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Charting the Course for Sustainability at Aurora Organic Dairy – Phase III: Developing a Prototype Corporate Sustainability Report


Aurora Organic Dairy is a leading national provider of organic milk with dairy farms in Colorado and Texas and over 50,000 acres of organic feed production in several states. Through its unique vertical integration, Aurora implements a socially responsible business ethic throughout its operations ranging from ensuring the humane treatment of animals, to advancing environmentally sustainable operations, to fostering supportive relationships with its employees, and surrounding communities. Aurora would like to continue to reduce its overall environmental footprint and further develop its leadership on sustainability initiatives. In order to better communicate the transparency of its business practices to stakeholders and to strengthen its internal strategic framework for developing its innovative practices, Aurora is seeking to publish its first Corporate Sustainability Report (CSR). This report will be shared with key retail customers, partners, the news media, constituents from the organic and dairy industries, general consumers, and other interested parties. It will be posted on the company’s website and sent out to these key stakeholders.


This Phase III engagement between the University of Michigan and Aurora will leverage the work of the previous two Phases in completing the Phase III objectives. The goals of this project are to research indicators, metrics, industry benchmarks, and other relevant data needed to create an effective report and to subsequently draft a prototype CSR. With a goal of regular updating and tracking, this first CSR will establish the benchmark for Aurora Organic Dairy’s operations from the April 2007 – April 2008 timeframe when the LCA data was first examined in Phase I. The report will measure progress on carbon emissions and energy use from that time period through 2009, and it will also incorporate internal benchmarks for other key environmental indicators, including water use and conservation, solid waste disposal and nutrient loads in and out of the operations. The team will propose and where possible evaluate economic and social sustainability and environmental indicators, which would include qualitative metrics such as animal welfare certification.


Phase III will develop the foundational elements that will allow Aurora to measure and track its own internal performance against internal goals as well as serve as a performance indicator within the industry (both organic and conventional dairy operations). Aurora’s CSR will include economic, environmental, and social elements such as energy use, water conservation, waste disposal, nutrient loads, animal welfare, charitable giving, and employee relations and benefits. Specific indicators will be used to track and define industry and reporting best practices and metrics for each issue area.  The report will draw from CSR reporting best practices and standards within the CSR field, driven by the Global Reporting Initiative’s G3 reporting guidelines. Phase III is the first step towards a final CSR which would include strategic sustainability goals, as defined by Aurora Organic Dairy, with guidance from the project team. Phase III will include preliminary research of CSR elements, industry best reporting practices, measurable metrics, relevant benchmarks, and recommendations for potential goals.


The specific project objectives are to:


  1. Identify and Prioritize appropriate environmental, social, and economic indicators for Aurora
  2. Identify proper metrics and processes for tracking indicators
  3. Identify relevant benchmarks for the organic dairy industry
  4. Create prototype report
  5. Create process for Aurora reporting content, frequency, and goal setting
Aurora Organic Dairy
Research Areas
Food & Agriculture
Food Systems and Consumer Products