In-Store Sustainability Supply Chain Mapping

For some brands, their supply chain is what makes their product better than a competitors. The quality of ingredients, the social benefits of their partnerships, the environmental protection of their suppliers, etc. can appeal to a customer base while giving them surety that they're purchasing a product that shares the same values.

In store mapping is an emerging trend in the retail environment where these graphics can be a visually attractive and compelling way to show the values that make up the brand. They can liberate information that is generally stuck in the pages of a sustainability report or is used as a talking point with picky customers and showcase it, allow for it to drive interest, connect with core values and drive sales.

For example, I walk into a burger joint and see on the menu right behind the cashier is a 1.5ft by 2ft map of Ontario (my home) and the farms and businesses that supply this location of the burger chain bgood. Being a Torontonian myself I know of these towns, and know some friends and family who live in or near these areas. By seeing these places listed I can’t help but to feel some connection to the economic impact of my purchases.

As you sit down and look towards the entrance you watch customers come in through the front door and pass the giant blackboard map. About 75% of them would acknowledge it with a glance, and maybe only 3-4/10 would point or talk about it. The fact that anyone knows where any of the ingredients come from when they are in a fast food joint is revolutionary, and the maps and imagery provides an easy way to communicate bgood’s efforts.

The section on the left of the board in Toronto Queen St store allows for updated list of ingredients from the vegetable provider. This feature is important for a restaurant who often has to have a flexible menu to accommodate for seasonable availability and in cases where the crop didn’t do so well - a reality of small scale organic farming.

A Boston area location, image from

In Boston, b good uses the same technique but incorporates some colour to make it pop a bit. They also list ingredients that are from farms within the map, but the map size just doesn’t allow for so many arrows and clutter. Nothing is lost here as again these are locations that any Bostonite would be familiar with.

Image of the Washington Street Location from Google Maps profile.

Image from the Dartmouth Street location from Google Maps profile.

Image from 50 Pier Blvd location, image from Google Maps profile.

This red board at 50 Pier Blvd location is consistent with the blackboard layout but is embedded nicely into the restraunts color theme. Despite being a chain, they’ve committed to sourcing locally and communicating it in a consistent manner. Uniformity is synonymous with fast food, but ethics and sustainable local agriculture can be too, b good demonstrates this well.

The Blue Door Farm Stand is a single location farm-to-table restaurant on Armitage in Lincoln Park. Their source list is also on a large chalk board, complete with a detailed mission statement complimented well by a map with farm names.

Image source.

The chalkboard technique is casual, yet a clear, concise and can still have a considerable impact on customers first impressions.

Hood Restaurant in London UK uses a hybrid version of the chalk board, where they’ve pasted cork-cut-outs of the local region and have used a tack to magnet string that can be adjusted to reflect recent purchases. This brings the casual chalkboard method a higher level of accuracy and agility.

Image Source.

Check out Hood Restaurants sourcing page for some of the ethics behind their ingredient choices.

Taking up unused wall space with a info graphic/map is a great idea, but what if you don’t have that luxury of all that area?

Placemats and menus are an excellent location for such a story and don’t require much space if you stick to what matters. Take ulla for example. This small Vancouver Island restaurant stuck with the basics: What, Who and Where. The best part of this option is that you print off a limited run and update seasonally.

Pic from

It’s easy to see the reasons restaurants utilize source mapping within their locations. Restaurateurs are targeting a conscious consumer who responds to transparency and economic, environmental and social dimensions of sustainability. But of course these ethics are not restricted to consumers while they’re looking to put things in their bodies, they are also inline with what you put on your body.

Again, I’m walking downtown Toronto and we go in to one of my wife's favourite stores, Sage. They specialize in smelly stuff (perfume, body lotions, essential oils, etc) and so I make my way around on my own.

The lure of an “exotic fragrance” is one that interests many consumers who want that something special, and as unique and precious as the flower it came from. When you think of an exotic fragrance images of your local farmers conjure up images of, well, local fragrances. Showing the sources of your ingredients in this sense is good business as it show the customer that they are getting the best in the world. The unique, that can only be found in remote locations around the world.

The first map I found was this clean and intelligent use of a wall with nothing more than tacks, string box frames with their products in it. A simple design that brings attention to where the product was sourced.

Queen Street location of Sage.

The second map I came upon utilized an old-school roll-out map of the word which used string and ingredient tags to show the same list of ingredients. Again. Simple. Probably took 30 minutes to put this together (which is about the same amount of time I stood in this store).

Now, where’s the Susty values in that you must be asking. Well, Sage does not do a good job in communicating that part of it in their stores (that I’ve been in). A new picture begins to be revealed when you go to their website however:

“We believe that human impact has damaged the Earth and its ecosystems, and to survive we must treat our one and only home with respect. As we learn more about the impacts of consumption, it becomes even more critical to support natural choices, large and small. Saje is rooted in environmental sustainability and ethical responsibility.”

"All of our products contain plant-derived essential oils and base ingredients. Pure ingredients, straight from nature, are environmentally friendly, healthy and more supportive of the body’s natural breathing, living and healing functions."

"Look closely at each product label and you will see that we list all the ingredients on the labels. These ingredients are clean and natural; we have nothing to hide."

I couldn’t find much about their ethics are reflected within their supply chain planning and management, accept for this one statement: “All of our ingredients are derived from safe and renewable resources and haven’t been tested on animals”.

I can’t help but to think that Sage is missing an opportunity to use the power of transparency within what they’ve already set up. Taking some lessons from bgood it could be as simple as using their own sourcing statement “all of our ingredients are derived from safe and renewable resources” as a tagline to each of the maps. This would elevate their message substantially.

In the next post in this series we look at examples of how this trend extends to the online experience in the foodservice industry.


SJMConsults provides companies with sustainability planning and communication services that speak to the conscious consumers urge to support local sustainable business practices. Check out our service page for more info or contact us here.