Scott Nash: Founder and CEO of MOM's Organic Market

by Samantha Gendler

At age 22, Scott Nash started an organic foods home delivery business out of his mother's garage. Now, almost three decades, 15 stores, and 900 employees later, he has created a corporate culture centered on protecting and restoring the environment. MOM's Organic Market is a retail chain with stores in Maryland, DC, Virginia, and Pennsylvania that has big goals beyond selling groceries; educating customers about the importance of organic products and organic farming is as important to Nash as turning a profit. "People care about a lot of things, like taxes and the economy, but if we have an environment that is being depleted and destroyed, then game over," he said. "All other issues pale in comparison to environmental issues."

The MOM's Organic Market core values, which include gratitude, lifting others, and letting go of ego, among others, are atypical of grocery markets, but they are central to Nash's mission. "Businesses are made of people, and our employees emulate and focus on these values, which then become a reflection of our business," he said. "Most corporations have values that they just throw out there. They don't mean anything; they're more of a wish list. Our values are part of our culture; we are incorporating them, pushing them, living them."

A staunch environmentalist, Nash has implemented an impressive variety of environmentally-friendly measures into all MOM's locations. For starters, customers can recycle nearly anything there, from batteries, light bulbs, corks, and cell phones on a daily basis to annual denim and electronics recycling drives. MOM's also offers TerraCycle Recycling, which involves turning previously non-recyclable or difficult-to-recycle waste, such as drink pouches, snack bags, and energy bar wrappers into new products such as park benches and upcycled backpacks. In addition, they have banned the sale of bottled water, eliminated plastic bags, and use biodegradable and/or recycled containers for their in-house packaging. All of the stores' energy is wind-powered and there are car-charging stations at most locations. Employees are offered incentives for driving electric or hybrid vehicles. "In business, you can make a huge amount of change," Nash said. "We have a lot of people to impact, and a large environmental footprint ourselves. We have a lot of influence that could ripple out into the industry. An individual can't do a whole lot, but a business can."

Because of the connections between livestock farming, pollution, and waste, Nash stocks his stores with a wide variety of innovative vegan and vegetarian foods in an effort to nudge people away from meat. Some MOM's locations even include all-veggie cafes called Naked Lunch, where customers can munch on black bean burgers, tempeh bacon, and brown rice bowls. "We like to get people trending away from meat because of the environmental impact, and for that to happen, they need options," he said. "All animals are fairly intelligent, and we'd rather people eat fruits, vegetables, and grains."

Nash has been involved in the organic movement for more than 30 years, and he sees people becoming more receptive to it all the time. Though there is a fairly pervasive perception that organic foods are too pricey for many to afford, Nash believes that with the proper priorities, every middle class person can make it work. As MOM's markets continue to grow, with plans for at least four more stores on the horizon, so does Nash's desire to educate consumers about the value of organics. The bigger MOM's is, the more they can spread their message and set an example of a corporation with sustainability as a priority. "Not all big corporations are bad," Nash said. "I hope good companies take over the world."

Samantha Gendler is the Senior Editor of Vegetarian Journal.