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.
-Archimedes

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.

supplychainmapEDF is currently focused on cleaning up consumer product supply chains in three key areas: deforestation, fertilizer pollution and hazardous chemicals. By working with retailers and consumer products suppliers, EDF has the potential to effect real environmental gains. On farms across the United States. In forests in Brazil. In food and beauty products on store shelves. In the air we breathe.

Through our work with Walmart and The Sustainability Consortium, EDF has had the opportunity to look across incredibly large and complex supply chains, index the environmental “hot spots,” and work with key influencers on the chain.

Fertilizer Use

Nitrogen fertilizer use was one of those hot spots, giving EDF the opportunity to dig into greening the agricultural supply chain. Our work with Walmart to reduce 20 MMT of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain was a catalyst for focusing on optimizing fertilizer use. Now, by leveraging the power of businesses across the entire food supply chain, EDF and collaborators are on track to optimize 23 million acres of U.S. farmland by 2020.

Deforestation

Demand for commodities such as beef, soy, and palm oil are responsible for an estimated eighty percent of forest loss across the globe, and 12 percent of climate change. In response, major companies like Walmart, Cargill, McDonald’s and 260 others have made commitments to achieve a deforestation-free supply chain. We’re helping companies create the systems to understand where their products come from and achieve their commitments.

EDF’s solution orients supply-chain commitments at the level of Zero Deforestation Zones: entire political jurisdictions —nations, states or counties that are able to demonstrate reductions in deforestation and ultimately achieve zero net deforestation within their borders. Sourcing agricultural commodities from ZDZs has the benefit of reducing costs and complexity in monitoring supply chains. We are simultaneously building the demand for deforestation-free products from major brands and retailers and creating supply of Zero Deforestation Zones (ZDZs) in first-mover states in Brazil.

Hazardous Chemicals

In the U.S., more than 10,000 additives are allowed in food during manufacturing, processing, packaging and transport. While many of these chemicals are essential to the modern food supply, we know far too little about the health risks they pose to the public. EDF is developing a systematic approach to addressing hazardous food additives that is firmly grounded in rigorous scientific and policy analysis. Drawing on multiple years of research on science and policy behind chemical additives and decades of successful partnerships with corporate America, EDF is currently engaged in getting companies to adopt policies for safer food and consumer products. Our goal is to define a pathway for business to send the demand signal to move chemicals of concern out of the marketplace.

EDF and our corporate partners are making great gains, but there is so much more to be done. We need to keep building and strengthening the business lever by getting more companies to actively send smart demand signals across their supply chains. It’s good for the planet, and it’s good for business. Everyone wins.

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.

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Walmart, General Mills and Anheuser-Busch Make Greening Freight a Priority

green freightSpring is high season for corporate responsibility reports, with some of the world’s most recognizable brands — including Kellogg’s, Walmart, Anheuser-Busch, Apple, Adidas, General Mills, H&M, Lowes, CVS and Hershey’s — releasing their latest updates. While each company has its own unique sustainability challenges and priorities, every one of them has a global supply chain that requires an extensive logistics network to move goods from manufacturing facilities to end customers.

What reading these reports told me is that greening freight operations is becoming a key priority for these companies, with three trends in particular standing out to me:

1. Tracking logistics emissions is a standard practice. Seven out of the ten recently released reports included data on fuel use or greenhouse gas emissions associated with freight transportation. Several companies were tracking only emissions from outbound freight transportation, presumably because of a lack of visibility into inbound moves. Adidas, one of the three that did not include information on emissions or fuel use from freight movement, did include a detailed breakdown of moves by transport modes and emissions from distribution centers and other facilities.

2. Setting performance goals is a well-accepted practice. Four of the ten companies have performance-based goals to improve environmental impact associated with freight transportation. For example:

  • Walmart is seeking to double its fleet efficiency compared to 2005, and is currently 87% of the way to meeting this impressive goal.
  • General Mills has a goal to reduce fuel use for its outbound moves by 35% compared to its 2005 consumption. The company has made considerable progress too, reducing fuel use by 22% compared to 2005.
  • Anheuser-Busch set a goal in 2014 to reduce greenhouse gases from its global logistics operations by 15% per hectoliter sold. Its goal has a broad scope too, including inbound and outbound transportation as well as warehousing.

