IKEA assembles a cleaner planet

Two years ago I had my first conversation with Stefan Karlsson, the Sustainability Compliance Manager for IKEA Purchasing Service (China) Co., Ltd. We talked about how IKEA was rethinking its business operations in order to green its global supply chain – and as the world’s largest go-to for affordable furniture – you can imagine how big a job that is. Right away, I could tell Stefan, and IKEA, was on to something big: encouraging hundreds of their suppliers to drive innovation and promote sustainability.

A goal, an opportunity and a partnership

IKEA isn’t unique in that it strives to provide affordable furniture. However, it is unique in that it strives to make products in ways that are good for people and the planet. That’s why in 2016, the company set a goal of encouraging its direct suppliers to become 20 percent more energy efficient by August 2017. As part of this target, IKEA initiated the Coal Removal Project – reducing coal use as a direct source from the energy portfolios of over 300 local supplier factories in China.

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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?

Inquiring minds want to know what’s going on with your fleet greening initiatives

Are you actively measuring your fleet emissions? Thinking about using medium-duty hybrid trucks?

We want to know what's going on with your fleet greening initiatives!  To that end, we're asking everyone we know that has a fleet to take 5 minutes to  fill out the 2010 PHH survey on fleets and the environment.

Now in is fourth year, the survey has become a valuable tool for tracking trends in fleet environmental management. For example, thanks to the survey, we know that the percentage of fleets measuring their emissions has been growing each year, which is good news for those businesses as well as for the environment. Read more

Why Walmart's Carbon Commitment Can Make Such a Difference

Archimedes said "Give me a place to stand, and I shall move the earth," when explaining the principle of levers.

Leverage is the big news about Walmart’s announcement today. The company has committed to reducing 20 million metric tons of carbon pollution from its products’ lifecycle and supply chain over the next five years. That’s equivalent to the annual greenhouse gas emissions from 3.8 million cars.

So is Walmart moving the earth? No, not yet. But this is precisely the kind of innovative approach to reducing carbon pollution that we need right now. Environmental Defense Fund worked closely with Walmart to craft this goal and project that makes the most of what Walmart can uniquely do to cut carbon pollution across the globe.

This commitment is bold because: Read more

Fleet Emissions Down Significantly in 2009

Emissions from fleet vehicles are down 17% from 2008 levels and 18% from 2006 levels, according to the State of Green Business 2010 annual report released today. The emissions data was provided by six of the seven largest fleet management companies.

Pages from StateOfGreenBusiness2010

While the sour economic condition was definitely a factor in the size of this decrease, the numbers likely also reflect – and to a significant degree – the fact that over the recent years corporate fleets have made strides to lower per vehicle emissions.

A likely leading non-economic factor in reducing emissions is the adoption of vehicle “right-sizing” practices. Abbott Labs, Infinity Insurance and Owens Corning were among the first companies to demonstrate the value of moving from moving to more efficiency vehicles on a wide-scale. The record gas prices of 2008 gave the shift real momentum. The 2009 emissions data reflects the first full year of operations by the more-efficient vehicles that were cycled into fleets in the mid-2008 buy cycle.

Read more about our work with these companies and partner PHH Arval.

The expansion of other emission reduction tactics is also likely reflected in these numbers. Over the past two years, there has been a proliferation of efforts that work with drivers to adopt fuel-smart driving practices. Here at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), we noted the many companies entering this space in our 2009 Innovations Review and also create a suite of materials for fleets to use.

Increased use of efforts to improve routing and reduce idling likely also has contributed to the emissions decline. Leading fleets, including Carrier and Poland Spring, have leveraged telematics software to improve operational efficiency.

Read more in these case studies about Carrier [PDF] and Poland Spring [PDF].

I am optimistic that the trend in fleet emission reductions will continue as the economy recovers of the coming years.

From measuring emissions, right-sizing vehicles, improving routing, reducing idling and improving driving habitats, corporate fleets are broadly adopting strategies to reduce their emissions.

Do driving habits matter? Yes!

Most of us are well aware that how we drive affects the fuel consumption of our vehicles. We now have some new numbers to show us how much. In an article on GreenBiz, Karen Healey of PHH Arval, a leading fleet management company with which EDF has partnered, tells us that the “early results of some of PHH's clients who are just in the beginning stages of instituting green driving training programs show that they have already been able to improve their fuel efficiency by up 4 percent overall, with individual drivers improving their efficiency by as much as 17 percent.”

What does that 4 percent mean? Read more