Whole Foods Market plans to launch a sustainability rating system in September 2014 for produce and flowers.

The Austin, Texas-based retailer plans to display ratings of good, better and best based on sustainability criteria.

“The new produce ratings will provide deeper transparency to our shoppers, helping them make conscious choices while also celebrating the great work and responsible practices of growers beyond their organic and local efforts,” Edmund LaMacchia, global vice president of perishables, said in a news release.

With input from suppliers, Whole Foods Market has developed an index to measure performance in such as areas as:


  • pest management, including prohibited and restricted pesticides;
  • farm worker welfare;
  • water conservation and protection;
  • waste, recycling and packaging;
  • energy; and
  • climate.


The ratings will also reward suppliers for certification by various “social and environmental” standards, among them Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance and Protected Harvest.

“For years we’ve maintained organic and Fair Trade certifications and the new produce rating system will validate the worth of these programs,” John Musser, owner of Tropic Trade, said in the release.

The ratings recognize growers who protect pollinators through specific pesticide practices and habitat restoration, as well as by controlling the effect of managed hives on farms.

The standards commit Whole Foods Market to ensuring its suppliers reduce pesticide use.

“This is a game changer that I hope will have a ripple effect throughout the grocery industry,” Chuck Benbrook, research professor and program leader for the Center for Sustainable Agriculture at Washington State University, said in the release.

The ratings also recognize growers whose practices surpass the retailer’s base standards for produce and flowers.