Sunny Delight Goes Zero Waste

Several things define Cincinnati:  the four-way (cinnamon and clove-spiced chili heaped on spaghetti); the Reds, who have decided to play baseball after years of dormancy; and Proctor and Gamble, along with its spin-off, Sunny Delight.  Now marketed as SunnyD, the citrus-y concoction nets over US$700 million a year in sales. My grandmother, who prepped, baked, and cooked food for hours a day, apparently could not give the same attention to our beverages and as a result Sunny Delight was a fixture in her refrigerator.  The beverage is not the elixir of foodies, but most likely this family of products will remain a fridge mainstay for a long time.

The brand has had its share of sunrises and sunsets.  It hit the UK market like a hurricane in the 1990s, becoming the third highest selling drink behind Coke and Pepsi.  Then the negative press it:  the drink is only 5% real juice, and a toddler became an NHS sensation after it began to resemble an oopma-loompa after drinking too much Sunny Delight–though in fairness, that was hardly P&G’s fault—no one of any size should be drinking 1.5 liters of any juice or juice-like product a day, so we are talking parental issues here.  Alas, sales fell, the drink was renamed, and even reformulated.  Now its parent company, Sunny Delight Beverages Company, is joining the sustainability bandwagon:  its manufacturing plants followed the zero waste route, and made other environmental strides as well.

The company has reached its 2013 recycling goal three years early; several months ago, Sunny Delight’s US and Spain manufacturing plants achieved zero waste.  Back in 2007, the company estimated that it sent about 1140 tons of waste to landfills.  That number fell more than 50% two years later, and by implementing policies like paperless offices, all factories hit that goal.  By diverting waste from landfills, Sunny Delight saved $169,000 in such costs last year.

Sunny Delight’s sustainability measures go beyond waste reduction.  It set its carbon footprint reduction goal to 25% in 2011.  Along the way, it decreased its energy consumption 6% in 2009, and reduced water usage by 8%.  The company also improved its transportation and logistics system, and reduced the size of its products’ packaging on average of about 20%, cutting energy costs and decreasing waste along the way.

Privately-owned companies are often reticent to release any information related to its finances or operations, so Sunny Delight’s first sustainability report is a welcome step.  Its report followed Global Reporting Initiative guidelines and is available here.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

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