Less-Risky Business: Turning Deforestation Commitments into Action

By Alisha Staggs, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, and Ben Young, Intern, Corporate Partnerships

Deforestation in Brazil

Deforestation in Brazil

Increasingly, major companies are seeing forest protection as a key component of their global strategy. However, many companies have yet to identify the concrete action steps to fulfill these goals.

Why not? Most likely because the agricultural landscape is complicated.

Major food retailers illustrate perfectly the complexities of the modern agricultural supply chain. These international corporations are tasked with managing a complex supply web of beef, coffee, soy, and other products that spans continents. Increasingly, the environmental impacts of these commodities cannot be viewed in isolation.

In Brazil, for instance, research suggests that increased demand for soy has pushed cattle ranching onto less productive land within the Amazon. While the cattle ranchers may be directly responsible for deforestation, the ultimate driver is the soy demand. On top of that, production of palm oil, another priority product for many consumer goods companies, is expected to more than double in the Amazon biome over the next decade.

So— how can a company ensure they are sourcing sustainable commodities without destroying the rainforest in the process? Read more

Less-Risky Business: 5 Reasons Companies Should Fight Deforestation

By Alisha Staggs, Project Manager, Corporate Partnerships, and Ben Young, Intern, Corporate Partnerships

forest-lossOver the last 12 months, we’ve seen a number of companies commit to reducing deforestation in their supply chain. At last count, 273 companies have made some sort of deforestation pledge across a multitude of agricultural commodities.

Yet, we often find ourselves questioning the sincerity of these claims. Are these companies simply trying to save face? Surely any action to avoid deforestation will be costly, and companies aren’t known for taking on added expenses voluntarily. So what’s in it for them?

The answer: a lot. Here are the top 5 factors that catalyze corporate leaders into taking global forest loss seriously: Read more

Why Unsustainable Agriculture is a Business Risk

Business driving sustainable agricultureWhat comes to mind when you think of sustainable food production? If you’re like many Americans, you probably picture a local farmer’s market, celebrity-branded salad dressing or an organic farmer growing heirloom lettuces and free-range chickens.

Now, what comes to mind when you think of industrial food production? Do you envision acres of conventionally grown corn stretching as far as the eye can see? Giant feed lots? Factories that process food into “center aisle” products for the supermarket?

When we think about sustainable food production, most people don’t think about solutions coming from Big Business. Yet corporations have the potential to become our biggest ally in meeting SDG 12, the sustainability development goal set forth by the United Nations to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns by 2030.

Here’s why Read more

Product Design: Where the Rubber Hits the Road on Safer Chemicals

Behind the Label_FThe call for safer chemicals and products has reached a tipping point in the marketplace. A recently released report from the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) and the Green Chemistry and Commerce Council (GC3) lays out compelling market trends for safer chemicals across several indicators including demand, capital flow, and job growth. The report notes that the growth rate for safer chemicals is expected to be 24 times higher than that for conventional chemicals over the time period of 2011-2020. In sum, there is tremendous market opportunity for companies able to deliver on demonstrably safer chemicals and products.

Today, EDF is publishing the fourth of five installments on its Pillars of Leadership for Safer Chemicals in the Marketplace: Product Design. The Product Design leadership pillar is about getting specific on how a company will move away from problematic chemicals and ensure the use of safer chemicals. It’s about putting Institutional Commitments to safer products and chemicals into action.

In a nutshell, the Product Design leadership pillar includes four key parts:

  1. Establishing specific measurable objectives with timelines (e.g., percentage reduction of a target chemical by a certain time);
  1. Determining a methodology for how a company will meet objectives (i.e., identifying how information on the hazards and risks of chemicals will be developed and subsequently used to make decisions on product development and sale);
  1. Identifying internal and external stakeholders that are needed to successfully meet objectives; and
  1. Developing a timeline for tracking progress against objectives, reevaluating and updating objectives, and assessing the overall effectiveness of the Product Design process.

Product Design for safer chemicals is where the rubber hits the road in a company’s journey from Institutional Commitments to impact.  It helps companies become leaders in the rapidly expanding marketplace for safer products – and leads to a healthier world.

Linking Supply Chains and REDD+ to Reduce Deforestation

Two tropical forest conservation efforts have gained momentum in recent years: zero deforestation commitments from the private sector and the policy framework Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+). Both efforts are necessary, but not sufficient in themselves to eliminate global deforestation.

