Food waste, guilt and the millennial mom: how companies can help

edf-business-of-food-blog-graphic_shelton-grp_12-7-16I spend a lot of time these days thinking about food waste.

Why? First, I’m the mother of a toddler who oscillates between being a bottomless pit, easily cleaning her plate, to being a picky eater who only takes a couple of bites before the bulk of her meal ends up in the trash.

Second, I’m married to a chef who, because he’s a smart businessman, runs his kitchen with the precision of a comptroller: wasted food means lost profit, so every scrap of food is utilized wherever possible.

Finally, I interface almost daily with Walmart, the world’s largest grocer. Walmart recently pledged to root out 1 gigaton of greenhouse gas reductions from its global supply chain, and I’m certain that food waste will play an integral part in reaching that goal.

But before you conclude that I’m an outlier—some sort of obsessive, “food waste weirdo”— a recent study shows that I’m not the only one struggling with this issue:

Now we all know that just because one feels guilty about something doesn’t mean one’s behavior will change.  Cost, however, is a frequent driver of behavior, so consider these numbers:

In other words, 2.5-4% of the 2015 US median household income is being thrown away! That’s bad news for our wallets—and our planet (NRDC estimates that food rotting in landfills accounts for 16% of U.S. methane emissions).

So it’s a no-brainer that wasting food serves no one’s interests.  What’s not so clear is: what can be done about it?

A business opportunity… with a coveted consumer

This is where I see a real opportunity for grocers—like Walmart—and the food companies that fill their shelves. For the most part, these companies are talking non-stop these days about how to win over the most coveted customer of all, the “millennial mom”.

Inviting millennial moms to be partners on eliminating food waste could be the perfect strategy. They jenny_helen_expertare young (meaning they have years of brand loyalty ahead of them), cost-conscious and environmentally engaged; saving them money while alleviating their food waste guilt is a clear win-win.

I’m not saying this will be easy; that same study reveals that real barriers exist:

However, while conceding that it’s difficult (if not downright un-wise) to portray millennial moms as a monolithic group, marketing profiles of these women consistently portray them as, a.) hungry for information about products; and b.) willing to take action on issues… but only if roadblocks or impediments have been removed.

So, grocers and food companies, how can you burnish your brand with millennial moms while making a real dent in food waste?

Step number 1: engage and educate

Run marketing campaigns, both in-store and out, that will inform these coveted customers on:

  • Proper handling and storage of their food to minimize spoilage; and
  • How to fully utilize their food purchases. In other words, teach them to think like my husband, the chef, so they can make use of scraps and leftovers.

Step number 2: make it easy

Design and implement initiatives that make for fun, easy adoption:

  • Clarify date labeling so that perfectly good food isn’t perceived as bad. The USDA just requested that companies switch to “best if used by” language to give consumers more accurate guidance.
  • Suggest meals that enable moms to buy just what they need—and use it up. There’s a real business opportunity here: did you know that, as of 4 pm each day, 80% of mom’s don’t know what’s for dinner that night? Suggesting recipes that will be totally consumed will make her life easier!
  • Inspire composting (and discount composters)… their garden will thrive because of you! Or help make curbside composting possible like in Boulder, Seattle and San Francisco.
  • Be creative… people love to compete! Only 13.5% think that their household wastes more than their average neighbor. Help people understand that they may in fact be wasting way more food and money than their friends, family, and neighbors to motivate them to do something about it.

In the meantime, I will carry on, hopeful that while my daughter learns to clean her plate, an array of giant food companies and grocers will take up the mantle of tackling food waste on a massive scale.

Smithfield Foods Joins the Growing List of Sustainability Leaders. Who's Next?

The largest pork company in the world, Smithfield Foods, just committed to reduce absolute greenhouse gas emissions by 25% by 2025 across its upstream U.S. supply chain, from feed grain to packaged bacon. This goal is the first of its kind in the livestock sector; and is thus big news.

It is also a long time in the making. Over the past 20 years, EDF and Smithfield have not always seen eye to eye.Tom Murray, VP Corporate Partnerships, EDF Although we have opposed Smithfield on some critical issues, we have collaborated  on others. Most recently, EDF and Smithfield worked together to help farmers who grow grain for hog feed use fertilizer efficiently and improve soil health. The business and environmental benefits that Smithfield discovered through that effort led the company to want to do more, resulting in today’s industry-leading commitment.

