With Paris in doubt, Tyson Foods is the latest business to lead

What comes to mind when you think of Tyson Foods? Maybe it’s their eponymous brand’s wide array of chicken prepped in every shape and size. Or your morning ritual breakfast sandwiches by Jimmy Dean. Or even Hillshire Farm’s folded lunchmeats beneath the classic red container lids.

Most likely, the word “sustainability” doesn’t pop into your head—but that’s about to change.

Last week, Tyson Foods, one of the world’s largest meat producers, announced the beginning of a collaboration with the World Resources Institute (WRI) to develop science-based greenhouse gas (GHG) and outcome-based water conservation targets for their entire supply chain.

Project Coordinator, Supply Chain

This announcement comes at a time when U.S. participation in the Paris Agreement is unlikely. President Trump’s stance on climate change is disconcerting to say the least, but the ambitious goals made by corporate leaders (like Tyson) give Americans something to be proud of. The future is in sustainability, and business is on its way there.

Tyson aims to work with WRI in order to ensure that every step of their supply chain–from the suppliers for the materials and ingredients to the farmers who provide the chicken, turkey, cattle and pigs–meets their environmental targets. More and more companies are setting supply chain goals that address the sourcing of raw materials, which can be the hardest to influence, but the greatest source of impact.

This announcement follows several recent actions made by the company showing their commitment to improve the sustainability of its supply chain, including the recent hire of their first Chief Sustainability Officer, Justin Whitmore, and the elimination of antibiotics in their own brand of chicken. These initiatives are not only a significant step for Tyson Foods, but also the animal agriculture industry in general.

As one of the largest animal agriculture companies in the world, Tyson has the opportunity to act as a role model for other companies, large and small, within the animal agriculture sector to begin adopting similar sustainable initiatives.

Major companies like Walmart, PepsiCo, Nestle, have all set targets to reduce emissions from their full supply chains. EDF has worked with a number of other food and beverage companies and retailers to set supply chain sustainability goals, including Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer.

Tyson’s commitment reaffirms the notion that addressing the entire supply chain has officially become mainstream. We hope to see other major meat producers, such as Hormel, Perdue and JBS, follow in their footsteps.


Follow Theresa on Twitter, @te_eberhardt


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From row crops to rainforests: how agriculture affects us all

Happy Agriculture Day! Whether you have a special interest in agriculture or not, we’re guessing that—as a human being—you probably have an interest in food

But, on this Agriculture Day, we want to recognize and celebrate the farmers and ranchers while acknowledging the fact that we all play a part in the growing of food. In just a few decades, there will be two billion more people to feed on the planet. As a global community our challenge is to feed this growing population sustainably without depleting the soil, polluting our water and worsening global warming.

The statistics are eye opening. Global food production accounts for:

  • 33% of the world’s GHG emissions
  • 70% of the world’s water consumption
  • 80% of deforestation worldwide
  • 50% of global top soil loss

What’s behind these huge numbers? When we look deeper, the problem looks different depending upon which side of the equator you’re on. From row crops to rainforests, here’s a snapshot of what’s happening, both in terms of the problem and the solution:

Domestic Agriculture                         

When we think about how we will feed an additional 2 billion people, improving yields will be critical to meet demand. Fertilizer is an essential nutrient that will help to increase the yields we need. But with less than half of nutrients applied each season being actually absorbed by crops, the unused fertilizer is bad for the planet:

  • US food production accounts for 75% of nitrous oxide emissions and has contributed to the pollution of nearly 40% of US drinking water supply;
  • Excess fertilizer and pollution is washing off of farm fields and into water ways degrading coastal ecosystems and causing algae blooms.

At the same time, this also hurts farmers financially. Fertilizer represents their single biggest input cost, so when nearly $420 million in fertilizer washes off Midwestern farm fields and into the Gulf of Mexico every year, it’s tough to remain profitable.

EDF’s work* with  Walmart, Smithfield Foods, Campbell’s Soup, Land O’ Lakes and other food companies is proving that efficient fertilizer use reduces supply chain emissions and saves money. It just needs to happen more: when food companies, retailers, and other supply chain actors send the demand for scientifically based and economically viable strategies for using fertilizer more efficiently, sustainable practices will expand and far less impact will be placed on the environment.

Agriculture and Deforestation

Agriculture is the largest single cause of deforestation. Everyday forest lands in Brazil and other tropical countries are burned down to grow crops or to create cattle pastures for beef production. The exploitation of the tropical forests for the big four agricultural commodities, palm oil, beef, soy, and pulp and paper, contributes significantly to climate change.