3. Seeking to shape external factors is a leadership practice. Much of the impact of moving freight is beyond the operational control of these companies. They have limited influence on the availability of low-impact fuels, the efficiency of freight equipment or the capacity of intermodal systems. In addition to focusing on the factors freight shippers can control, leading companies are trying to shape the overall system to provide more low-impact choices. Read more

Consumers Get Their Say in Supporting Sustainable Products

Like teenagers, all ground-breaking products or ideas go through an awkward adolescent phase.  And, like teenagers, the only way products or ideas can move past the clumsy stage and blossom into a sought after, form-meets-function icon is through experience.  Meaning, real consumers have to put them through their paces: does this work? How could it work better? Revise, improve, re-test, repeat… that’s how you make something truly effective; truly great.

Sustainability-Shop bug_115x115

All this is by way of acknowledging a group of sustainable-minded collaborators on the coming-out party this week for Walmart’s “Sustainability Leaders Shop”, an online shopping portal that “will allow customers to easily identify brands that are leading sustainability within a special category”.  It is, literally, the very first time a quantifiable, science-based index of various products’ sustainable provenance is being placed in the hands of consumers at the scale that only Walmart can provide. Read more

EDF Climate Corps Fellows Finding Gold in the Value Chain

Energy efficiency is a goldmine, but not everyone has the time or resources to dig. That’s why for the past seven years, over three hundred organizations have turned to EDF Climate Corps for hands-on help to cut costs and carbon pollution through better energy management. And every year, the program delivers results: this year’s class of fellows found $130 million in potential energy savings across 102 organizations.

But this year we also saw something new. In addition to mining efficiencies in companies’ internal operations, the fellows were sent farther afield – to suppliers’ factories, distribution systems and franchisee networks. What they discovered demonstrated that there is plenty of gold to be found across entire value chains, if companies take the time to mine it.

Here are three places where EDF Climate Corps fellows struck gold: Read more

Moving Beyond Commitments: Collaborating to End Deforestation

Deforestation can pose significant operational and reputational risks to companies, and we at EDF are seeing companies start to take action in their supply chains. Deforestation accounts for an estimated 12% of overall GHG emissions worldwide–as much global warming pollution to the atmosphere as all the cars and trucks in the world. In addition, deforestation wipes out biodiversity and ravages the livelihoods of people who live in and depend on the forest for survival.

Tropical deforestation in Mato Grosso do Sul, Pantanal, Brazil (Source: BMJ via Shutterstock)

Tropical deforestation in Mato Grosso do Sul, Pantanal, Brazil (Source: BMJ via Shutterstock)

Unfortunately, it’s a hugely complex issue to address. Agricultural commodities like beef, soy, palm oil, paper and pulp—ingredients used in a wide variety of consumer products—drive over 85% of global deforestation. Companies struggle to understand both their role in deforestation, and how to operationalize changes that will have substantive impacts.

When the drivers of deforestation are buried deep in the supply chain, innovative and collaborative solutions are required. In the past several years, we have seen many in this space make big commitments toward solving the problem, but gaining transparency into tracking against these commitments has been almost as difficult as gaining transparency into the supply chains themselves.  For many companies, the hope for making good on their promises may come in the form of powerful partnerships.

Read more

Corporate Buyers Demonstrate Demand for Renewables. Now it’s Time for the Market to Catch Up.

Last month, twelve major corporations announced a combined goal of buying 8.4 million megawatt hours of renewable energy each year and called for market changes to make these large-scale purchases possible. Their commitment shows that demand for renewables has reached the big time.

We're proud that eight of the twelve are EDF Climate Corps host organizations:  BloombergFacebookGeneral MotorsHewlett PackardProctor & GambleREISprint and Walmart. The coalition, brought together by the World Wildlife Fund and World Resources Institute, is demanding enough renewable energy to power 800,000 homes a year. And while it's great to see these big names in the headlines, they're not alone in calling for clean energy: 60 percent of the largest U.S. businesses have set public goals to increase their use of renewables, cut carbon pollution or both.

Companies want renewable energy because it makes good business sense:  it’s clean, diversifies their energy supply, helps them hedge against fuel price volatility and furthers their greenhouse gas reduction goals. Renewables are now the fastest-growing power generation sector, and by 2018, they’re expected to make up almost a quarter of the global power mix. Prices of solar panels have dropped 75 percent since 2008, and in some parts of the country, wind is already cost-competitive with coal and gas.

Read more

Smithfield Foods, world's largest pork producer, works with EDF to cut emissions

Corn is a common hog feed.

First, the facts: We will have 9 billion people on the planet by 2050. That's 2 billion more than we have today – stretching Earth's land and water resources to meet nutritional needs in a dramatically changing climate.