As part of the commitment, one area where Smithfield will work to reduce its greenhouse gas footprint—and one that EDF applauds—is in manure management.

In the past, EDF has pressed Smithfield to improve its manure management, particularly the use of uncovered hog manure lagoons. Now, within the first five years of its commitment, Smithfield will install manure management practices, including covered lagoons, on at least 30 percent of company-owned farms. These changes will eliminate harmful methane emissions and reduce ammonia nitrogen, which contributes to human respiratory illness and impairs water quality. Furthermore, Smithfield will work with its contract growers to expand the use of those practices over the full term of its commitment.

It’s inspiring to see Smithfield’s overall climate commitment and willingness to change its position on an issue like manure management. It shows how NGO/corporate collaborations can work over the long term.

With its climate commitment, Smithfield has set the bar for other livestock companies. We encourage others to follow Smithfield’s lead and set their own public targets based in strong science to reduce the climate and environmental impacts of animal agriculture and food production.

Sustainability in food supply chains: a challenge worth tackling

The climate crisis can’t be solved without addressing emissions from livestock and agriculture:

Food and agriculture companies, however, face major barriers in setting and achieving supply chain sustainability commitments. As a general rule, the majority of their environmental impacts come from the many disparate farms that grow the grains, produce, and animals that end up in our food. For companies that often do not even know the locations of those farms, it is a major challenge to influence those farmers to become more sustainable.

At the same time, food and agriculture companies see that consumers are demanding increased transparency and responsibility for all of their impacts, particularly those on human health, the environment, and animal welfare. The challenge is to figure out how to make needed improvements without substantial price increases at the grocery checkout.

The business case for sustainability – and collaboration

Companies like Smithfield are watching consumer trends and placing a bet that sustainability will be good for their bottom line. They can’t reap these benefits, though, unless they focus on providing value to the farmers in their supply chains. This value can come in many forms – some companies are offering premiums for sustainably grown grain, while others are helping farmers access programs and technologies that reduce the costs of farming.

As a vertically integrated company that owns grain elevators, feed mills, hog farms, and pork processing plants, Smithfield has a unique view into its own supply chain. But many don’t know that Smithfield purchases half of its hogs on the open market, which means the company only has clear visibility through half of its supply chain for pork. In setting a goal for its entire upstream supply chain, Smithfield is committing to work with others in the agriculture industry to assist a broad range of hog and grain farmers adopt more sustainable practices.

Smithfield’s collaboration with EDF demonstrated that the company could improve sustainability in feed grain production, the most remote link of its supply chain, in a way that benefits its business.

This success created the opening to go further, developing Smithfield’s new greenhouse gas target and putting the company in a leadership position in its industry. While Smithfield is the first livestock company to set a major greenhouse gas reduction goal, a sustainable food supply depends on it not being the last.

Who’s next?

Working smarter, not harder: goals help companies get strategic about climate change

lizIt’s no secret that companies use goals to push their businesses in a positive direction. Whether it’s about creating more value or reducing impacts, goals provide focus, direction and a sense of urgency. Recently, a wave of corporate, climate-related goals, such as renewable energy and emissions-reduction targets, have grabbed the public’s attention. Companies, cities and other large institutions are stepping up and committing to reduce their environmental impact. But behind the scenes, are these goals actually leading to corporate action? And if so, what kind?

As program director of EDF Climate Corps, every summer I get a glimpse inside the operations of 100 large organizations that are working to manage energy and carbon in progressively responsible ways. This past summer, 125 EDF Climate Corps fellows – talented graduate students armed with training and expert support – worked to advance clean energy projects in large organizations across the U.S. and in China. Their project work reveals that organizations are more strategic, focused and results-oriented than ever. More than 70 percent of EDF Climate Corps host organizations have energy or emissions-reductions goals, and to meet these targets, our class of 2016 fellows was strategically deployed to help achieve them. In fact, the majority (two-thirds) of our entire cohort of fellows worked on strategic plans and analyses that will help turn these goals into action. So what did we see this summer?

