affordable" price designation on almost all products and reported that 45% of its store managers and 58% of its assistant store managers were women.

In the area of governance, Natural Grocers noted that four of its eight board members are independent directors and three are women. The retailer’s executive management team, with an average of 38 years of experience in the natural grocery industry, has helped grow the store count from 11 in 1998 to 165 as of Sept. 30, 2023.

“Natural Grocers has a legacy of being a values-driven company. For over 68 years, we have demonstrated our commitment to practices that support a more sustainable and affordable food system,” said Kemper Isely, executive co-president of Natural Grocers. “Our Five Founding Principles are naturally aligned with Environmental, Social, and Governance disciplines. This year’s ESG Report showcases our rigorous product standards and our continued commitment to practices and products that support environmental and human health. We strive to work with vendors who nurture the land and the welfare of animals. We believe this vigilance also contributes to a healthier planet, thriving communities and a flourishing economy.”

Meanwhile, Natural Grocers will release its first quarter financial results on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Family-operated Natural Grocers operates more than 165 stores in 21 states. The Lakewood, Colo.-based natural and organic grocer is No. 95 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2023 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America. PG also named Natural Grocers one of its 10 Most Sustainable Grocers.

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