Image
Sustainability Matters
Advertisement
04/18/2022

Retailers, CPGs Ramp Up Efforts in Sustainability

What companies are doing to make operations more sustainable in terms of sourcing, food waste, energy use and packaging
Barbara Sax
Contributing Editor
Barbara Sax profile picture

Forward-thinking sustainability initiatives are no longer a nice-to-have for retailers. Having a position on sustainability and following through on those commitments have become table stakes for any company in the current retail environment.

Consumers are continuing to place an emphasis on sustainability when making purchasing decisions, indicating that eco-friendly lifestyles are here to stay,” says Colin Stewart, EVP, business intelligence at Jacksonville, Fla.-based Acosta. “Retailers have an opportunity and responsibility to think through their environmental footprint and deliver value in ways that matter increasingly more to their customers.”

According to Stewart, 69% of consumers surveyed by Acosta in 2021 agreed that sustainability was a somewhat/very important consideration when purchasing consumer packaged goods. “Since concern for the environment is clearly impacting shopping habits, retailers must take demand into account when looking at product assortments and larger business strategies,” he says.

“Investing in green products is increasingly critical for retailers, as purchases within this category are on the rise,” continues Stewart. “Consumers are particularly interested in fresh produce and green cleaning products. Eighty-five percent of consumers who buy green products say they will always or most likely buy them in the future.”

Food waste is another increasing concern for consumers. Seventy-five percent of those surveyed by Acosta said that minimizing food waste was their most important consideration when deciding on a retailer, and nearly every shopper surveyed agreed that food waste is a problem within the United States. Additionally, 64% of shoppers said that they’d made a conscious effort to decrease food waste over the past year. “Given consumers’ concern over food waste and their increasing awareness of its environmental impact, retailers would be extremely wise to make food waste reduction a top priority,” advises Stewart.

As most shoppers make more of an effort to live eco-friendlier lifestyles, recycling has come into sharper focus. “Our research found that 80% of shoppers have made it a priority to reduce, reuse and recycle products and packaging,” notes Stewart. “Older shoppers (Boomers+) are more likely to recycle, while younger shoppers (Gen Z and Millennials) are more inclined to modify their buying habits. Importantly, 60% of all shoppers surveyed say they are paying more attention to product packaging and its impact on the environment.”

Data from the Murphy Research and the Coca-Cola Retailing Research Council (CCRRC) indicates that 80% of shoppers think food retailers should expand their focus beyond sales by implementing initiatives to help employees and communities. “Retailers who make it clear that their larger purpose extends towards making the world a better place will likely be viewed more favorably by consumers than retailers who appear to be solely focused on earnings,” says Stewart.

The following content reveals what some retailers and CPG companies are doing to make their operations more sustainable in terms of sourcing, food waste, energy use and packaging.

Image
Sustainability Matters
The Giant Co. has moved away from Styrofoam trays to recyclable PET trays for packaging for chicken and sausage products, and is looking to expand recyclable packaging options.

The Giant Co.

Since The Giant Co. rebranded in 2020, sustainability initiatives have become even more important to the Ahold Delhaize USA company’s core. “Doing the right thing for our planet is a huge responsibility, and also a huge opportunity,” says Nicholas Bertram, president of The Giant Co.  “A more sustainable shopping basket helps reduce carbon emission, improve soil health, mitigate deforestation and increase biodiversity, which in turn will heal our planet.” 

To that end, the company recently donated $1 million to Harrisburg University of Science and Technology in support of the school’s new Center for Advanced Agriculture and Sustainability, which will be focused on sustainability and localized sourcing through high-tech food and agriculture.

Supplier Sustainability

The Giant Co. continuously boosts its selection of responsibly sourced products. In the fish department, 100% of the chain’s own-brand seafood items are sustainably sourced, including frozen shrimp and canned tuna, and the meat department continues to expand its plant-based meat alternatives. 

In addition to working with Rodale Institute to promote regenerative organic farming practices, the company built a 7-acre pollinator-friendly solar field at its corporate headquarters in Carlisle, Pa., in 2020. The solar field is designed to create a synergistic environment that contributes to clean energy and supports bee and pollinator populations. 

