This week I attended the Sustainability Summit put on by the Trading Partner Alliance (Food Marketing Institute and Grocery Manufacturers Association), designed to bring together retailers, manufacturers, government and advocacy groups around the common goal of environmentally responsible business practices. These are just some of the insights from that event; there’ll be more posts in the coming days.
Ken Powell, chairman and CEO of General Mills, offered some interesting food for thought as we all contemplate what we can do to advance sustainability. Much of what he said correlated to our industry’s efforts.
He noted that General Mills at one point put energy meters on its equipment. That initial cost of $184,000 yielded savings of $665,000. For General Mills, that’s probably chump change, but the point is that for every company there’s lots of low-hanging fruit, small changes that yield big results. We saw that in our post on Procacci Brothers’ switch to hand dryers.
Cheerios is a General Mills product, and Powell told how the company uses the oat hulls (a waste product from Cheerios production) to fuel its own plants, other plants, and even homes. I was reminded of Gills Onions’ efforts to use onion waste to produce energy. I know there are other stories about using waste to improve your business.
The company’s goals for 2015 are a 20% reduction in energy, water, and greenhouse gas emissions; a 35% reduction in transportation/fuel; and a 50% drop in solid waste generation.
Powell also said that General Mills has been working on sustainability since early last century. We hear that from members from time to time. It goes something like this: “Hey, my company has been doing this forever, so when do we get credit for long-term efforts?” A lot of our members have these practices so ingrained in their business persona that it doesn’t seem to them to be newsworthy. But it is.
Sustainability efforts are important, whether you’ve just started them or it was your great-grandfather who started them. No one knows unless you tell your story. We highlight efforts here in Field to Fork and on the PMA website. Let us know what you’re doing.