The Wonderful Company is based in Los Angeles, CA and operates several farms growing pistachios, almonds, citrus, pomegranates, and other food products. Many of Wonderful’s farms are located in the San Joaquin Valley, which generates about half of the total agricultural output from California. With over 75,000 acres for just almonds and pistachios, Wonderful is a major supplier of the world’s nut products.
Over the past several years, temperatures have steadily increased and annual rainfall have continued to decline in California. A New York Times article told the story of a woman from East Porterville whose husband worked on the San Joaquin Valley farms and ran out of water at home as the wells ran dry. This past summer, many communities state-wide were placed on water restrictions as water reserves fell to dangerously low levels. Data from the California Department of Water Resources indicates that the state has been in a drought since 2012, with eight of the last ten years qualifying as a drought. Unfortunately, trends indicate that the below average rainfall may be the new normal. Businesses struggle not only with water limitations, but also with how to adapt to the rising temperatures. Labor productivity is estimated to decline by 2.2% as workers spend less time outdoors to avoid overheating and energy costs for cooling businesses are expected to increase by 4-12% over the next century.
California’s state government has become more focused on climate change in recent years and has passed legislation aimed at cutting carbon emissions. Two new laws will go into effect next year and put more regulatory pressure on businesses. Although many businesses opposed the legislation given concerns over the impact on jobs, California’s government feels that these measures are necessary in order to combat global warming.
Wonderful has responded to these challenges by focusing on sustainability. They have installed solar panels at three of their four main plants and have also installed fuel cells across multiple locations to generate clean energy. In addition, they are committed to reducing their water impact by investing in irrigation research and exploring new technologies. Some of the recent innovations listed on their company website include Super Trees, which generate 30% higher yield while consuming the same amount of water as a normal pistachio tree, and using drones to monitor soil moisture so that they can avoid unnecessary watering.
Wonderful has also invested in centers at universities across the state to promote research in sustainability. They partnered with Caltech on the Resnick Sustainability Institute to promote innovative approaches to climate change. In May 2016, they established a $500,000 endowment with Fresno State, a university in the San Joaquin Valley, to promote academic collaboration in agricultural sciences. These philanthropic efforts are aligned with Wonderful’s corporate responsibility mission.
While Wonderful has demonstrated a commitment to sustainable practices and research, there remains more to be done. Since nuts and fruits are particularly sensitive to fluctuations in weather, Wonderful should take more action to insulate itself from risk. For example, it could diversify into crops that are less sensitive to temperature fluctuations or crops that achieve optimal yields at the higher range of temperatures. Another option is to move fields to cooler parts of the state or to diversify into different geographies that are not experiencing drought. Wonderful should also partner more closely with the state of California to mitigate the risks of climate change. Water waste continues to be a problem across the state for a variety of reasons including outdated infrastructure and people’s behavior. Wonderful could support the government by educating its local communities on water saving habits. It could also lobby the government to invest more in infrastructure or in programs that encourage farms to transition to more sustainable practices. Within the agricultural community, Wonderful could spearhead efforts to identify best practices and implement them so the industry as a whole moves forward.
 “Who We Are,” The Wonderful Company website, 2016, http://www.wonderful.com/who-we-are, accessed November 2016.
 Jamesine Rogers, James Barba, and Fiona Kinniburgh, “From Boom to Bust? Climate Risk in the Golden State,” Risky Business, April 2015, http://riskybusiness.org/site/assets/uploads/2015/09/California-Report-WEB-3-30-15.pdf, accessed November 2016.
 “Wonderful Pistachios,” The Wonderful Company website, 2016, http://www.wonderful.com/brands/wonderful-pistachios, accessed November 2016.
 Jennifer Medina. “With Dry Taps and Toilets, California Drought Turns Desperate,” The New York Times, October 2, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/03/us/california-drought-tulare-county.html?_r=1, accessed November 2016.
 “Drought and Water Year 2016: Hot and Dry Conditions Continue,” California Department of Water Resources, September 2016, http://www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions/docs/a3065_Drought_8page_v9_FINALsm.pdf, accessed November 2016.
 Mollie Reilly, “California Takes an Unprecedented Stand Against Climate Change,” The Huffington Post, September 9, 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/california-climate-law_us_57d2d195e4b03d2d459a0747, accessed November 2016.
 “Social Responsibility,” The Wonderful Company website, 2016, http://www.wonderful.com/social-responsibility/sustainability, accessed November 2016.
 “The Wonderful Company supports ag research with $500,000 endowment,” Plus Media Solutions, May 18, 2016, available on Lexis Nexis website, http://www.lexisnexis.com.ezp-prod1.hul.harvard.edu/hottopics/lnacademic/, accessed November 2016.