Deforestation accounts for about 15% of global carbon emissions annually. Hundreds of major consumer goods companies have committed to eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

The challenge is twofold: how to increase agricultural production in these topical regions to support the livelihoods of local communities and growing global consumer needs, while fulfilling companies’ zero-deforestation commitments to reduce carbon emissions?

The solution lies in multi-stakeholder engagement. Brazil’s experience shows that collaboration between companies, government agencies and local communities within a region can successfully reduce deforestation while maintaining robust growth in production. The country successfully reduced Amazon deforestation by about 75% from 2005 to 2013.

Katie Anderson, Project Manager, EDF+Business

When executed properly, these jurisdictional approaches provide win-win-win opportunities. Companies have a new way to meet zero deforestation commitments in supply chains by sourcing from lower risk areas and reduce the risk that deforestation will spread to other suppliers. Governments have additional support to improve policies and productivity in their regions. Farmers have the needed incentives and assistance to increase sustainability and profitability on their lands.

Partnership is the key

So it’s clear: our food has costs beyond our wallets, in the form of greenhouse gases, water quality, water scarcity, biodiversity, and other important impacts that we don’t see each day when we sit down at the table.

But the good news is, there’s a lot of movement—or potential for movement— across the food supply chains, from retailers to growers to consumers, to promote sustainable practices on a multitude of food and agriculture issues.

Theresa Erhlich, Project Coordinator, Supply Chain

To tackle these costs, everyone along the food chain needs to realize that there is no free lunch (pun very much intended):

  • At EDF, we are working in collaboration with farmers, companies, governments, and other NGO’s to address these issues and reduce the impact of our food supply chains.
  • Companies (including: food companies, retailers and other supply chain actors) need to consistently send the demand signal to farmers that they want less deforestation and more efficient fertilizer use.
  • Consumers play an important role by sending our own demand signal for more sustainably produced food by thanking the companies leading the way in sustainability through shopping power.

So today take a moment think about where our food is comes from, and the hard work and energy that went into its approaches to feed people and protect our planet.

* EDF takes no money from our corporate partners—we are funded solely through grants, donations and membership. 

6 ways restaurants can fight food waste (and how you can help)

By engaging consumers, clarifying date labeling, and promoting composting, grocers, supermarkets and food companies can play an important role in cutting food waste. But did you know that an estimated 85% of food waste occurs at consumer-facing businesses and homes?

In the restaurant and food service industry, food loss occurs due to inefficiencies, pressure to offer extensive menu options, large portions and consumer culture. According to a study, 4-10% of food purchased by restaurants becomes kitchen loss, both edible and inedible, before reaching the consumer. Once the plate leaves the kitchen, diners typically leave 17% of meals uneaten and 55% of these potential leftovers are not taken home.

All this uneaten food comes with a high cost, both for your wallet and the planet:

But, by working together, restaurateurs (and their customers) can increase efficiency, save money and reduce food

waste.  Here are 6 ideas for restaurant owners, some fairly obvious, others as a result of emerging technologies or innovative practices:

  1. Limit menu items to optimize inventory management. Extensive menus require more inventory on hand at all times and could lead to greater waste.
  2. Offer reduced portion size options. Many national chains such as TGIFridays, Au Bon Pain, Maggianos and Cheesecake Factory, have begun offering small plate options to reduce waste.
  3. Use waste audit software such as MintScrape to identify waste sources.
  4. Find alternative uses for surplus food. One app, Too Good to Go, connects users to restaurants offering discounts on surplus food before closing or throwing it away. The app will be available in the U.S. in 2018.
  5. Get creative. Find ways to reuse food in creative and innovative ways. Restaurant owner Sean Telo of Brooklyn 21 is turning food waste into his Sunday tasting menu. Some recent items on the menu have included mozzarella butter, roasted eggplant puree served with biscuits, and pizza with lamb bacon, cheese, and honey.
  6. Look to best practices for ways to improve efficiency and reduce overall costs.

    Theresa Ehrlich, Project Coordinator, Supply Chain

What can customers do?

  • First, vote with your wallet by supporting local businesses and national brands committed to reducing food waste.
  • Next, when you're patronizing those businesses, be more conscientious of your ordering choices.
  • Finally, take leftovers home for a late night snack or cheap, easy lunch.  Brown bagging it can mean a greener planet!