27 Mar 2019

Harvard Business School Joins Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle

HBS leverages food buying power to promote higher-welfare farms.
Photo: Amelia Kunhardt

BOSTON—Harvard Business School (HBS) has joined Farm Forward’s Leadership Circle. Farm Forward is a non-profit that promotes conscientious food choices that support humane treatment of animals and advance sustainable agriculture. Increasing the humane treatment of animals also has a positive impact on human health since over 80% of antibiotics sold in the United States are used to treat farm animals living in cramped conditions. This contributes to antibiotic resistance in humans according to the Center for Disease Control.

Members of the Leadership Circle leverage their buying power to promote higher welfare farming practices and to support farmers who are third-party certified for animal-welfare standards. HBS is the fourteenth institution to join the Leadership Circle, which includes other leading institutions such as Bon Appétit Management Company, University of California Berkeley, and Villanova University. “Leadership Circle members practice the kind of values-based food purchasing that all institutions should strive for,” said Andrew deCoriolis, Executive Director of Farm Forward. “Through thoughtful procurement policies, institutions like Harvard Business School meet growing consumer demands for more ethical and sustainable food by decreasing their carbon footprint and improving the welfare of farmed animals.”

As a member of the Leadership Circle, HBS has committed to buying 100% of its eggs – both liquid and shell – from farms that are certified higher-welfare and align with the Leadership Circle’s sourcing requirements. In addition, HBS will look for ways to support farmers and ranchers who raise animals to the highest level of welfare.

“Business leaders from around the world look to Harvard Business School as the gold standard. We applaud HBS for making farmed animal welfare a core part of values-based food purchasing policies and hope they inspire others to follow suit,” concluded deCoriolis.

To implement these changes, HBS partnered with their on-site dining management company, Restaurant Associates – a member of the Compass Group. Restaurant Associates has been a key partner in this process, working to identify higher-welfare farms and suppliers and changing their purchasing to accommodate these commitments. “HBS would not be a Leadership Circle member without the support of our dining services partner Restaurant Associates,” said Robert Breslow, Senior Director of Administrative Services at HBS.

In addition, Restaurant Associates leveraged the expertise of Food Buy, the largest foodservice procurement organization in North America, to help source higher-welfare eggs. Food Buy helped to assess the impact of changing the egg supplies to operations on campus and found that switching to a higher welfare supplier had no cost impact to HBS. Breslow noted, “Having Food Buy involved while appraising our own options for making conscious decisions in support of a more humane food sourcing program has been invaluable. They have a wealth of knowledge in the food purchasing world but at the same time there is always room for improvements, and given the volume of food purchases in their portfolio they could, and do, influence industry practices.”

HBS undertook this project as a part of their broader sustainability initiatives on campus. Harvard University launched its Sustainability Plan in 2015 as a roadmap to create a healthier and more sustainable campus. The plan looks at sustainability in a holistic manner considering five key categories of goals and commitments including energy and emissions, campus operations, nature and ecosystems, health and well-being, and culture and learning. This work was inspired by the animal welfare portion of Harvard’s forthcoming Sustainable Healthful Food Standards, developed by the Harvard Office for Sustainability in collaboration with a multidisciplinary Faculty Food Standards Committee, the Council of Student Sustainability Leaders, and many other experts. “Providing more humane, healthier, and sustainable food options aligns with our plan’s focus on reducing emissions and improving the health of our community,” said Leah Ricci, the Assistant Director for Energy Management and Sustainability at HBS. “We hope to amplify our impact by sharing our improvements externally and with our students so they will implement similar initiatives in the organizations they join after graduation.”

HBS is also actively seeking ways to incorporate more plant-based items to their menu to promote more healthy and environmentally-friendly dining options. HBS provides plant based food options, which are healthier and have lower greenhouse gas emissions associated with them. Once a week, the hot bar in the main dining hall, Spangler, consists of entirely plant-based options through the Menus of Change program in addition to the daily plant-based hot bar in the Grille. Menus of Change is an initiative that was founded by the Culinary Institute of America and Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health with the goal of “integrating optimal nutrition and public health, environmental stewardship and restoration, and social responsibility concerns within the foodservice industry and the culinary profession”. The pastry chef also features a plant-based dessert to highlight how delicious and decadent plants can be. In order to promote these changes in the dining hall amongst the students, the Student Sustainability Associates ran a vegetarian recipe contest. Winning recipes were selected and prepared for dinner and students were able to vote on their favorite.

Both dining halls on campus are also Green Restaurant Associated certified. When possible, HBS donates leftover food through an organization called Food for Free, which distributes to shelters and other places in need.

Moving forward, HBS will continue to search for ways to sensibly incorporate higher welfare items as well as plant-based food options into their dining services. HBS is committed to continued progress to improve the health and sustainability of our food system on campus.


Leah Ricci
Assistant Director of Energy Management and Sustainability at HBS


Farm Forward is a team of strategists, educators, campaigners, and thought leaders guiding the movement to change the way our world eats and farms. They implement innovative strategies to promote conscientious food choices, reduce farmed animal suffering, and advance sustainable agriculture. Farm Forward is pushing the ceiling of animal welfare by looking beyond incremental suffering reduction on factory farms, towards the institutional and cultural change that will end factory farming.


Founded in 1908 as part of Harvard University, Harvard Business School is located on a 40-acre campus in Boston. Its faculty of more than 200 offers full-time programs leading to the MBA and doctoral degrees, as well as more than 70 open enrollment Executive Education programs and 55 custom programs, and Harvard Business School Online, the School’s digital learning platform. For more than a century, HBS faculty have drawn on their research, their experience in working with organizations worldwide, and their passion for teaching to educate leaders who make a difference in the world, shaping the practice of business and entrepreneurship around the globe.