Instead of traveling by plane to end up in your breakfast bowl, the South African blueberries from United Exports take another route that's more emission-friendly: they're shipped in bulk to the European market. While it is part of the company's ongoing decarbonization journey, it is also expected by major retailers who have committed themselves to net-zero emissions goals, says United Exports' CEO Jon Salters.
In 2021, South Africa had one of the coldest winters in sixty years. Especially long periods of frost are harmful for blueberries. Fortunately, United Exports has the advantage of cultivating a variety that fruits outside of the frost season. United Exports is a leading blueberry producer farming a proprietary variety of blueberries in South Africa for both local and international markets. Besides the genetics of their blueberry variety, Jon sees the company’s focus on ESG and climate as another important competitive advantage. “We look at the entire value chain of our business. Our biggest climate impact sits obviously with the production. Our R&D looks at what we’re feeding the plants. We’re managing our water as efficiently as possible, because moving water around takes up energy. It is precision agriculture, and we are really data focused as an organization. Another important aspect in this is educating our staff on the impact of their activities on costs, climate and sustainability”. When asked about their current focus in their journey to reduce emissions, Jon answers it with responsible energy management. At the end of 2022, they completed energy assessments at all their sites. Watch the full interview below.