Zero Deforestation Zones

Private sector conservation initiatives on individual farms (represented by green trees in the left image) can result in pockets of forest surrounded by deforestation, but Zero Deforestation Zones can conserve forests throughout entire jurisdictions (represented by the green state-wide program in the right image). Credit: Rick Velleu, EDF

In a recently published paper in the Journal of Sustainable Forestry, we find that linking REDD+ and zero deforestation commitments offers a more efficient and effective solution to stop deforestation, which we call Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZ).

The current state of private initiatives and REDD+

Deforestation, which is responsible for 15% of global greenhouse gases, is primarily caused by conversion for the production of four commodities in Brazil and Indonesia: beef, soy, palm, and timber products. To address this urgent problem, companies that control more than 90% of soy purchases in the Amazon, around half of cattle slaughter in the Brazilian Amazon, and 96% of palm oil trade globally have committed to stop deforestation. Read more

Powerful Business: The Lever for Change Across the Supply Chain

Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.

Sometimes when a problem seems too big, too ugly and too complex to handle, you need a lever to help move things along.  All of the big environmental problems we currently face fall into this category.

When it comes to tackling our planet’s biggest problems, there is a full spectrum of approaches and many different leverage points. For me, the most important lever is business. A thriving planet and a thriving economy don’t have to be at odds. EDF is focusing on helping businesses make their supply chains cleaner, more efficient and more profitable.

Working with powerful business has been a cornerstone of EDF’s approach ever since we launched our 1st partnership with McDonald’s 25 years ago. Since then, we have kick-started market transformations in fast food with McDonalds and Starbucks, shipping with FedEx, retail with Walmart, and private equity with KKR. With each partnership, we’ve worked to create new, sustainable demand signals that extend across the supply chain. When powerful business speaks, suppliers listen. EDF is helping the most impactful companies commit to selling sustainably-produced products, encouraging every supplier and producer contributing to those products to also adopt more sustainable practices. Read more

Collaborative Logistics: Shipping Together to Save Together

Collaborative logistics – where multiple companies cooperate to share freight capacity – holds the key to dramatic reductions in freight emissions and costs. Unfortunately, most consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies continue to manage discrete lines of supply to retail customers, passing up these opportunities.

  • Partially full trucks today run side-by-side on the highway, even though they are travelling to the exact same retail distribution center (DC), and freight could have been combined.
  • Outbound deliveries of full trailers ride alongside empty trailers returning home to the same destination after a delivery, even though the outbound shipper could have leveraged the opportunity presented by the empty trailer for an aggressive backhaul rate.
  • Heavy and light products cause trucks to weigh out before they’re full and cube out below the truck’s weight capacity has been reached, even when the solution could have been as simple as combining shipments of cotton balls and hammers traveling along the same route.

Examples of collaborative logistics at work

ocean spray More and more companies are recognizing the value of collaboration in meeting their sustainability goals. It turns out that when shippers climb out of their silos, good things happen. These are just a few examples of solutions being employed by companies:

  • Ocean Spray and Tropicana.  Tropicana shipped orange juice north from Florida in refrigerated box cars, which often travelled back empty to Florida.  Ocean Spray trucked its juice products from New Jersey to Florida along the same route. By shifting most of this TL volume to utilize Tropicana’s rail backhauls (CSX), Ocean Spray cut freight costs 40% for this lane and reduced greenhouse gas emissions 65%.
  • Whirlpool and Daltile. Both of these large manufacturers have factories in Monterrey, Mexico and ship product into the U.S. via rail. Daltile’s heavy ceramic tile reach a rail box car’s 200,000 pound weight limit with enough room for a 53-foot trailer. Meanwhile, Whirlpool’s appliances were cubing out box cars at just 35,000 pounds.  The solution?  Put four truckloads of tile in each box car (160,000) and fill the rest with refrigerators.  Each company now pays just 50% of the cost for the trip, but gets 80 percent of the maximum cube or weight capacity. Daltile’s complete freight collaboration program, generates $3 million in annual freight savings and reduces diesel fuel usage by more than 600,000 gallons per year.

Here are some tips to help your company get started on collaborative logistics:

  • Leverage your 3PLs. They service many companies and are in a good position to identify collaborative logistics opportunities and partners.
  • Look to competitors. Your freight is likely going to the same customers and DCs.
  • Share cost information. When lo-loading freight, mutual trust is critical to determining an equitable cost-sharing arrangement. Both companies must be transparent about what they are paying now.
  • Dedicated the required resources. The right collaborative logistics projects can have a huge payoff, but they require significant time and resources to pull off. Don’t underestimate the time required to make these inter-company projects work.