  1. Ambitious goals are driving big impacts at the building level

A great example of goals driving smart and strategic action in buildings is our recent work in New York City. Over the summer, more than 25 fellows worked within companies, city agencies and even a local utility to design strategic plans to help meet Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious 80 x 50 goal that pledges to reduce city greenhouse gas emissions 80% by 2050.  Rather than approach this one boiler room at a time, our fellows worked on ambitious, portfolio-wide equipment replacement and onsite renewable energy plans, with the potential to impact thousands of buildings at once. It’s great to see a municipal goal drive strategy from both the public and the private sector. The mayor’s goals are clearly spurring action and large-scale strategy is the way to drive rapid improvements that would take much longer through an incremental approach.

  1. Public goals allow leaders to shine, but also inspire others to follow

Many corporations maintain internal sustainability goals but shy away from publicizing them for a multitude of reasons – from fears of greenwashing to competitive advantage. But we’ve recently observed that this trend is changing, with more and more of our host companies realizing that smart, data-driven analysis can help them set public commitments with confidence. For example, EDF Climate Corps host Amalgamated Bank wanted to incorporate climate change mitigation in its mission, but first needed to dig deeper into its data to create smart goals and a strategy to achieve them. With the help of their EDF Climate Corps fellow, who conducted the first greenhouse gas emissions inventory and an assessment of its carbon footprint, Amalgamated Bank got the information it needed to set ambitious goals, culminating in a September announcement to become the second largest net-zero energy bank.

  1. Supply chains are beginning to benefit from corporate goals

While many corporations have articulated impressive goals related to their corporate operations, setting targets in supply chains is an even more ambitious endeavor. Corporate supply chains are the source of significant carbon emissions and are notoriously hard to manage. Longtime EDF Climate Corps host Verizon – a corporation with a history of setting and achieving sustainability goals –knew that by working strategically it could tackle this daunting challenge. This past summer, Verizon asked its EDF Climate Corps fellow to help the company cross the finish line on its 2017 supplier target. By creating a holistic strategy that used a combination of risk-identification and supplier engagement, Verizon is now on track to accomplish its 2017 supplier goal and formally launch its next target to help manage supply chain carbon emissions.

The EDF Climate Corps community is a living laboratory. Through our fellowships and engagement with large energy users, we see companies and cities trying new things, and working smarter, not harder, to achieve ambitious goals. We’ve mirrored this journey as well, moving from a “one boiler room at a time” mentality to broader, more strategic engagement with companies to help drive progress. Through a focus on smart energy strategy, driven by goals, we know that companies can generate a virtuous cycle of positive returns for their organizations.

Want Climate Action? Time to Pick Up Your Megaphones

victoriaExperts are saying 2015 may turn out to be the hottest year on record. But thankfully, as my colleague Tom Murray predicted earlier this year, 2015 is also shaping up to be a year for action – by businesses and governments alike – to bend the curve on the emissions that cause climate change.

This year, the Obama administration introduced important new regulations to cut GHG emissions from the electric power, oil and gas and transportation sectors. And businesses are standing behind them. Investors representing $1.5 trillion in managed assets supported federal limits on methane emissions. PepsiCo, Ben & Jerry’s and other companies called for stronger fuel economy and emissions standards for heavy-duty trucks. And 365 companies and investors wrote to state governors urging timely implementation of the Clean Power Plan, our nation’s first-ever limits on carbon pollution from existing power plants.

four-people-speaking-megaphonesA watershed moment for climate action is approaching in December, when the United States and other nations gather in Paris for the COP21 climate negotiations. A strong agreement in Paris could put the world on a path towards greenhouse gas reductions that science tells us are necessary for a stable climate. Business leadership will be critical, both to embolden the negotiators to reach a strong deal, and to ensure that the U.S. delivers on the commitments made in Paris.

Amplifying business support for climate action

Right now, there is a wealth of opportunities for businesses to voice their support for a strong outcome in Paris, and showcase their own efforts to cut climate pollution. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) recently organized a webinar to present those opportunities and clarify how companies can get involved. 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!

Read more

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.

Read more

Let's Build a 21st Century Transportation Sector

By Jason Mathers l Bio l Published: June 26, 2013

President Barack Obama addressed the nation today on his environmental priorities, and I have to say, hearing the President of the United States speak so passionately about the issues that I spend my days trying to solve makes me want to wake up and come to work all over again.

