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  • operations

  • Person sorting berries
  • While our window of direct control may be limited compared to the food system as a whole, this is where we can effect change the quickest. This is no small feat – and those changes have massive ripple effects that extend in multiple directions along our value chain.

  • What 'operations' are we referring to?

    Consistent with the “operational control” approach, which sets a boundary around the assets and activities where a company has the authority to introduce and implement its operating policies, we’re talking about when people and products are within the four walls of our buildings and riding along in our fleet.1

1. World Resources Institute. (2021). Corporate Standard. The Greenhouse Gas Protocol, WRI. World Resources Institute. 

Operational Efficiency

Recent projects included system updates for motors, fans, lights, and cooling equipment, as well as updates to our protocols and controls to increase our energy efficiency. 

These projects are partially funded by utilities and energy savings across our distribution centers, which are meaningful when you consider our size and scale. Overall, the energy savings we’ve earned as a result of these projects have helped to reduce our electricity usage and have paid for themselves.


    Over the past few years, our team has assessed of all lighting in our U.S. distribution centers and retrofitted many of them with the latest, state-of-the-art LED lighting, including in some of our Cub Foods’ locations. Cub Foods collectively represents a notable portion of our direct source Scope 1 emissions, so these retail location projects are a big win – they account for the majority of our energy usage, energy efficiency investments, and direct emissions savings from lighting.

    Did you know that LEDs are 90% more efficient than incandescent bulbs?


    Each of our distribution centers is unique – with specific purposes and cooling requirements. Looking at just one or two facilities does not give the full picture of the nuance needed to properly manage our refrigeration systems. With the support of external partners, we have been able to gather and aggregate information across our different systems, which helps us make the most informed decisions for improvements and optimization for both food safety and associate safety. While some of the refrigerants we use are ozone-depleting substances, we’re working to transition our refrigerants to non-ozone depleting and alternatives with a lower global warming potential. 


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Physical Safety & Well-Being


    We believe generous and comprehensive health, dental, and vision benefits are the baseline for taking care of associates and their families, and we consistently review and enhance the plans we offer. We also have programs available to help associates make educated decisions when choosing a provider, resulting in savings for them on medical, surgical and prescription costs, as well as convenient biometric screenings and vaccination clinics at a number of locations. Associates and their families now have unlimited, confidential access to experienced personal health advisors in multiple languages. 


    Safety will always be one of our core values – and our goal is for every associate to arrive home safely at the end of every day. It is critical that we not only have clear facility and fleet protocols, but also that everyone is empowered to be a leader in safety, both inside and outside of the workplace. We are proud of our safety record, high safety ratings, and awards, but we will always strive to improve our protocols at every turn and continuously strive for zero accidents and injuries in our workplace and on the roads – going well beyond what’s legally required of us. The success of our safety programs is built on the foundation of effective governance and management systems, thorough training, clear communications, and frequent audits – both internal and external. Despite the added challenges and uncertainty posed by the pandemic, we’re very proud of the way our associates keep rising to the occasion on behalf of the communities we serve.


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  • Back of UNFI warehouse worker in safety vest with the words "Every Moment Matters" printed on back.
    Every Moment Matters

    "We believe every decision makes a difference. We believe one moment can save a life. We believe what matters most is that everyone gets home safe. We believe Every Moment Matters."



Workforce Diversity

We can’t create a genuinely inclusive work environment without first having a foundation of diversity – from diversity of identity to diversity of thought. 

  • To build a diverse, high-performing, and agile workforce, we’re taking many proactive and innovative steps, including bringing an equity lens to policy development and recruitment – for example, the implementation of our Diverse Slate Policy – implementing new incentives to increase retention of diverse talent, like daily pay, enhanced health benefits, and select time programs that account for the specific needs of each and every associate, and creating spaces for our associates to learn from one another, support each other, and affirm colleagues’ identities, all of which more deeply integrates our DEI strategy into our culture.

    We are also proud to publish high-level data to be transparent about where we’ve made progress and where we’re still working to include historically underrepresented voices in our company’s growth. This is especially true for our management roles and our Board of Directors because we know leadership diversity creates a waterfall effect throughout the company.


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Recent Progress

Effectively managing our operational impacts means occasionally pausing to reflect on our programs and processes to ensure all outcomes are aligned with our intentions. It also means proactively making changes to optimize when needed to keep moving the needle. 

group marching in Parade

Big News

UNFI’s associate resource groups, which we call our Belonging and Innovation Groups (BIGs), have seen a promising swell in associate – and leadership – involvement and initiative. These are one of many ways that our associates are getting engaged and telling us about where we should invest further.

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Associate Safety & Well-being Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion

Every Moment Matters

Every Moment Matters

We launched a company-wide safety brand to foster a caring, grassroots culture – Every Moment Matters – and a ‘Safety Moment’ to use at meetings of ten or more people, which we hope helps to disseminate important reminders, quickly identify hazards, and empower associates to build a grassroots safety culture.

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Associate Safety & Well-being Customer Health & Safety

Solar Array

New On-site Solar Arrays

In 2022, we launched the installation of a roof-mounted solar project at our distribution center in Howell, New Jersey, which is our largest array to date. Once work on Howell is done, we plan to begin construction of a new and larger, solar array at our Riverside, California distribution center.

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Climate Action Energy Efficiency