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  • User picking berries


  • upstream

  • Person picking berries
  • Our impact begins with the decisions made by our partners and suppliers, well before products reach our distribution centers. While we don’t directly control these processes, we take those impacts very seriously. We’re investing in programs and partnerships that will help build a more equitable system and carry our values further upstream.

  • What does 'upstream' refer to?

    When we say ‘upstream’, we’re referring to all of the activities that happen before products get to our distribution centers. This includes the people involved in growing, making, and moving food, including our manufacturers and suppliers.

Making Sustainability More Accessible

The traditional system of food distribution is incredibly complex and tough to break into, and brands led by people with less capital or privilege can struggle to grow and get on the shelf.

  • We’ve proactively invested in nurturing new and emerging supplier relationships and creating structures to add value and create efficiencies within our current relationships, like our Supplier Diversity action plan, our Marketplace program, which gives small brands an opportunity to expand their distribution, and our UpNext program, which offers mentorship to selected suppliers. We’ve also deployed tools, like the Climate Action Hub, to help our suppliers better manage their own climate impacts and to help us set the stage for future action. 

    The UNFI Produce team is also engaging with suppliers more directly to reduce the inherent redundancy in the conventional distribution model, make it more affordable and efficient to distribute produce grown with regenerative, organic practices, and most importantly, deliver the freshest produce possible. Given current limits in scale, organic produce is often slower and more costly to get to stores, but this facility is proving that there are advantages to consolidating it with conventional produce.


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  • Produce from Rainier Fruit, one of UNFI’s many suppliers.

Building A More Inclusive Supply Chain

In addition to sourcing from suppliers with certified social and environmental practices, we will use our buying power to support a more diverse set of suppliers. 

  • Because of the many systemic inequities in the modern food system, we can’t expect our pool of suppliers to suddenly diversify overnight. We clarified our supplier diversity action plan to reflect our evolving commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion and better integrate our mission into sourcing activities, spending levels, customer services, sales tactics, and more. Doing so can provide opportunities for historically underrepresented business owners and their communities and contribute to economic inclusion along our supply chain.


    This is how we will ACT on our mission to build a more inclusive supply chain: 

    Apply…supplier diversity into our everyday business practice

    Commit…to building connections with our customers and ease navigation through the UNFI network 

    Transform…the procurement process through greater transparency and accountability


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Inspiring Climate Action

We know we have work to do and that we can influence the broader industry and inspire others to take action. That said, it would be considerably more difficult to meet our emissions reduction ambitions without collaborating with our partners along the value chain. 

  • Setting out on the path to decarbonization can be overwhelming for businesses of all sizes. So, we’ve also deployed tools, like the Climate Action Hub, to help our suppliers better manage their own climate impacts and to help us set the stage for future action. We hope this evolving partnership will help us fast-track collective action toward a decarbonized future by providing a platform for conversation, learning, and, of course, climate action.

    Engaging our suppliers helps us to better understand the hurdles suppliers face, including consistently tracking emissions, introducing or scaling new agricultural practices, and minimizing the impact of packaging. 


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Recent Progress

As we learn more about our upstream impacts, we also recognize the need to institute policies that promote transparency and traceability. We have an opportunity to engage our suppliers in reasonable and actionable requests, which we know can take some time to come to fruition.

Climate Action Hub

Climate Action Hub

After almost two years of partnership with the Climate Collaborative, we officially launched the Climate Action Hub. Within the Hub, the Climate Action Guide for Business, which offers suppliers step-by-step guidance for how to measure and disclose impact, commit to ambitious targets, and identify opportunities for action, is now available to everyone for free. Visit the Climate Action Hub Now!

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Climate Action Responsible Procurement

UNFI up next


Through UpNext, we look for emerging brands, diverse suppliers, and category disruptors whose visions inspire us. Suppliers who meet our criteria are mentored – at no cost to them – by UNFI Supplier Development Managers and guided on how to best leverage UNFI’s marketing programs, sales channels and tradeshows.

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Diversity, Equity & Inclusion  Responsible Procurement

Growers with fruit behind them

Meet the Grower

Our UNFI Produce team highlights a different grower every month to increase awareness about our partners’ various practices.

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Responsible Procurement