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By Dale Wannen

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.
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Dale is the founder and advisor of Sustainvest Asset Management LLC. He has over 20 years experience in wealth management and financial services with a distinct commitment to sustainable investing for 15 of those years. Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager specializing in ESG investment strategies and shareholder advocacy. After growing up in southern New Jersey, Dale decided to head west in 2002 and now makes the bay area his home.  He has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco and a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma. He also currently sits as a Board of Director of nonprofit Stewards of the Coast and Redwoods and is a investment committee member of the Sonoma County Community Foundation.

Read more stories by Dale Wannen