Why the world's largest pork producer is breaking new sustainability barriers

At Environmental Defense Fund, we believe that environmental progress and economic growth can and must go hand in hand. EDF+Business works with leading companies and investors to raise the bar for corporate sustainability leadership by setting aggressive, science-based goals; collaborating for scale across industries and global supply chains; and publicly supporting smart environmental safeguards.

This is the second in a series of interviews exploring trends in sustainability leadership as part of our effort to pave the way to a thriving economy and a healthy environment.

As head of the Smithfield Foods’ sustainability program, Stewart Leeth focuses on animal welfare, employee relations, environmental stewardship, food safety and quality, and community development.

EDF has been collaborating with Smithfield for several years now to help farmers optimize fertilizer applications to grow grain for animal feed – and I’m inspired to see the progress that has been made in this arena. But I think this past year was likely the busiest ever for Stewart and his team at Smithfield after they made an industry-leading commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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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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U.S. out of Paris? Time for companies to find the next LED lightbulb

As I’m writing this blog, the news is breaking that President Trump may pull out of the Paris agreement. Which makes my story about Walmart and product innovation all the more relevant.

My relationship with Walmart started over six years ago, working towards their 20 MMT greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction goal. After some trial and error, and an exhaustive scan of greenhouse gas hotspots, it became clear that we would need to attack every point of the product lifecycle (including things like fertilizer optimization for crops and factory energy efficiency). Little did we know at the time that promoting energy-efficient products to Walmart shoppers–particularly LED lightbulbs–would prove to be so important to reach the goal in 2015.

As Walmart sets out on its next ambitious goal to remove 1 gigaton (aka 1 billion tons) of greenhouse gasses (GHGs) from the supply chain, I can’t help but wonder what the next game-changing product will be?

I don’t think the solution will be as easy as another LED lightbulb, but rather a series of disruptive innovations around how products are designed, sold and treated at the end of use.

Design: how to reduce impacts from the start 

Last month’s event focused on climate impacts, which largely come from the materials and processes used to manufacture and transport products.  Design changes can play a big role in reducing those impacts. It can also transform products into circular products, with their materials being recaptured by the economy or the planet to live another life as a component of a new product.

Point of Sale: how products are sold

The face of retail is shifting – not just from brick-and-mortar stores to online retail, but from an economy dominated by retail-to-customer relationships to one with more peer-to-peer transactions – just look at Airbnb and Lyft. This “sharing economy” has the potential to displace the number of new items needed as people increasingly use what has already been manufactured, sold and used. This can have big environmental benefits – sort of like eliminating food waste, but for general merchandise.

It hasn’t really taken off yet for retail, but companies like POSHMARK and ThredUp – where you can buy and sell fashion – and Spinlister – where you can rent someone’s bike – are working to change that. This will become more prevalent over time, especially as millennials have shown a preference for owning less things.

End of life: how to extend the life of a product

The sharing economy has the potential to delay a product from coming to its end of life as quickly, but once it does, innovative companies like Stuffstr can help consumers better manage what they do with their products by making resale, donations, recycling just as easy as throwing things away.

And, Stuffstr isn’t just an innovation that benefits end-consumers, but one that can help retailers understand how consumers use, and part with, the products they buy – creating opportunities to stay relevant as the sharing economy continues to grow.

What Now?

It’s clear that Walmart’s goal will catalyze innovation in how we think about products and their use. The GHGs that go into creating, selling and disposing of products is too great to ignore. I look forward to seeing which Walmart suppliers step up to the challenge.

 


Follow Jenny on Twitter, @JennyKAhlen


Additional Resources: Supply Chain Solutions Center


 

Corporate America’s “moon shot”: Walmart’s Project Gigaton

 

At a time when leadership from the federal government is decidedly lacking, the launch of Walmart’s Project Gigaton is a cause for celebration. It is proof that companies can step up to advance solutions that will help business, people and nature thrive.

Just like Walmart itself, this is big.

The world’s largest retailer has launched an initiative to remove 1 gigaton (that’s 1 billion tons — billion with a “b”) of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) from its supply chain by 2030. To put that in perspective, that is the equivalent of removing the annual emissions of Germany — the world’s fourth-largest economy — from the atmosphere. This audacious goal is impressive; it’s corporate America’s “moon shot,” and it shows real leadership.

Why? Because, according to The Sustainability Consortium, the modern supply chain is responsible for 60 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions, 80 percent of all water use and 66 percent of all tropical deforestation. And with the global population projected to swell to 9.5 billion consumers by 2050, it is clear there is not just a crucial opportunity for businesses to meet growing global demand, there is also a real need to protect the planet. Embracing sustainable practices is no longer an option for business. It is an imperative. The planet needs fast action at a massive scale.

So do forward-looking CEOs. Shareholders are rewarding resiliency when companies climate-proof their global operations. And customers, especially millennials, expect sustainability to be baked into the things they buy. In short, business is looking to drive bottom-line value, including growth, with sustainability.

Elizabeth Sturcken, Managing Director, EDF+Business

Which explains the significant Project Gigaton commitments being made by companies like Unilever (20 million metric tons of GHG reduction) and Land O’ Lakes (20 million acres sustainably farmed) and commitments made in the past six months by Apple, Amazon, Google, PepsiCo, Smithfield Foods and others.

Execution and delivery

But setting goals is just the first step. The execution and delivery must follow to complete this journey.

Which brings me back to this moon shot: Walmart cannot do this alone. Project Gigaton will take a village — in this case, the tens of thousands of companies that make up Walmart’s global supplier network — to make this goal a reality. And that’s a good thing: Eliminating GHG emissions at this scale will reverberate across entire sectors and industries. It will be the change to “business as usual” that’s long overdue.

