Avocados: Americans can’t get enough, and Mexicans are paying the price, from organized theft to deforestation.
Most people don’t think about where avocados come from, but Rebecca Gildiner ’09 has to, as the impact strategy manager at Sir Kensington’s. Avocado oil mayonnaise is one of the condiment company’s biggest sellers, in addition to its other non-GMO products like classic ketchup, spicy brown mustard, and Fabanaise (vegan mayonnaise).
“I work closely with our head of supply chain and our head of product to identify certain high-risk ingredients and how we can build more values and standards into our sourcing,” Gildiner says.
With most of their key ingredients, Sir Kensington’s has a direct relationship with its suppliers. But avocado oil is one of the more challenging ingredients because its long supply chain involves farmers all across Mexico, making traceability difficult. Last year, Gildiner traveled there to meet industry experts and learn about better options, including fair trade and certification that the oil isn’t coming from avocados grown in cleared forests.
Beyond the popular pitted fruit, Gildiner keeps her eye on all aspects of the company’s commitment to social consciousness. “I touch anything that is related to our social and environmental impact,” she says. “It is our responsibility to have awareness of what our impacts are and to mitigate and manage those the best we can.”
That includes collaborating with their packaging expert on sustainability efforts, such as using post-consumer recycled materials, and helping with awareness campaigns like the “how to recycle” information on their bottles.
In the year and a half since Gildiner has been with Sir Kensington’s, she’s also helped the company earn and manage its B Corp certification, which the nonprofit B Lab defines as “businesses that meet the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
Because goodness shines from the inside out, Sir Kensington’s employees take sustainability training — a two-hour deep dive into global food systems, which Gildiner developed. She also oversees the employee volunteer program and has been looped into the company’s diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.
“I need to be an internal advocate and champion in everything we do,” Gildiner says.
While at Colgate, the double neuroscience and women’s studies major delved into the topics of eating disorders and cultural relationships with food. She traveled to New Zealand after graduation to explore commercial agriculture and work on farms.
Back in the states, Gildiner spent three years running educational programs for a healthy meal provider to New York City schools. “I started to become frustrated with how much burden was being put on consumers, especially low-income consumers, to make decisions that were best for their health and the environment,” Gildiner says. “I wanted to understand how better to make systems change and put more responsibility on the producers.”
So, she entered Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies to earn a master’s with a focus on food systems and corporate responsibility. While in the program, Gildiner interned with IKEA food services in Sweden, helping them write their global health and sustainability strategy. “It was an incredible experience to work at such an innovation-minded multinational corporation,” she says.
Now at Sir Kensington’s, as she oversees every facet of the company’s impact internally and externally, Gildiner calls herself a generalist. “I need to have a strong foundational knowledge of all the things I am working within and a strong compass for the direction I want the company to go in,” she says. “I like to say I know a little bit more than a little bit about a lot of things.”