Rachel Brodie – walking the sustainability talk

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Rachel Brodie applies one question to almost every situation she encounters: “Does this make my life better?” It helps her stay focused on her goals and make every minute count, in both her professional and personal lives.

As the Sustainability Officer for Trevelyan Packhouse and Cool Ltd, her role has evolved over the past eight years. It requires looking hard at every part of the production process and figuring out how to make it sustainable. She describes it as a process of trying to solve problems – some take days to solve, some take years. Since 2011 the company has reduced its carbon footprint by 25 per cent on every tray of kiwifruit packed – and reduced waste going to landfills by 77 per cent. In Rachel’s mind this simply makes good business sense.

“Big business should be actively trying to find better environmental options,” she says. “Every executive needs to be thinking about the impact their business is having on the planet. It’s okay if we can’t solve it today, but we should always be thinking about how we can do it better in five years, ten years or 50 years.”

It’s a philosophy she passionately believes in. “I don’t go to work just to pay the mortgage – I go to work to help save the world,” she says. “The kiwifruit industry affects a lot of people and we have a duty to make it as sustainable as possible. It’s important that we are doing our share to make the world a better place.”

Leading the charge

It’s a message she’s been taking to the wider kiwifruit industry for several years and it’s starting to gain traction. As a significant player in the industry (Trevelyan’s handles around 12 per cent of the total kiwifruit exports) they are in a good position to lead the charge. In 2015 the company produced its first Sustainability Report, the first from a kiwifruit industry player. This report publicly analysed the company’s economic, social and environmental performance. In the same year they were applauded as a finalist in the NZI Sustainable Business Awards, in the ‘Communicating Sustainability’ category.

A family-owned company, Trevelyan’s has been a Te Puke fixture since 1971. With 150 permanent staff and 1500 seasonal employees, it is a significant employer in the area. Part of Rachel’s role is taking the sustainability message out to the wider community through financial support, events and speaking engagements.

“We support local schools, community health initiatives, sports, music and other community groups – it’s a part of the job I love,” she says.

“I’m passionate about the sustainability message, getting people to reconnect with nature and knowing where their food comes from.”

Suppliers are required to get on board and packaging options and processes are continually evaluated for ways to reduce harm and waste. “We’re always looking for ways to do it better. This means finding out from suppliers what materials are used in the items they supply and what their recycling profile is. Is there another life in an item that might be sent to landfill? Who else could use this item?” She is currently investigating whether packaging label tailings are any use as commercially compostable animal bedding.

Living the dream

Rachel lives in Welcome Bay with her partner Brian, and has fulfilled a long-held personal dream to own a piece of land and work towards self-sufficiency. The couple are planting avocado trees and have cows grazing on the paddocks – working on the land is one of her greatest joys.

The death of her beloved father in 2016 led to a huge re-think about life, and with her boss’s support she went from a full-time role to working three days a week at Trevelyan’s. “I have a great boss and he suggested I take time off and think about what I wanted from life. I have the best of both worlds now – a job I love and two extra days each week to work on the land and help Brian with his engineering business.”

She is not one for spending money on fashion and cosmetics, preferring to spend time with friends and good food and wine. “I’m all about composting and worm farms and regenerating resources, and I love entertaining. The best evenings are spent sitting outside with friends by the fire, listening to music and having lots of laughs.”

The principles that drive Rachel’s work

  1. What we take: reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and scarce minerals
  2. What we make: reduce our contribution of chemicals that nature can’t process
  3. What we break: reduce our physical destruction of the environment
  4. How we share: respect our growers, staff, customers, community