Providing value and values (and groceries) – Spud!

60-second speaker interview

David Van Seters is the President and CEO of Spud! the largest organic delivery service in North America.  Spud! serves more than 19,000 customers and proves that good ethics, healthy foods, eco-friendly practices, and a commitment to local communities are essential ingredients to a modern recipe for business success.

David is speaking at Action for a Sustainable America Seattle and here in a 60-second interview he discusses expansion, sustainable business and sources of inspiration.


ASA:   What have been the challenges of growing Spud! and remaining true to your ideals?

DVS:  The challenges are so numerous I hardly know where to begin.  Because we are committed to offering the same prices as consumers would find in their local store yet we incur the extra costs of packing and delivery, its makes it hard to find any leftover dollars to pay for the sustainability elements that are so important to us.  For example, we would love to have a fleet of hybrid vehicles but that is just not economically feasible.  Fortunately, there are enough sustainability aspects that are built into the design of our business that we still feel that we are having a significant positive environmental and social impact. 


ASA: You put a great deal of emphasis on community building – why is this is an important aspect of your business and sustainability strategy?

DVS: I truly believe that most of our global challenges are only going to be solved at the local level where we can better see the direct impacts and results of our actions.  Our current economic challenges are the direct result of a global financial system that is now so complex that we can no longer fully understand it or control it.

In the case of our business, by buying intensely locally and by creating more direct connections between the people who produce our food and the people who consume our food, we are not only greatly reducing environmental impacts, we are keeping more dollars circulating in the local community where they can produce a more stable and prosperous economy that is less affected by outside events.

ASA: You used to be a business sustainability consultant – given your experiences  with spud what advice would you now give to people charged with the responsibility of creating and implementing corporate environmental strategies?

DVS: I would offer three pieces of advice.  First, try to embed sustainability into the very design of the business.  The more deeply it is integrated into the business model, the more likely it will have a positive impact and endure during tough times.  Secondly, ensure that the business is providing both value and values.  Some companies might think that their social mission is enough to keep customers happy but you still have to offer a good, competitive service.  Thirdly, focus on progress not perfection.  While it may be tempting to be a purist, that is often not possible, especially when a company is starting out.  So long as you can honestly say to yourself that your social and environmental performance is better than last year, you can feel good about what you are achieving.


ASA:     Who or what inspires you when it comes to business and sustainability?

DVS: I am inspired by the growing number of businesses that have redefined their mission so that making a profit is not the ends to their business but simply the means.  They recognize that they have to make a profit to stay in business but their primary purpose is to make some kind of environmental or social contribution.  I belong to a group of entrepreneurs and business people called the Social Venture Network and I find it particularly inspiring to interact with them and learn how they are using their businesses as a vehicle to effect positive change.  Through their examples, I have become convinced that any business can contribute to sustainability if its leaders simply make the commitment to do so. 

Explore posts in the same categories: ASA Seattle, ASA Series

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