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Hormel Foods Makes Good on Solid Waste Reduction Goals...Again

By Sherrell Dorsey

This post is sponsored by Hormel Foods. Opinions are my own. 

Corporate leadership in environmental sustainability begins with appointing the right person or teams to set the strategic direction for a company. Demonstrably, Hormel Foods has exceeded its annual environmental impact goals for reducing the amount of solid waste it produces and sends to landfills -- working fluidly across its various plants to design achievable and measurable goals in pursuit of greater efficiency and success.

We sat down with Tom Raymond, director of environmental sustainability for Hormel Foods, to deep-dive into how the brand is keeping its commitment to reducing its impact on the planet.

TriplePundit: As director of environmental sustainability, how does Hormel Foods assess its goals?

Tom Raymond: At Hormel Foods, we take into account the important role environmental responsibility plays in our day-to-day operations and the responsibility we must uphold for minimizing our impacts in the world. In 2011, we completed our first set of environmental goals and established our second set in 2012, which span from 2012-2020.

Each year, we report on our progress toward these goals. This year, most notably, we’ve surpassed our solid waste goal by 20 percent, six years earlier than anticipated. We also made significant strides toward our other 2020 goals to reduce water, energy and greenhouse gas emissions.

To assess the goals, my team and I analyze data that all of our locations submit through our online environmental tracking system. Each facility tracks their own progress, with results consolidated for management review. Team members from across the company can track our progress in real time through a shared electronic environmental metrics reporting system. The expectation is that each facility strives to meet or exceed our companywide goal of reducing solid waste to the landfill, with a focus on waste reduction at the source.

"Waste reduction efforts should be viewed as an opportunity to maximize efficiency as opposed to a problem. With this mindset we can focus on waste reduction at the design phase."

3p: Discuss how your role as director of sustainability tackles the responsibility of setting corporate social responsibility (CSR) goals for Hormel and leading a team toward success.

TR: The greatest lesson for me is in setting a strategy for these goals because it forces us to take a fresh look at long-established policies and procedures. The team then formulates the day-to-day tactics and long-term planning to execute environmental programs that accomplish our goals.

It is critical we share information and best practices so we can help each other continually improve our practices. For example, we hold monthly conference calls with plant engineering and environmental staff to discuss environmental compliance and sustainability issues.

Also, we hold a biennial companywide environmental conference to discuss environmental compliance programs, sustainability initiatives and encourage knowledge-sharing among environmental representatives throughout the company. The most recent one occurred in San Diego in April of this year.

3p: Hormel has been quite successful in hitting past goals to reduce its solid waste and packaging, roughly 4.4 million pounds in 2014. This new milestone continues to iterate on these processes to reduce solid waste goals even further. What are some of the ways your team has pushed the bar to become successful?

TR: To encourage higher environmental standards in our company and recognize individuals who have achieved exemplary results in the area of environmental sustainability, each year Hormel Foods facilitates an internal Environmental Sustainability Best of the Best competition. This is a key way we’ve reached (and surpassed) our environmental goals.

We also recognize there is always more work to be done with minimizing our environmental impacts. To push the bar, we continuously reevaluate our goals and make sure to communicate that information to the appropriate teams.

3p: What processes changed significantly that impacted reductions throughout the production/manufacturing processes?

TR: Two specific project examples come to mind from our internal Environmental Sustainability Best of the Best competition:

  • Saag’s Products (San Leandro, California) – The Saag’s team set out to reduce its solid waste to landfill contribution by 50 percent. By engaging employees in recyclable material training, the plant was able to reduce its solid waste to landfill by 89 tons, surpassing its original goal and improving recycling to 53 percent.

  • Dold Foods (Wichita, Kansas) – Dold Foods originally aimed to eliminate 39 tons of solid waste by the year 2020. In a plant-wide effort to minimize all solid waste streams, the plant was able to realize an annualized savings of 127 tons of solid waste, or 330 percent of the 2020 goal, in fiscal 2014 alone.
3p: What advice would you give to other directors within this industry as it relates to solving the environmental waste problem through company-designed operations or policies?

TR: The first job is to change the viewpoint on waste generation. Waste reduction efforts should be viewed as an opportunity to maximize efficiency as opposed to a problem. With this mindset we can focus on waste reduction at the design phase. In operations, there needs to be specific measurements on waste available to help identify areas for continuous improvement. Where waste elimination seems difficult to achieve, start with smaller more achievable goals to get energy behind the effort.

3p: In what ways do you believe the end consumer will become much more cognizant of their own environmental footprint? (What educational tactics, if any, does Hormel provide around waste diversion to influence end consumer responsibility?)

TR: Overall, we concentrate our efforts at finding ways to improve our environmental performance in our operations first and foremost. If we can find a way to limit the packaging of a product, for example, that will have an impact regardless of what the consumer does at the end use; however, consumers have a role to play in their own consumption habits and practices.

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Sherrell Dorsey is a social impact storyteller, social entrepreneur and advocate for environmental, social and economic equity in underserved communities. Sherrell speaks and writes frequently on the topics of sustainability, technology, and digital inclusion.

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