Reduced Packaging

Reducing packaging is also a focus for the chain. In 2018, Ahold Delhaize USA’s Retail Business Services arm unveiled a company-wide commitment to increase sustainable chemistry practices used in products and packaging, as well as to dramatically reduce plastic and packaging waste for its private-brand products. The Giant Co. plans for all plastic in its own-brand packaging to be 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2025.

“The pandemic certainly drove a huge demand for bag versus bulk produce, and we see no sign of that slowing down,” says Ashley Flower, a spokeswoman for the company. “We’ve piloted options for more sustainable packaging, with SKUs such as store-packaged corn now in a recyclable tray, versus the Styrofoam we used previously.” 

The chain partnered with one of its seafood department suppliers to test and transition two major seafood items away from Styrofoam to reusable plastic crates. “Product ships in the crates, which our stores return to the vendor to be reused,” explains Flower. “The program will be expanding to several more items in the future.” In the meat department, chicken and sausage product lines have been moved from Styrofoam trays to recyclable PET trays, and the team continues to work with supplier partners to review packaging and move toward sustainable options.

Greener Operations

The Giant Co.’s stores and warehouses follow a rigorous program toward achieving both zero waste and reducing food waste, and 80 have reached zero-waste status, meaning that at least 90% of their total waste is being diverted from landfills or incineration. “All facilities have recycling and donation programs in place to make sure we’re diverting as much material from landfill as possible,” says Flower. Last year, all stores rolled out the Flashfood program to help reduce food waste.

Stores and warehouses are maximizing energy efficiency with LED light conversions, medium-temp doors on cases, and refrigerant conversions to use more ozone-friendly refrigerants with a lower global-warming potential.

“Environmentally friendly, ozone-friendly refrigerants and the most efficient refrigeration machinery have helped to reduce electrical usage,” notes Flower. “Enclosing refrigerated cases with glass doors helps hold in cold air while giving customers full view of the products offered.”

Image
Sustainability Matters
Hy-Vee's Homegrown produce program sources from growers within 200 miles of a store.

Hy-Vee Inc.

Hy-Vee Inc. is uniquely positioned to lead the way in sustainability. Last year, the company’s food waste diversion and recycling efforts received the Iowa Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award in Waste Management. In 2022, the company is building on those successes and continuing its proactive approach to preserving the environment.

Through efficiency measures like solar panels and daytime lighting controls, plus the addition of more electrical-vehicle-charging stations at all of its grocery store fueling stations, West Des Moines, Iowa-based Hy-Vee is working to reduce its footprint.

“We are always pursuing new design features to make our facilities more energy efficient,” affirms Tina Potthoff, SVP, communications. “All of Hy-Vee’s distribution centers are TRUE Zero certified, meaning that 98% of their waste is diverted from landfills through recycling and reuse of materials.”

In past 15 years, Hy-Vee has lowered the amount of electricity used in each store by 36% through increased energy efficiency measures and has exceeded its goals for managing refrigerant emissions.

Built for Sustainability

Hy-Vee’s new Grimes, Iowa, store was built with sustainability in mind. “We’ve gone above and beyond building codes to improve insulation, glazing and roofing, all of which will help reduce energy consumption,” says Potthoff.

The Grimes location will also harness the power of the sun through solar panels. The main store features skylights that allow natural light to illuminate the aisles, and daylight-sensing dimmers to reduce energy consumption from LED light fixtures. The new store also includes several electric-vehicle-charging stations.

Committed to reducing the number of single-use plastics in its stores, the company has replaced its nonrecyclable to-go containers with containers that customers can recycle in its foodservice sections.  

“We continue to look for new products and ideas that can help reduce our plastic footprint, like our Smart Stock cutlery dispensers,” notes Potthoff. “These dispensers have reduced the amount of plastic cutlery we hand out by 65%.”

Promoting Reusable Bags

Hy-Vee refreshed its flexible-plastic-recycling program and launched the Bags4MyCause initiative to increase the use of reusable bags. The initiative allocates a portion of the purchase price of each reusable bag to a nonprofit organization chosen by each local store. “We’ve already sold more than 90,000 reusable bags through the program,” says Potthoff. 