In the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency calculates that agriculture is the fifth-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, contributing 8 percent of total GHGs. Fertilizer use and soil management are responsible for half of those emissions.

Next, the challenge: Many farmers encounter difficulties in determining the precise amount of nitrogen fertilizer their crops need. It gets tricky. Using too little fertilizer can limit crop production. Too much fertilizer pollutes water and emits a potent greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide, which is 300 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

The stark reality is that crop production must increase approximately 70 percent by 2050 to feed our growing human population. We cannot choose between agricultural productivity and sustainability – we must have both.

To address the challenge, Smithfield Foods, the world's largest pork producer, and its hog production subsidiary, Murphy-Brown, are working with grain farmers to reduce excess fertilizer on crops grown for hog feed. The project will help farmers save money on fertilizer, while maintaining high crop yields, improving water quality and reducing climate impacts. The initiative is the first of its kind among animal agriculture companies.

Read more

Fertilizer and Feeding the Planet’s Growing Population

cornfieldbluesky_39542233_shutterstock_com_RF

Last week, Walmart hosted its first Sustainable Product Expo, an event that brought together CEOs and sustainability leaders from some of the retail chain’s biggest supplier companies. Leaders from General Mills, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and PepsiCo, among others, joined Walmart on stage to celebrate the progress they’ve made in increasing the sustainability of their operations, and to make new commitments to cut greenhouse gas emissions and other environmental impacts.

Walmart set the stage for this in 2010 by announcing their goal to reduce 20 million metric tons (MMT) of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from their supply chain by 2015. As of 2013, Walmart and their supply chain have eliminated 7.5 MMT of GHG emissions and have projects underway to reach 18 MMT by 2015. The key to meeting and exceeding this goal is swift and thorough follow-through on ambitious initiatives.

That’s why EDF is working closely with Walmart to help their suppliers optimize fertilizer use in their supply chain. Emissions that result from nitrogen fertilizer loss – a greenhouse gas called nitrous oxide – is 300 times more potent in damaging our climate than CO2. Walmart’s Director of Dry Grocery Tim Robinson mentioned at the Expo that 20 to 40 percent of the nitrogen fertilizer isn’t absorbed by crops, either running off into waterways or off-gassing into the atmosphere. Consequently, as the top grocer in the country, this makes fertilizer optimization one of Walmart’s major opportunities for GHG reductions in their supply chain.

Just as importantly, the UN estimates that to feed the world’s growing population, food supplies will need to increase 70% by 2050. The entire value chain needs to produce more food with fewer inputs, while still allowing farmers to earn a living with what they grow. Walmart’s suppliers’ commitments are a first step towards this future:

Cargill

“By 2020 we will double our NextField acres bringing us to over 1 million acres of total land being optimized for maximum productivity with minimum environmental impact.”

DFA

“…we will have more than 90 percent of our 9,000 member farms participating in our Gold Standard Dairy program, which focuses on resource efficiency and optimization” and are “[a]igned with industry goals to reduce environmental footprint 25% by 2020."

Kellogg Company

“In every country in which Kellogg sources rice globally, we commit to promoting and supporting initiatives with producers that will, by 2020, lead to a 25% increase in the adoption of Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) practices.  This will improve smallholder livelihoods, enhance producer resilience and reduce greenhouse gas emissions."

Pepsi

“…we will work to engage growers of corn, oats, potato, and oranges to increase sustainable farming practices, particularly in the areas of environmental, social and economic sustainability.  As part of this worldwide program, PepsiCo's Sustainable Farming Initiative (or equivalent scheme) will be expanded to 500,000 acres of farmland in North America by the end of 2016."

Campbell Soup Company

“We commit to reducing GHG emissions and water use by 20% per tonne of food for Campbell's 5 key agricultural ingredients (Tomatoes, Carrots, Celery, Potatoes, Jalapenos)."

General Mills

“We will: 1) Expand 2.5x the acreage enrolled in The Field to Market sustainable agriculture initiative to 2.5 million acres by 2015; 2) Leverage General Mills' strength in connected innovation to match grower nitrogen management needs with the best global solutions; and 3) Co-sponsor an innovation challenge for the innovators and farmers who demonstrate the most promise to reduce GHG emission in nitrogen management.”

With their commitments, Walmart’s suppliers are setting new targets to strive for, and we at EDF are seeking to provide farmers with the tools they’ll need to meet them. With effective fertilizer management, we can help scale up crops to meet food needs around the world while minimizing their impacts on our climate and water resources.