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Rogue Creamery’s Sustainable Business Practices

Rogue Creamery’s handmade cheese is produced from sustainable and organic certified raw milk and made using sustainable practices adapted from over 80 years of operation. Rogue Creamery has a conscious plan to be a leading example of a zero impact food producer by 2021. Rogue Creamery looks not only within its organization to incorporate behavioral and operational change to reach sustainability goals, but also to its suppliers and end users. Rogue Creamery receives milk from Rogue View Dairy in Grants Pass. The dairy is Food Alliance certified for sustainability. This means that the dairy provides safe and fair working conditions; ensures the health and humane treatment of animals; does not use hormone or antibiotic supplements; does not raise genetically modified crops or livestock; protects water resources; protects and enhances soil resources; provides wildlife habitat and continually improves practices.

Sustainability is incorporated into the culture and all areas of the organization. It is a work in progress with continual improvement goals. In 2004, Rogue Creamery became the first dairy processor and maker to be third party sustainably certified by Food Alliance. In 2008, Rogue Creamery reduced overall waste by 50% and has sustained that reduction by recycling additional items and through a renewed commitment to recycle even basic items. In 2009 Rogue Creamery partnered with Rogue River Rafting to further education about the Wild and Scenic portion of the Rogue River. This was an important step in furthering Rogue Creamery’s conservation and wildlife preservation efforts and connecting its regional flavor and personality to the Rogue River.

At the 9th annual Ashland Independent Film Festival in April 2010, the Rogue Creamery’s Audience Choice Award for Full Length Documentary was awarded to the film ‘BAG IT’ which focused on the overuse of plastic bags. Late in 2010, Rogue Creamery achieved a milestone by installing a photovoltaic system at the creamery’s historic facilities which generates thirty percent of the company’s energy consumption. Rogue Creamery has built sustainable programs in the following areas:

   A) Team member Wages and Benefits including the company’s Nellie Green programs
   B) Community Outreach focused on contributions, volunteer work towards hunger and nutrition, wildlife preservation and restoration, independent film, education and community supported agriculture networks
   C) Recycling and Reclamation supporting Oregon State University’s
Master Recycling program and land and pasture management courses
   D) Environment and Ecological support of urban and rural programs
   E) Resource Conservation through training, practice and new energy
   F) Transportation – supporting low carbon methods of transportation
   G) Community Service – Serve on Oregon Sustainable Board, founding member and sponsor of Thrive and member and sponsor of Food Alliance.

Rogue Creamery recycled plastic, paper, paper board, corrugated and glass for many years, but a goal to reduce waste even further lead to an analysis of the garbage. There were two main items in the trash, wax and clear plastic film. Local recycling programs for these items did not exist. Research was done to determine what industries use or reclaim wax. The wax is a high quality food grade wax. After many calls, Westech Products, a wax manufacturer in California offered to reclaim our wax. The wax is cleaned and recycled for industrial wax purposes.

The second component of the trash was clear plastic film. SPARC Enterprises Recycling, a wholesale recycling center in Grants Pass, was found. SPARC agreed to pick up Rogue Creamery’s collected plastic film once a month at no charge. Work with SPARC lasted a very short time, when local Rogue Disposal and Recycling indicated they would be taking over the plastic film recycling. All plastic containers and other plastic items that are not allowed in the recycle bin are collected on site and stored for the annual local Plastic Round-up. Team member training to ensure that appropriate items are recycled has been important as well. Rogue Creamery has a team member that has completed the Master Recycler program who stays abreast of new opportunities. Rogue Creamery has many other programs that have been in place for years such as internally re-using corrugated cardboard where appropriate and re-use of all 50 gallon drums either on-site for collection containers or by providing them to other sources such as the wolf sanctuary or local schools. Whey, a by-product of cheese making, is one hundred percent re-used as nutritional supplement for heifers and fertilizer irrigated on fields as fertilizer for a local organic farm.

In 2009, Nellie Green programs were instituted at Rogue Creamery to encourage team members to reduce their carbon footprint by finding green modes of transportation to work. Rogue Creamery offered a bike-to-work program through its Nellie Green Pedal Power Program. For those not in the Pedal Power Program, Rogue Creamery offers another commute to work option, Nellie Commute, where team members commit to using one of a list of options to commute to work at least once a week. A monetary award is provided for those participating in the program.

Rogue Creamery has a goal of generating all of its electrical needs by 2021. In 2010, Rogue Creamery installed a 58,000 watt solar program along with a new roof inclusive of 3.0” of insulation. The solar panels have generated a 25% electrical savings for the manufacturing facility. Another 12,000 watt solar program is planned for 2012 and plans for installing a thermal program in 2013. Opportunities for installing solar on Rogue Creamery’s new refrigerated cheese storage facility are being engineered.

Sustainability is the culture at Rogue Creamery and has the commitment from all management. Successful programs require perseverance, dedication, creative thinking and behavioral change. Many programs, such as solar voltaic, require large upfront funding while others need little or no funding but do require thinking beyond current or established programs. At Rogue Creamery long term thinking and a commitment and belief in the future exist within each member of the team. Sustainability is a serious matter for everyone at Rogue Creamery, and each project's value and payback to environment, wildlife and community is reviewed and often funded without regard for economic incentives. A project is supported when Rogue Creamery believes in its value to the environment even when the economic payment is not definite. Every facet of the business incorporates sustainable practices. At Rogue Creamery projects are selected, planned, budgeted and sustainably initiated. Rogue Creamery is taking a look at all suppliers to understand and encourage their commitment to sustainable practices and to buy and support local businesses whenever possible. The company is committed to organic and is working towards having all suppliers organically certified. Considering sustainability is Rogue Creamery’s focus when making business decisions from selecting a printing company, a transportation provider or a welder. Each supplier or service will bring a different focus and emphasis to Rogue Creamery often with a side benefit in being more efficient, building better relationships, financial savings, supporting local business, providing sustainable insights and perhaps providing marketing opportunities.

Sustainable practices have been part of Rogue Creamery since its founding in 1933. However, under David and Cary’s leadership it has become part of every decision because it is the right thing to do for the environment, community and the future of the world. An unexpected benefit occurred because of their emphasis and leadership in sustainable practices: Rogue Creamery’s cheese lovers, guests, distributors and retailers and restaurants showcasing it’s cheeses want to know the story behind Rogue Creamery’s sustainable practices. Rogue Creamery encourages individuals to drive change with their purchasing power and in the process many have become ambassadors. In addition, Rogue Creamery provides its sustainable templates to all businesses that inquire.

Sustainability is an integral part of the mission and a driving factor in making business decisions at Rogue Creamery. The company’s mission is “People dedicated to sustainability, service, and the art and tradition of creating the world’s finest handmade cheese”. Being fiscally responsible, staying true to the mission and an understanding that all everyone does is interwoven and has a rippling impact are a part of what defines Rogue Creamery. Rogue Creamery is a small company, but hopes to be a big example to other companies. Rogue Creamery is proud that it has impacted the world of cheese with its many accolades and blue ribbons, and is proud of the sustainable practices used in achieving those awards. Its team members, community and network take pride in their association and work in making Rogue Creamery’s cheese not only award winning and celebrated around the world for its regional flavor, healthfulness, and purposeful mission. Rogue Creamery lives and breathes sustainability every minute, and sustainability is a daily focus for every task and decision.

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