I hate to admit this, but while perusing the aisles of a large chain supermarket last week, something moved me to purchase my first can of SPAM.  As I opened up the rectangular can, a feeling of nostalgia took over and I created a somewhat delicious fried spam sandwich.  Now, when it comes to finding a truly sustainable dinner at the supermarket, a can of SPAM or Dinty Moore stew doesn’t exactly come to mind.

However, for this Fortune 500 company, Hormel Food Corporation, which produces such classically unhealthy foods and has been scrutinized by shareholder advocacy campaigns for spreading of pig manure on fields as fertilizer, credit earned is credit due.  Hormel recently announced impressive results in terms of metrics when it comes to minimizing their negative impact on the planet.

Over the past five years, the company surpassed three key sustainability goals including water reduction, packaging and solid waste minimization.

Hormel reduced packaging by an average of 4.4 million pounds per year and a total of 21.8 million pounds.

Water consumption was reduced by 15 percent in fiscal year 2011 compared to 2006 levels.

Solid waste:
The company’s recycling rate was 46 percent at the close of fiscal year 2011 compared to 41 percent at the close of fiscal year 2010. Hormel also reduced solid waste it sent to landfills by 29 percent in 2011 compared to 2006 levels.

Air emissions:
Greenhouse gas emissions were reduced by 5 percent compared to fiscal year 2009.

“The last five years have been rewarding, as we achieved significant reductions on several key sustainability metrics; challenging, as we reported data that had not previously been calculated; and enlightening, as the process provided an opportunity for us to take a fresh look at long established policies and procedures,” stated CEO Jeff Ettinger.

So the next time you pass by those Dinty Moore stews or cans of SPAM in the market, think twice about the progress the company is making.  You may just find yourself fork deep into one of those poptop cans.  Or maybe not.

Dale Wannen

Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an investment advisory firm focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager at Harrington Investments and specialized in ESG investment strategies, securities analysis, and shareholder advocacy. Prior to this position, Dale was a financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management Services in San Francisco. He is often a guest speaker on the topic of ESG investing and shareholder advocacy.Dale has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma.He also currently sits as Board of Director and Treasurer of San Francisco human rights organization, Global Exchange, teaches Economics for the Oakland non-profit Game Theory Academy and is a committee member for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco. Previous volunteer work has included Treasurer and Board Member for bird conservation organization, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), committee member of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), and President of the Social Venture Finance Club at Presidio Graduate School.Dale currently holds the Series 65 FINRA license and has previously held the Series 6, 7, 63, 66 and California Life and Health Insurance Certification. He is a member of National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).Dale lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife Lauri and their Malamute Shadow.