Find more tips on collaborative logistics and other green freight initiatives in EDF’s comprehensive Green Freight Handbook – a free guide to helping you achieve your sustainability goals.


Sustainability and Profitability Go Hand-in-Hand, Says Iowa Corn Farmer

Farming is a tough business.  With constantly changing crop prices, difficult to predict and increasingly extreme weather variations, and changing consumer demands, growers don’t have an easy time of it.

Like any business, profitability is the number one priority. And it should be – if you are not profitable, it’s very hard to stay in business.

All the growers I’ve worked with care deeply about their land. In a recent survey of a group of Midwestern farmers, “land stewardship” ranked as their top value.  And sustainability is in a farmers’ best interest since healthy lands plays a huge role in whether farms will be around – and productive – for the next generation. But making agriculture truly sustainable will require investment from farmers.

Here’s the good news: sustainability and profitability can go hand-in-hand. Efficiencies like fertilizer optimization can result in cost savings. And with those savings, growers can invest in new technologies and cover crops, which can help make farms more resilient and increase yields, generating long term economic gain.


Tim Richter, owner of Saratoga Partnership

I asked Tim Richter, owner of a swine and corn farm operation spanning 9,000 acres in northern Iowa and Missouri, to tell me his profitability and sustainability story. Read more

Companies Hail Triple-Bottom-Line Benefits of Cleaner Trucks

Ben and Jerry’s became the latest corporate voice calling for strong fuel-efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for heavy trucks. In a Guardian op-ed, CEO Jostein Solheim made a compelling triple-bottom-line case for protective standards for new trucks.

holycowinc_2265_2844729Mr. Solheim noted that seventeen percent of the company’s carbon footprint is associated with transporting products. This includes bringing ingredients to manufacturing facilities (three percent) and moving the finished products to distribution centers (fourteen percent).

Like packaging, transportation and distribution is a consistent, significant carbon footprint component of every product: six percent of H&M clothes; twenty-five percent of the carbon budget from Mars; and thirty five percent of Philips operations, for example. And, trucks are the largest single component of distribution emissions, accounting for 57% of the collective impact. Therefore, it is in the interest of every product manufacturer and brand in the U.S. to see these trucks use less fuel.

Freight-share-GHGsThe single most impactful thing we can do today to reduce emissions from product distribution is to build more efficient trucks. We have the technical know-how to cost-effectively double the efficiency of freight trucks. We also know that having well-designed standards in place is a necessary step to bringing these solutions to market at scale. Read more

Improve Freight Capacity Utilization to Reduce Truck Emissions

Whether it’s a trailer, a container or a boxcar, better capacity utilization reduces the number of required freight runs and reduces truck emissions.

Despite the fact that most logistic professionals understand the value of building fuller truck-loads, recent research showed that 15–25 percent of U.S. trucks on the road are empty and, for non-empty miles, trailers are 36 percent underutilized.

Source: Homayoun Taherian, Cnergistics, LLC

Source: Homayoun Taherian, Cnergistics, LLC

Capturing just half of this under-utilized capacity would cut freight truck emissions by 100 million

tons per year – about 20 percent of all U.S. freight emissions – and reduce expenditures on diesel fuel by more than $30 billion a year (CELDi Physical Internet Project).

Nearly every company can improve trailer capacity utilization. Here are some real-life examples:

Kraft Foods: Because of the variety of products either cubing-out trailers (reaching the volume limit) or weighing-out trailers (reaching the truck weight limit), Kraft’s refrigerated outbound shipments were averaging only 82 percent of weight capacity. Kraft used specialized software to convert demand into optimized orders to maximize truck usage without damaging products. As a result, Kraft cut 6.2 million truck miles and reduced truck-load costs by 4 percent.

Trailer Orientation

Walmart: The world’s largest retailer was able to increase the number of pallets shipped in a truck from 26 to 30 simply by side loading pallets.

Stonyfield Farms: This dairy product manufacturer worked with its clients to help them decrease the use of dunnage (inexpensive or waste material used to protect cargo during transportation), allowing the company to maximize the available space per trailer.

What’s your load factor on outbound trailers?

To improve trailer capacity utilization as well as source other ideas to create a more sustainable freight operation, download EDF’s free Green Freight Handbook.