In “The President’s Climate Action Plan,” Mr. Obama promises standards that not only will improve our existing transportation sector, but will also help build a better solution for tomorrow. His plan for “Building a 21st Century Transportation Sector” includes a commitment to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles.

As the President noted, heavy-duty vehicles are currently the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions within the transportation sector. More concerning still, emissions from these trucks are projected to grow faster than any other end-use source of greenhouse pollution.

So, how do we change this?  We need radically more efficient trucks, and we need companies to step up and make commitments to reduce emissions.

Trucks are expected to account for over 80 percent of the projected increase in freight greenhouse gas emissions. Successful efforts to not only slow the growth in freight emissions – but actually reduce emissions from today’s levels, must start with improved trucks first and foremost.

There is a lot than can be done to today’s trucks too to make them more efficient. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Super Truck program challenged our nation’s truck makers to develop test trucks that achieve a 50% improvement in efficiency and we are starting to see the fruits of this labor.  Cummins and Peterbilt, for example, recently revealed a truck for the DOE Supertruck program that "averaged 9.9 miles a gallon in road tests last fall," impressive results seeing as the current average is only around 6 miles per gallon. These gains were made by improved engine technology as well as better trailer aerodynamics and lighter weight materials that reduce the energy needed to keep the truck in motion on the highway.

More efficient tractor trailer trucks are simply good business too.  Consider that these trucks typically travel in excess of 120,000 miles a year and burn fuel at a rate of 6 miles-per-gallon.  So, for each superefficient new truck, companies will save around $40,000 a year in fuel costs. When scaled over the entire economy, these types of efforts can result in tens-of-billions per year in fuel savings. Some of these savings, of course, will be passed along to us as consumers.

Vocational, or work trucks, also have lot of interesting opportunities to improve efficiency.  EDF and FedEx demonstrated that hybrid trucks can do the job in many vocational applications while reducing emissions by 40%. Alternative power units are increasingly available in this space, which helps to reduce jobsite idling. Electric vehicles are even making inroads in lighter-delivery operations.

More robust fuel economy standards that push the established fuel-savings technologies we have today, such as hybrid work trucks and aerodynamic trailers, will be good for business and good for society.

Of course, even the most technologically advanced truck needs to be used smartly. Companies need to lead in this area. Every time a company mandates a fully loaded truck, we will see fewer trucks on the road. Using more carbon efficient modes of transportation is critical too.  Transportation by rail emits six times less carbon per ton mile than trucks.

Ultimately, there will still be a lot of trucks on the road and we need for them to be as efficient as possible. That’s why we’ve developed the EDF 5 Principles for Greener Freight. Simple operational improvements, such as moving more goods per truck and better planning and routing can make a significant difference to a company’s freight emissions.

We have the technology to build radically more efficient trucks today. We also have the know-how to use them much more productively. And now, we have a plan from The Chief. Let’s make it happen.

 

EDFix Call #10 Afterthoughts: Developing a Vision for Greener Fleets

EDFix Call #10 – Summary (11 min.)
[powerpress url="http://www.edf.org/audio/EDFIX_Summary_4-23-10.mp3"]Download MP3 | Subscribe in iTunes
EDFix Call #10 – Full (52 min.)
[powerpress url="http://www.edf.org/audio/EDFIX_FullCall_4-23-10.mp3"]Download MP3 | Subscribe in iTunes
Get Call Updates by Email

We hit the road April 12 with a series of open conference calls regarding a pressing matter in greening business – truck fleets and logistics in general. We had a fodder-filled discussion on the issue co-hosted by Jason Mathers, who leads Environmental Defense Fund’s work to promote greenhouse gas management in corporate fleets. We talked through two particular sectors of interest for fleets – light-to-medium-duty vehicles and heavy-duty on-road tractor trailer vehicles.

Already having conducted a considerable amount of work in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from light-to-medium-duty fleets, our current challenge is to maintain the momentum EDF has created in this area while shifting our focus to heavy-duty fleets. On the lighter side of fleet vehicles we have found a number of opportunities to reduce greenhouse gases including right-sizing vehicles, but are faced with the challenge that these options do not work for the heavy-duty vehicles which are responsible for 80 percent of emissions from corporate owned-vehicles. Read more