TrailFork's Mission: Environmental Stewardship

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TrailFork is a company on a mission. For us, this means that we’re driven to do business by values as much as we are to turn a profit. More sales = more profits = more growth = more capacity to have a positive impact on the world around us.

What if every person heading out on a backcountry adventure packed meals in compostable packaging? What if other backpacking food companies heard that there was a demand for environmentally sustainable packaging and ceased using heavy plastic pouches? And what if this small shift in packaging choices could heighten folks’ awareness of the impact they had on the environment?

Our answer to those questions is: TrailFork would consider itself successful. In order to get there, of course, we’ve gotta sell stuff. But again, sales and profits are a vehicle to do good in the world.

Which brings me to the first tenet of TrailFork’s mission statement:

Environmental Stewardship.

As an outdoor-oriented company, we consider it our obligation to act as stewards for the environment. Through our product offerings, marketing campaigns, and operations management, we pledge to keep the environment upon which we rely at the forefront of our minds and business practices.

Product Offerings: Just so we’re clear, compostable packaging isn’t cheap. Plastic is much more affordable and would lead to much cushy-er profit margins on our meals. But we’ve committed to using compostable packaging for our food, and to working with our suppliers and manufacturers to support an increased demand for pouches made from sugarcane or other certified compostable materials. In order to keep our products at a price point that our customers can swallow (pun intended), this means that our margins are not as great as some other food companies. This isn’t a humble brag, it’s just reality: we’re having to make hard choices about our budgeting and cash flow, and it’s not always easy.

In terms of our meal ingredients, at the moment we’re working with small, independently owned suppliers. As we grow, we want to leverage our growth to support sustainable farming and food sourcing. We’re inspired by the kind of work Patagonia Provisions is doing, and also by startups like Imperfect Produce. We want to drive demand for sustainably sourced food as demand for our product (hopefully) increases.

Marketing: We’ve committed to using our social media presence as a vehicle for increasing awareness of environmental issues. Of course, we’re also trying to build a brand, but we want that brand to be associated with positive environmental change and impact. For the month of April, this means we’ll be highlighting the seven principles of Leave No Trace. We want to convince our customers that acting sustainably and ethically in the backcountry doesn’t have to be a major inconvenience, and we want to empower folks to make choices they can feel good about. What we don’t want to seem like is a scold, or a nagging teacher (I once was one so I can say that). We’re into making folks feel excited about minimizing their impact, not guilty about the impact they’re already making.

Operations Management: We’re trying to operate with a minimal footprint. We use recycled materials wherever possible, we haven’t spent some huge amount of capital on a fancy facility, we pay the folks who make our food as much as we can, etc. etc. At the moment we’re in talks with a manufacturer who may end up producing our retail line at larger volumes, and we’ll be visiting their plant and asking questions about their impact, in hopes that we can drive environmental awareness all along our supply chain.

Finally, we’ve recently joined the 1% for the Planet Foundation, which means that we’re committed to donating 1% of our annual sales to environmental causes.

We’re a tiny, early-stage company. At this life-stage of business, I’ve found that the stress of trying to remain in the black, to help the company live to fight another day, really have the potential to cloud a person’s judgement. But as we move into our second year of business, these are the principles to which we’re trying to remain true.

Since you’re reading this blog, I’m going to go ahead and call you one of our early adopters. You clearly care enough to have stuck with this post! So I’m also going to ask you to please keep following our progress, and to call us out if you’re concerned with the direction we’re going. We hope you’ll hold us accountable.