PRELIMINARY survey data: How are cannabis cultivators thinking about environmental sustainability and social equity?
Are you a cannabis cultivator or related business? TAKE THE SURVEY now and be entered to win some prizes, including a one-hour business sustainability consultation session with Enlighten Your Grow, a branded hoodie from Trella Technologies, and a swag bag from MCR Labs.
In September 2020, the CCOE, our sponsor The Hub Craft, and our study partners Enlighten Your Grow, Trella Technologies, and UMass Dartmouth, launched the Environmental Sustainability and Social Justice Survey in an effort to better understand how legal cannabis cultivators across the USA and Canada are thinking about issues of environmental sustainability and its relationship to building a just and equitable cannabis industry.
We believe that the linked issues of social and environmental justice must be at the forefront of creating our legal industry, and there is no better time than now to understand the challenges, opportunities, and promising practices that contribute to an ecologically healthy and sustainable cultivation sector. Building a just and equitable industry means building a foundation of cannabis production that is not only socially equitable but conscious of the environmental costs of growing and distributing cannabis products. Our goal is to generate a data-driven understanding of current efforts and ideas related to corporate social responsibility, addressing the wrongs of the failed drug war, and reducing the industry’s energy and environmental footprint.
A growing body of journalistic, industry, and academic research highlights the historic and continued environmental challenges associated with growing cannabis, across geographic contexts and cultivation methods, whether outdoor, indoor, or greenhouse. You can read more on these issues here and here. To date, no systematic study has been conducted to understand how current cultivators think about and address environmental issues, or about what challenges they currently face given the complexity and diversity of regulatory and legal contexts.
This short blog post summarizes some of our preliminary data and reports on some interesting findings, as we hope to expand the reach and response rate of the survey before releasing the full results in early 2021. So far, we have received over 40 responses from cultivators mostly located in the Northeast US, and are looking to expand into other jurisdictions. Moreover, while the survey is geared towards cultivators, over 30% of our respondents come from ancillary businesses like retail and product manufacturing, demonstrating an interest in the issue beyond strictly cultivation businesses. We therefore encourage businesses not directly involved in cultivation to respond to our survey as well, as opportunities for social and environmental sustainability solutions are relevant across the cannabis supply chain.
Our preliminary data shows that while over 40% of respondents have made formal commitments to Corporate Social Responsibility, over 50% have not yet done so, pointing to a significant gap in companies operationalizing solutions to their concerns about social and environmental sustainability. Of the 40% of companies that have made a formal commitment:
This early data is important for better understanding where cultivators are currently working to address issues of sustainability and what kinds of solutions are most actively used. In terms of specific issues relating to cultivation and environmental impacts:
It is well known among cannabis industry participants that energy use from grow lighting is a common environmental concern, further reflected in our study by 73% of respondents reporting concerns about electricity use in general and 67% associating this with their lighting technologies. Our survey data will be useful for those in the industry seeking to understand where solutions for these issues, whether technological, social, or otherwise are most promising. For instance, our preliminary data shows that 73% of our respondents are looking to find ways to save money by reducing energy use, with 67% reporting an interest in reducing water usage. Moreover, over 60% of respondents are looking for educational and webinar opportunities about the effects of climate change on cannabis cultivation. Finally, over half of our participants report an interest in “best practice guides” and other textual/web-based resources to help them navigate the environmental impacts of their businesses.
This preliminary data represents a small portion of the information collected through our survey and we look forward to publishing the full results later in 2021. Please save the date of JUNE 30TH, 2021 @ 12:00pm EST for a live event discussing the results of our study. More information TBA.