That’s all fine and well, rhetorically. But what if you’re a CEO or CSR exec who’s facing the hard reality of “Where do I start”?

Some new research by Environmental Defense Fund starts to sketch out a roadmap to success — and illustrates the need for supply-chain partners to get on the bus. While we’re just at the beginning of a deep dive into the sustainability of the U.S. retail supply chain, our initial findings show two things:  the complexity and emission hotspots of box chain retailers and three clear, initial areas of focus:

  1. The supply chain is the largest source of emissions. If there was any doubt left, put it to rest: 80 percent of retail emissions occur in the supply chain; 12 percent are associated with the use and disposal of products and 8 percent come directly from retail operations — mostly buildings and facilities.
  2. Grocery is a huge hotspot and opportunity. Are you a retailer? Food company? Agricultural service provider? Farmer? Nearly half — 48 percent — of supply-chain greenhouse gas emissions come from the grocery category, which encompasses everything from fresh meat, veggies and dairy, to bakery, dry goods, beverages, snacks and frozen products. Together, these and other products emits 1.7 gigatons of GHGs (there’s that billion thing again). In other words, food production — and food waste — is definitely a place to make your numbers — and to make a difference. (Talk about low-hanging fruit!)
  3. Electricity is the biggest activity that contributes to emissions. From factories to farmhouses, whether powering a business or refrigerating an item at home, using electricity is the largest activity that produces emissions for consumer packaged goods production. Think about that: by tackling electricity use, whether from conservation or renewable energy, business leaders can not only run a more efficient operation, they can also engage their customers on which products to buy and how to best use them. That’s good business.

For those who have been paying attention to these issues for decades, these big opportunities won’t come as a surprise. But they help sharpen the focus for supply-chain professionals searching to answer the question of where to put effort and investment to get the most emissions-reduction results. Scale and speed are necessary. Knowing where to focus is critical. The EDF research is in the early stages and we plan to release the full results later this year.

In the meantime, kudos to Walmart. As suppliers make commitments for Project Gigaton that will drive reductions from factories to farms to forests to fleets, it will become imperative to identify hotspots to enable the largest impact. That’s exactly what drives innovation and the environmental impact we need.

The supply chain may be complicated, but the rewards are well worth it: thriving companies, thriving communities and a thriving planet.

Jump on the Project Gigaton moon shot. It’s leaving the launching pad, with or without you.


Follow Elizabeth on Twitter, @esturcken


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Consumer Goods Companies: Stand Up For Strong Truck Standards

ucs Figure_ES-1 4

(Credit: Union of Concerned Scientists)

Three billion gallons of fuel:  That is what consumer goods companies stand to save annually from strong heavy truck fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards, according to a new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

$11.5 million dollars: That is how much a large consumer goods company would save annually in 2030 from strong truck efficiency standards.

Consumer goods companies should be at the front of the pack calling for new, protective, and affordable fuel efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for our largest trucks — which will not only protect our air quality and the climate overall, but save companies costs involved in moving freight. Read more

To Drive Down CO2 Emissions, Focus on Freight

Did you know that, as the energy demand for passenger vehicles declines steadily over the next 25 years, the fuel demand for commercial transportation is predicted to increase 40 percent over current levels?

That’s a difference of well over 10 million oil-equivalent barrels per day.

Most of that demand will come from heavy-duty trucks, which account for 57 percent of all logistics-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and 16 percent of total corporate GHGs.

Freight-share-GHGs

As a society, our appetite for goods of all kinds—food, electronics, apparel, housewares – is growing. As the population grows, demand grows, and so does the number of trucks on the road. Read more

The Benefits of Stringent Trucking Standards

by Kate Rack, marketing & communications intern

The Obama Administration is developing new fuel economy standards for trucks, and last week, Ceres and Environmental Defense Fund hosted a webinar outlining how implementing strong federal standards for medium- and heavy-duty trucks would be truly a win-win situation.

Our organizations, along with other leaders, are calling for strong standards that cut fuel consumption by 40%. A recent analysis of such standards shows that they would reduce both greenhouse gas emission levels and expenses to ship goods via freight.

EDF helps freight logistics professionals on the journey to greener freight

Why make truck efficiency a priority?

Currently in the U.S., the trucking sector is the fastest growing single source of greenhouse gas emissions. U.S. businesses spend $650 billion a year on freight trucking services, which equates to over half a billion tons of GHG emissions. It is essential that as fuel efficiency standards for cars becomes more stringent, trucks follow suit, especially since 70% of tonnage shipped within the U.S is by truck. In particular, retail and consumer products are the largest consumers of trucking in the United States. Chances are, the computer screen that you are using right now to read this blog post was brought to you on a truck!

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Changing the Methane Numbers Game

Adding to the drumbeat for action on the supercharged climate pollutant methane, Showtime’s “Years of Living Dangerously” series recently spotlighted methane emissions leaking from America’s oil and natural gas infrastructure.

YOLD_well_photo

One theme of the May 19 episode hinged on a numbers question: Just how much methane is getting out? This question, a common one in the methane arena, refers to the national methane leakage rate for the entire oil and gas supply chain.

Various numbers, as low as 1 percent, were suggested for the national average with 4 percent, 11 percent and even 17 percent reported by scientific studies in some oil-and-gas producing regions. The problem is, it’s the wrong question.

We should stop fixating the debate on just how bad the problem is, when we know there is a problem and we can address it with confidence today.

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