Immy Mobley, Graduate Intern - Environmental researcher, ESG Foundation

The cannabis company’s ESG report that’s anything but weedy

By August 12, 2021No Comments

The ESG Foundation showcases several ESG reports on their website from various organisations, including traditional banks, housing associations and technology companies. But among these large corporations are a few less expected entrants.

One of which is Rubicon Organics – the first Canadian cannabis company to issue an ESG report. The cannabis industry is uniquely connected to ESG issues because of the historical criminalization and stigma around the plant. The company cultivates, processes and sells organic and sustainably produced cannabis products, and as a result, is becoming a global brand leader. Their ESG report is certainly impressive as the first of its kind. It highlights many of the company’s achievements in 2020, such as 78% diversity across their employee base and the installation of LED lights throughout their facility, which are 60% more energy efficient that traditional greenhouse lights. Rubicon Organics has also set targets for 80% waste diversion by 2025 and joined Climate Smart to commit to reducing their carbon footprint in future years. The report is particularly refreshing because it opening addresses the challenges that the company is currently facing, such as COVID-19 and recycling packaging.

Jesse McConnel, CEO of Rubicon Organics, stated: “Not only does our ESG report highlight where we excel, it also serves as a roadmap for how we are going to strive to achieve the highest standards in operation as we set out to make the Best Cannabis on Earth and for the Earth”.

In its first quarter of 2021, Rubicon Organics earned $4.1 million of net revenue, an increase of $3.7 million from the first quarter of 2020. Since then, the company’s earnings have been consistent with industry trends – the shutting of stores due to ongoing lockdowns meant that they were limited to ‘click and collect’. Nevertheless, with a transparent and informative ESG report, Rubicon Organics is paving the way for a sustainable cannabis market in Canada.

Sticking to the theme of plants, another impressive report showcased on the ESG Foundation website is written by Scotts Miracle-Grow. The company is one of the world’s leading marketers of lawn and garden products. It also sells nutrients, lights and other equipment used in cannabis production.

The Scotts Miracle-Grow 2021 corporate responsibility report outlines how the organisation will deliver on its sustainability purpose called ‘GroMoreGood everywhere’. The previous year, the company underwent a formal materiality assessment to prioritize its most important ESG opportunities, and based on that assessment, certain areas were identified that could drive its sustainable business practices. These included community engagement, governance and transparency, and associate wellness. The report tackles some of these challenges directly. It promises to connect 10 million children to the benefits of green spaces and triple the amount of recycled content in plastic packaging by 2025.

Jim Hagedorn, CEO of Scotts Miracle-Gro, said: “Across our business, we are focused on our purpose, to GroMoreGood, for every person and every patch of the Earth. To us, that’s what sustainability is all about and that’s what our company has always been about. We have committed ourselves long term to our ESG priorities and to transparent reporting that enables our stakeholders to judge our values and sustainability for themselves.”

If the company keeps taking meaningful steps to further their ESG goals, in a collaborative and transparent fashion, it will continue to do better for communities, the planet and consumers. The US consumer sales are expected to increase by up to 9% by the end of this year, and the segment that sells cannabis products is predicted to grow sales by around 45%.

Vicente Sederberg LLP, a leading national cannabis law firm, announced very recently that it has formed an ESG practice aimed to help the industry become front-runners in sustainability and diversity. The Head of Impact and ESG team offers cannabis businesses several services, including ESG screening to address gaps, sustainable consulting and the preparation of community engagement plans. Last year, the firm supported legal training for attorneys working to promote social and racial equity in the cannabis industry.

Marc Ross, Head of Impact and ESG at Vicente Sederberg LLP, explained: “Because the cannabis industry is still in development and under the microscope of a wide range of stakeholders, businesses are under a lot of pressure to do better. By prioritizing ESG issues from the outset, the cannabis industry can get out in front on them. While other sectors get up to speed, the cannabis industry will already be positioned to lead the way.”

As cannabis is not yet legal in many developed countries, notably the United States and the United Kingdom, investor pools are often limited. But recently, it has been recognised that cannabis has the potential to bring about social justice and healthier communities through corporate responsibility and service-based measures. As the industry continues to grow, it is essential that cannabis companies, similar to the examples above, embrace the principles of ESG and report their actions accordingly.