More companies realize that taking steps to reduce energy, waste, and packaging not only make for tidy corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports, but make economic sense in the long run as well. Such measures are a challenge for food processing companies, as their entire supply chain from farm to distribution requires the buy-in and cajoling of vendors and partners.
Del Monte is one such company that is ramping up its CSR efforts. The northern California company has been on a long road. Almost forty years ago the company made waves by placing nutritional information on its labels, a huge innovation at the time. Since then the company was bought and divested by RJR Nabisco, and now its portfolio includes S&W, Contadina, and Milk-Bone. Last week the company announced it would adopt new business practices that it claims will save energy while reducing waste.
Del Monte has already taken measures to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. Improved distribution has resulted in its truck network driving 29 million fewer miles since 2007. The company started experimenting with alternative energy; last year Del Monte installed 1.9 megawatts in rooftop solar capacity at two of its processing facilities in California’s Central Valley. Now the food processing giant, which boasts annual sales of about US$3.7 billion, has announced the following goals it wishes to achieve by 2016, including:
- By 2016, the company will slash the amount of solid waste from its manufacturing, warehousing, and research & development facilities by 75%.
- Reduce packaging by 15%, through a combination of packaging changes, eliminating more secondary packaging, and finding ways to slim packaging from eliminating UPC stickers to using thinner canning materials.
- Pledging to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in its manufacturing operations while seeking a 7% GHG reduction through greater efficiencies in its transportation network.
- Reduce water consumption by 20%.
All of these goals use 2007 levels as a baseline.
The company’s sustainability portal is well-written and clearly explains all of its goals. New directives, such as moving manufacturing operations closer to farms and reducing fertilizer, are certainly laudable. The percentage goals at first appear modest, but will be challenging for any organization as its managements tries to instill new approaches throughout an organization—no large company can turn on a dime. What would give Del Monte’s CSR portal a little more heft is a disclosure of the metrics behind these goals for 2016 (UPS is one example), so stakeholders can get a clearer idea of what will happen over the next six years. Following guidelines by a standards organization like the Global Reporting Initiative would allow the company to compare itself to the performance of its competitors.
Nudges aside, Del Monte has stepped up to the plate, and is working on more than just environmental issues—it is working on improving its involvement in the communities in which the company has operations, and allows non-profits to apply for donations easily through its web site. In all a solid start. So what are Del Monte’s competitors doing on the CSR front, and how will they meet those goals?