The chain was the first Midwestern retailer to offer 100% responsibly sourced fresh and frozen seafood at all of its stores. Seafood products bearing the Responsible Choice symbol meet Hy-Vee’s Seafood Procurement Policy and are caught or farmed in a responsible manner.

Currently, all of the company’s sushi and private-brand shelf-stable tuna products come from responsible sources. “We’ve continued our commitment to sustainable seafood sourcing, most recently joining more than 200 other retailers in an open letter to support permanent protections for the fishing industry in Bristol Bay, Alaska,” observes Potthoff. 

Additionally, Hy-Vee’s Homegrown produce program, part of each new Hy-Vee location, seeks to support local growers and minimize the environmental impact of fresh produce offerings by sourcing from growers located within 200 miles of a store location.

Image
Sustainability Matters
Lidl's Too Good to Waste program substantially discounts less-than-optimal produce to offset food waste.

Lidl US

International grocery retailer Lidl is putting sustainability at the center of its brand in the United States, as well as its operations abroad. 

Within the United States, Arlington, Va.-based Lidl has committed to selling only certified-sustainable fresh and frozen seafood, and works with the Marine Stewardship Council, the Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) program and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council to ensure that suppliers meet the company’s standards.

To emphasize a commitment to offering more sustainable products in its stores, Lidl instituted a transparent, credible seal initiative to call out specific products that meet standards and best practices regarding overfishing, organic farming and production, sustainable harvesting, and fair trade with product packaging and in-store store signage.

Too Good to Waste 

Lidl is also focused on reducing food waste. The company’s Too Good to Waste program substantially discounts produce that falls short of the company’s standards and displays the products on prominently placed Too Good to Waste fixtures near the entrance of the produce department. The meat department also has a Too Good to Waste chilled-fixture section.

Store-level employees have the authority to select perishable items that don’t meet the company’s standards and specifications for inclusion in nearby Too Good to Waste fixtures. The benefits of this approach are multifold: Substandard items are routinely weeded out of the produce selection, shoppers have easy access to products at reduced prices, and department upkeep is more efficient.

The company encourages recycling through a variety of efforts. Lidl has teamed up with How2Recycle for labeling on all of the retailer’s private label products that makes recycling easier and more convenient. The How2Recycle Label, a project of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition formed by Charlottesville, Va.-based GreenBlue, communicates instructions for how to dispose of every packaging component. 

Lidl also includes Save Water labels on select items to encourage consumers to think about how they can limit use of the resource, for example by watering plants with water used to wash produce.

Image
Mom's Organic Market Produce Main Image
MOM's Organic Markets continues to expand its selection of produce options with compostable or reduced packaging.

Mom's Organic Market

Family-owned and -operated MOM’s Organic Market is working to reduce food waste as a company by donating to food banks, offering free compost drop-off at all of its stores, carrying upcycled food products and spreading awareness on the issue of food waste to its customers. 

Last year, the Rockville, Md.-based chain debuted a first-of-its-kind end cap highlighting upcycled food products, and dedicated a month-long promotion to food waste awareness. “In 2021, we donated over $1 million in extra food from our stores to over 60 different local food banks, soup kitchens and churches,” says Liz Dunn, category manager, personal care, apparel and lifestyle.  

Greener Operations

“We implemented 10-cent credit incentives for reusable bags and have worked on legislative advocacy products for plastic bag taxes,” notes Dunn. MOM’s elects not to sell bottled water, preferring instead to host a filtered-water machine that supplies communities with refillable reverse-osmosis and alkaline water options. “We offer a large selection of bulk products to allow our clients to go plastic-free when possible and provide compostable or recyclable options for our bulk, coffee and produce departments,” says Dunn. The company even sponsors a denim drive to collect old denim jeans for affordable home insulations.

Through an internal stewardship program, team captains are chosen to ensure that the chain’s environmental goals are being met in every store. “Grocery managers listen to our customers and provide feedback,” says Chris Miller, produce director and meat and seafood coordinator. “They scour the market for new and more sustainable companies.”

