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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Carlyle Sheds Light on How Sustainability Creates Value in 2015

This post is part of an EDF+Business ongoing series on sustainable finance, highlighting market mechanisms and strategies that drive environmental performance by engaging private capital. EDF is actively engaging leaders with the capital and expertise needed to catalyze sector-wide changes—from accelerating investment in energy efficiency and clean energy, to protecting tropical forests, restoring depleted fisheries and saving habitats of endangered species.


On the eve of The Carlyle Group releasing its 2015 Corporate Citizenship Report, I had the chance to catch up with Jackie Roberts, Chief Sustainability Officer at Carlyle and former EDF colleague who was one of the founders of EDF’s Corporate Partnership Program. Here are highlights from our conversation:

Jackie RobertsWhat attracted you to your current role at Carlyle?

Rather than being in an arm’s-length advisory role, I now get into more of the details of implementation. I work directly to support sustainability leads in a broad range of companies, helping them prioritize among business goals, crystallize sustainability strategies and, most importantly, execute on a lot of different ideas. Also, as Carlyle is an owner of companies in many countries and industries, I have the opportunity to understand how aspects of sustainability play out differently across the globe. In short, it is a tremendous platform for influencing corporate sustainability.

What are you and Carlyle particularly proud of in this year’s report?

This is the first year that we have designed the report to align with the types of value creation we typically see, such as customer satisfaction, brand equity, operational efficiency and workplace strength. This year’s report moves beyond operational efficiencies into these other key drivers for companies.

What does Carlyle see as the value of ESG management for its business? How do you quantify that value? What form is that taking, both for Carlyle and its portfolio companies?

We have examples across these four ways that ESG management connects to value creation (customer satisfaction, brand equity, operational efficiency and workplace strength). A great example related to both customer satisfaction and brand equity comes from a portfolio company that quantified its sales increase for greener products. Their primary customers, mainly hotels, were requesting green products, so the company invested in this area, which paid off in increased sales – a clear win-win. Read more

Leadership on Sustainability Must Include Helping Shape Smart Policy

This past year, we’ve seen some bold action by companies in what we’ve dubbed the business-policy nexus, and it’s taking several different forms. Some have been calling for state or federal action on environmental impacts, while others are taking far-reaching voluntary efforts that could help support policy advocacy in the future.

Whether you view engagement on public policy as risk mitigation, providing market certainty, supporting corporate sustainability goals or securing competitive advantage, leading businesses are increasingly stepping up their efforts to support smart policy reform that will benefit the environment and economy.

Keeping toxic chemicals out of supply chains

Walmart shopper

Walmart and Target are moving to proactively get harmful chemicals out of their supply chains, even though the nation’s main chemical safety law, the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), is outdated and hasn’t been reformed in nearly two decades.

Earlier this year, our long-term partner in this area, Walmart, took a big step forward by announcing a new sustainable chemicals policy focused on cutting 10 chemicals of concern from home and personal care products it sells. Chemicals of concern – for example, formaldehyde, a known carcinogen – have been found in about 40% of the formulated products on Walmart shelves, including things like household cleaners, lotions and cosmetics. Read more

Advancing on the Green Freight Journey: Discover Your Next Steps at RILA Sustainability

freightContainers-100x133Every product that ends up on a retail shelf or is sold online has a freight footprint. The annual impact of freight across U.S. retail and consumer goods supply chains is significant – over 160 million metrics tons of greenhouse emissions. Or, more than ten times Walmart’s 2010 scope 1 & 2 emissions in the United States.

There are ample opportunities for retailers and their suppliers to improve efficiency, reduce costs and emissions from their freight supply chain. These companies can get more products on each truckload, move more cargo by rail, and collaborate with other companies to find shipping efficiencies.

To capture the most savings opportunities, companies need a long-term plan of action with common key performance indicators (KPIs) and goals shared between logistics teams and corporate sustainability officers.

EDF created our Green Freight Journey model to be a framework that companies can use to manage supply chain freight emissions. The Green Freight Journey has five steps:

Green Freight Journey

  • Step One: Get Started, where a company assembles the right group of internal stakeholders and defines its objectives and key metrics.
  • Step Two: Create Momentum, where a company launches a pilot effort to improve performance in one key area. It leverages the results of the pilot to increase internal visibility about the strong value of green freight initiatives.
  • Step Three: Accelerate Performance, where a company expands the scope of its green freight efforts from one or two projects to a system-wide effort to reduce costs and emissions.
  • Step Four: Declare a Goal, where a company sets a multi-year goal to drive internal focus and resource allocation.
  • Step Five: Raise the Bar, having accomplished its first generation green freight goal, a company assess and sets a new longer term improvement target.

