Where Business and Sustainability Converge
For typical food consumers, the first factors to influence a purchasing decision, Tiffany Tran (BS 2014 Environmental Sciences, Environmental Economic and Policy) says, are taste and cost. “Sustainability might not be top-of-mind.” Tran is determined to change that. In her role as a sustainability analyst at Annie’s—a Berkeley-based, socially and environmentally conscious food company—she helps to promote and track consumer education about Annie’s initiatives that focus on organic and sustainable farming practices.
Since 2008, Annie’s has partnered with Organic Valley to source organic dairy products. Now, along with its parent company, General Mills, Annie’s has announced a new phase in the partnership: the addition of approximately 20 dairy farms and 3,000 acres of organic dairy production over the next three years. Annie’s is also part of the U.S. Organic Grain Collaboration, which is working to increase the country’s supply of organic grain. The brand responsibly sources the cacao, palm oil, and sugarcane in its products, and animal welfare is a top priority when it comes to using dairy, eggs, and meat.
“At the end of the day, agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions and climate change,” Tran says. “We hope that if we can tackle things from the ground up, then the industry and the economy will head in a direction that results in more positive environmental impacts.”
Motivating consumers to buy green
On top of “meeting consumers where they are” with information about Annie’s goals and mission, so that they feel good about buying products that protect and enhance the planet, Tran manages the company’s responsible-supplier program, leads the development of annual sustainability reports, implements employee initiatives, and aims to reduce the carbon footprint of the brand’s headquarters.
“I’m passionate about the intersection of sustainability and business,” Tran says, noting that this interest grew out of volunteering with the Berkeley chapter of the nonprofit Net Impact during her third year at Cal. Today, she’s co-president of the San Francisco professional chapter, focused on planning events and providing resources for professionals interested in making a positive environmental and social impact both at work and at home.
Tran, a Long Beach, California, native who was attracted to the “forward-thinking” Bay Area, started out in pre-med before deciding in her second year that it wasn’t her passion. “I started to think hard about where I wanted to spend most of my time and energy,” she says. “I boiled that down to protecting the environment and what I can do to help ensure that this world we live in continues to be beautiful and healthy.”
The environmental sciences major fit perfectly, Tran says, because she wanted to be well-grounded in a science background for the environmental work that she hoped to pursue. Once she discovered that she was fond of economics, she went for the double major and “crazily enough” also pursued a minor in sustainable design. A part-time job at the campus’s Career Center exposed her to resources available for job-seeking students, and several informational interviews with professionals working in corporate sustainability led to a fascination with the field. Tran began taking business classes at the Haas School of Business, and one was a case-study-based sustainability and business course that she says “drove it home for me.”
“I absolutely loved my experience there,” Tran says of Cal, emphasizing the unique perspectives of brilliant people from around the world and professors who were experts in their fields. “Many of my Berkeley learnings translated directly to my workplace knowledge.”
Positive impacts through agriculture
Tiffany Tran hangs out with her own bunny mascot at the Annie’s headquarters in Berkeley.Photo courtesy of Tiffany Tran.
After graduating, Tran worked in Southern California on the Walt Disney Company’s Environmental Policy Team, conducting research and creating guidelines for running an environmentally responsible business. But she was eager to get back to the Bay Area.
Tran says that the corporate social responsibility space has evolved significantly over the last few decades, and that it continues to grow today. Her goal over the next few years is to focus on how companies can make positive environmental impacts through agriculture. “There are many different opportunities to implement more environmentally friendly farming practices,” she says.
At 24 years old, Tran has already been honored as one of GreenBiz’s “30 Under 30” emerging leaders in corporate sustainability. She’s passionate about continuing to influence colleagues, business leaders, and the general public. And she’s interested in pursuing an MBA down the road to learn more about where sustainability and business can converge.
For now, Tran says, she’s dedicated to creating a bigger and better environmental impact. “There’s so much more work to be done,” she says. “I feel like I’m creating a better future by helping define what it takes to be a responsible business.”