Supplier Sustainability

“We want to shorten the supply chain whenever possible for meat, and work directly with the producers,” continues Miller. “We try to source local and pasture-based operations, and we love to support farming practices that contribute to soil health, especially the Chesapeake watershed.” 

According to Miller, the company is the only grocery store in the United States to offer 100% sustainable seafood — right down to its canned tuna — and follows the recommendations of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. 

“We are evolving further, hosting local seasonal CSA [community-supported agriculture] pickups and partnering with an oyster recovery program to provide fresh oysters via local farms,” he notes.

The company is working with a host of new suppliers, including Northfield, Wis.-based aquaponic business Superior Fresh, which grows certified-organic greens that cleanse the water in which salmon is raised. In turn, the salmon provide nutritious water for the greens. MOM’s also works with mushroom grower Smallhold, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based company that’s reimagining sustainability with an inherently circular growing model that repurposes waste from other industries, such as sawdust, to grow mushrooms, and then donates the rich mushroom compost to farms, schools and nonprofits.

Miller says that last year, MOM’s found more produce options, such as grapes, heirloom onion varieties and mushrooms, with compostable packaging, or reduced the packaging. “When possible, we work with partners that are moving the needle in sustainable packaging, like Hex Ferments, the only kombucha company in the Mid-Atlantic that has implemented and successfully integrated a bottle-return exchange program, saving over half a million bottles from the recycling and waste stream since 2013,” he points out. The retailer also works with U.K. company Georganics, which uses specialized recycling partners for materials and allows customers to join its Zero-To-Landfill plan to mail in products to be recycled.

Doubling Down on Recycling 

MOM’s stores walk the walk when it comes to reuse and recycling. The stores recycle plastic wrap, boxes (waxed and plain), and scrap metal, and use bulk cleaning products. Stores that use reusable mop heads and towels launder them in-house. Registers use sustainable paper, adhesives and ink; the chain’s in-house Naked Lunch and Bake Shop kitchens use compostable utensils and napkins; and breakrooms are equipped with washable plates and cups only.

Image
New Seasons Market GO Box Main Image
New Seasons and New Leaf are working to reduce the negative impact of single-use packaging with reusable GO Box containers.

New Seasons Market/New Leaf Community Markets

As neighborhood grocery stores focused on local partnerships, New Seasons Market and New Leaf Community Markets believe that they have a unique opportunity to improve their environmental impact from products and operations and throughout the supply chain. 

“We know our most significant areas of opportunity to reduce climate emissions come from our supply chain,” says Athena Petty, store support sustainability program manager for the sister banners, which are independent operators within the Good Food Holdings family of brands. “While we don’t have complete control over the practices that our suppliers and vendors employ, we have some leverage in choosing who we work with and how we support those suppliers.”

Based in Portland, Ore., and Santa Cruz, Calif., respectively, New Seasons and New Leaf are investing in energy-efficient equipment and practices to reduce carbon emissions associated with producing, processing, transporting and storing food.

Supplier Sustainability

New Seasons and New Leaf are deepening partnerships with vendors that are committed to using regenerative practices. “We plan to spend a lot more time and energy communicating with our customers about the importance of that work,” notes Petty. “We’re also investing in tools to help us assess the environmental performance of our partner-brand private label products with more data and indicators than ever before.” Through a partnership with Santa Cruz-based FishWise, the chain employs in-store signage to indicate the sustainability level of products in its seafood cases. 

Greener Operations

Emissions resulting from their buildings and distribution are a big part of the banners’ operational focus on climate action. “We’re investing in several significant system retrofits to help make our older buildings more efficient, and we’re exploring solar opportunities,” says Petty.

Through New Seasons’ innovative Greenwheels partnership with Portland’s B-line Urban Delivery business, products from small local producers are delivered to stores via environmentally friendly electric bikes. “In 2021, the program reduced 35,878 individual delivery trips to New Seasons Market locations, saving more than 4,580,326 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions, or the equivalent to CO2 emissions of 4,810 barrels of oil consumed,” explains Petty.