If you are attending RILA Sustainability later this month, visit the EDF booth (NP6) in the exhibit hall to learn more how your company can leverage the Green Freight Journey framework to identify and implement cost and emission reductions project. In addition to the EDF Green Freight Handbook, we will available at our booth have a benchmarking survey for companies to help them assess their next step on the Green Freight Journey.

Make every day Earth Day

Today is Earth Day, but the idea of living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to begin and end with what you do today.  Even though the media loves Earth Day, today shouldn't be the only day we think about the environmental impacts of what we do both professionally and personally.

Colin Beavan, aka "No Impact Man," sets a good example – and provides good resources – for all of us.  For those of you familiar with Beavan's documentary No Impact Man, you know about his attempts cut down his family’s environmental footprint to as close to zero as possible (and if you’re not familiar with the film, you can easily get up to speed: watch the trailer or watch it on Netflix instant streaming).  In the film, you see Beavan run through a broad spectrum of environmental experiments from composting to installing solar panels on his roof and everything in between.

The idea of living an environmentally-conscious lifestyle doesn’t have to begin and end with Earth Day. Beavan has lots of ideas for doing this year-round on his frequently-updated No Impact Project site, where you can find a list of iPhone apps that can help you form ‘no impact’ habits (including recycling, carpooling and organic shopping). You can also sign up to receive a “how-to manual” that will send you ideas on how to get through the week by being green, along with other great tips. Read more

Use Night-Vision Goggles to Uncover Innovations through Sustainability

This morning, I spoke on a panel called “Driving Innovation Through Sustainability” at the Fortune Brainstorm Green conference.  Given that the panel was held at the eye-popping hour of 8 AM, it’s testament to the topic that the room was overflowing.  Or perhaps the draw was my fellow panelists – Matt Kistler, Senior Vice President of Sustainability for Walmart, Rick Rommel, Senior Vice President for Emerging Business at Best Buy and  Scott Elrod, Vice President of the Hardware Systems Laboratory at the Palo Alto Research Center – and our moderator, Roger Ballentine, President of Green Strategies.

Roger started us off by saying that a sustainability agenda can act like a pair of night-vision goggles, helping corporate managers and executives find innovation where they couldn’t see it before. That certainly resonated with me – I’ve seen that pattern over and over again in the companies with which we work.  In fact, I’m often asked of our partners, “Why did they need you to find an innovation that’s clearly good for their business?”  I think it’s because in many ways Environmental Defense Fund provides those night-vision goggles Roger was talking about, bringing a new green lens to business as usual. Read more

Walmart suppliers have questions, we have answers: Join the Sustainability Index webinar on Wednesday

In July 2009, Walmart began the development of a sustainable product index called the Sustainability Index.  Like most folks in the corporate sustainability world, I was incredibly impressed and excited about the prospects of this mean, green, sustainability machine. But I was also a bit intimidated by what it entailed. If that sounds like you, then Environmental Defense Fund, Walmart and its other NGO partners are about to provide some clarity and a little jump start.

Read Andrew Hutson's July 2009 post with his thoughts on the importance of the Sustainability Index.

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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

Consumed by Consumption

Last month, I attended my first Solutions Lab in Durham, North Carolina. For those that don't know, Environmental Defense Fund is hosting Solutions Labs around the country to bring together sustainability thought leaders from all walks of life. To be honest, I was a little skeptical that the "unconference"-style event (one where attendees choose the topics of discussion) would be a good use of my time. Fortunately, my concerns were unwarranted. Not only was this one of the best conferences I've attended in a long time, but it also tackled an issue that the sustainable business community has generally shied away from – CONSUMPTION. Read more

Innovations Review 2009: Green Advances for a New Economy

Today, EDF releases Innovations Review 2009: Green Advances for a New Economy.  As the title implies, we're highlighting compelling new practices and technologies that drive operational efficiency, create new business opportunities and carve out competitive advantage in these challenging times.  Why?  Because even though these practices have been proven to be technically and financially feasible, they're not yet in widespread use.  Simply put, we want to see these innovations – and the environmental benefits they represent – spread more quickly.

Innovations Review 2009 covers advances in business sectors from food service to agriculture to real estate to financial services.  For just a sampling, check out:

  • High-tech computer systems that monitor real-time weather data and soil conditions to help companies reduce the water needed for crop irrigation and commercial landscaping by 15-40%.
  • A new mortgage program that is boosting sales by offering homebuyers lower interest rates if they elect to install solar panels in their new homes.
  • Annual employee performance reviews that now tie environmental results to compensation, up to the senior executive level.

We hope that Innovations Review 2009 will provide your company with useful models and inspire your team to go even further.

Talk and follow the conversation about Innovations Review 2009 with the tag: IR2009