Opinion Women Who Lead

Spreading the Word: The Importance of Building a Sustainable Business

Spread’Em Kitchen

Mellisa Mills is the Founder and CEO of Spread’Em Kitchen Co., a Vancouver-based company that creates delicious vegan dips and firm cheeze products from nourishing whole-food ingredients.

Sustainability is more important than ever right now, as the global pandemic has forced many businesses to throw sustainable practices out the window. Many grocery stores are refusing reusable bags, restaurants are using single-use menus and an increasing number of single-use plastic gloves and masks are being used across the country. Although these measures are necessary now to protect human health, many sustainability activists are worried the pandemic will cause a permanent flurry of plastic waste. With the increase in single-use plastic and the resulting waste, it is more important than ever for businesses of all sizes to have robust sustainability plans in place. 

Make it A Priority

I’ve always been passionate about sustainability, so when I started Spread’Em Kitchen Co., a Vancouver-based manufacturer of vegan dips and firm cheeze products from nourishing whole-food ingredients, I realized I had an opportunity, and a responsibility, to actually make a difference with my decisions. From the beginning, I implemented sustainability as one of the core values of Spread’Em, and continually look for ways in which we can improve upon our practices. 

Incorporating sustainability into a business means not always taking the more affordable, easy route. It takes research, testing and education to ensure you’re investing in the right practices for your business. Spread’Em incorporates sustainable practices in many different ways, from the way our raw materials are sourced, to the use of third-party audits of our carbon footprint. 

Keep Transparency in Production

All ingredients in Spread’Em plant-based products are ethically sourced and traceable. We use cashews as the base of our ingredients, as they only require water and sunlight to grow, and use coconut oil harvested from coconuts grown on organic farms. Our packaging is minimal, to ensure we don’t create waste through over-packaging, and we have a partnership with suppliers to ensure ingredients delivered to us also arrive minimally packaged. We offset the carbon footprint of the paper we use by donating a portion of our sales to Tree Canada, a national tree planting charity.

Spread’Em is a member of Climate Smart, a Vancouver-based social enterprise that audits our carbon footprint to make sure we’re meeting our sustainability goals. From company policies, to how many flights we take in a year and how many cars drive to work, Climate Smart gives us a clear understanding of our current carbon footprint, and the necessary actions we can take to continually reduce it. 

Consistently Seek  Out Innovation

On our journey to constantly improve, we’ve been researching plant plastics for the last 4 years, testing samples to ensure the shelf life is not compromised and that it keeps our product fresh. We’ve recently found a supplier that provides compostable plant plastics that don’t contaminate the recycling system, while also providing an oxygen barrier to keep product shelf life unchanged. We will be conducting trials on this packaging later this year to make sure it meets our standards.

Many of us struggle with this learned helplessness that we need to fight against, a tendency to think we’re just one person, one small business, what impact could we possibly make? The truth is everything matters! The mentality that we’re too small to help anything is detrimental to our common environmental goals. Making small changes helps the entire process of environmental stewardship seem less overwhelming, and pretty soon lots of small changes snowball into big and meaningful results.