Reduced Packaging

Packaging is a primary sustainability focus area for New Seasons and New Leaf, and according to Petty, the banners are working on several initiatives to reduce the negative impact of single-use packaging. “We’re investing time and effort into developing reuse systems so our customers can shop with us while not creating any waste,” she notes. “We have a partnership with the local reuse company GO Box that allows customers to shop a variety of departments with reusable containers. Since that program launched in 2018, we’ve facilitated over 44,000 reuse cycles.”

This year, banners are replacing clamshell packaging for their partner-brand private label fresh pasta with recyclable trays and are transitioning to grab-and-go tubs that are produced with 100% post-consumer recycled content. “Those tubs and all other clean, clear #1 PET containers will soon be accepted at all of our stores, starting Earth Day 2022,” reveals Petty.
Recycled tubs then go into a feedstock used to recreate containers. “It’s not perfect,” she admits, “but we want to be part of helping establish recycling markets for this valuable material.”

Image
Sustainability Matters
Bacardi is on track to hit its target of sustainably sourcing 100% of its key raw materials by 2025.

Bacardi

Bacardi prioritizes sustainability practices on a global scale with a “reduce, restore, revitalize” approach. The spirits company is taking bold action in various parts of the world to reduce its global footprint and spark a positive environmental impact.

To that end, Bacardi is working toward zero plastic point-of-sale materials and secondary packaging by 2023, zero waste to landfill by 2022, and on becoming 100% plastic-free by 2030.

In addition to a recent 50% greenhouse-gas reduction at its rum distillery in Puerto Rico, Bacardi is generating biogas through the wastewater treatment system, which is helping to power the distillation and create electricity.

“More than 60% of the distillery’s energy is generated this way,” notes Rodolfo Nervi, VP global safety, quality and sustainability for Bacardi, whose U.S. headquarters is in Coral Gables, Fla. “Additionally, at the distillery in Puerto Rico, we are recapturing 95% of the heat generated during the distillation process to reduce energy required.”

Outside of Puerto Rico, Nervi says that Bacardi has instituted renewable electricity at its production sites for Bombay Sapphire, Cazadores, Dewar’s and Martini, and has installed biomass boilers at distilleries for Bombay Sapphire, Cazadores, and Scotch whiskies Aberfeldy and Royal Brackla.

As a member of the Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER), Bacardi helped launch the Charco Bendito Project to address the shared water challenges in Tlajomulco de Zúñiga, Mexico.

The company invests heavily in doing the right thing for the planet. Its small-batch whiskey brand, Angel’s Envy, plants trees each September in a Toast The Trees event. Since the program’s inception in 2014, Angel’s Envy has planted more than 130,000 white oak trees in an effort to create a sustainable barrel supply chain.

In Puerto Rico, Bacardi has amassed 38,535 square feet of pollinator gardens, which provide an annual food source for monarch butterflies, native bees, honeybees and seven species of bats. In addition to creating an all-volunteer-run 21-acre sustainable sanctuary for wildlife in Jacksonville, Fla., the company works with the Jacksonville Zoo and Gardens and the Florida Audubon Society. These efforts earned the brand a Wildlife Habitat Council Ibis Award, a distinction given to programs that demonstrated a spirit of resilience and the advancement of conservation despite the challenge of pandemic-related shutdowns, quarantines and workplace fluctuations.

The company is on track to hit its target of sustainably sourcing 100% of its key raw materials by 2025 and has made substantial headway with sugarcane for Bacardi rum sourced from Bonsucro-certified suppliers, and 100% sustainably sourced botanicals for Bombay Sapphire.
“Bacardi regularly communicates its sustainability achievements via online channels, including social media,” says Nervi. The company continues to explore additional avenues to communicate sustainability news to consumers. 

Image
Sustainability Matters
Bumble Bee has shifted from shrink wrap to paperboard cartons for its multipacks.

Bumble Bee

More than 3 billion people in the world currently rely on seafood as a primary source of protein. Through its commitment to sustainability, Bumble Bee is ensuring that those resources will be available for the long term.

“We know we must work closely within our complex and global industry, and with NGOs and government, to ensure ocean abundance and diversity so that seafood — including tuna — can remain a long-term source of nutrition,” says Leslie Hushka, SVP, global corporate social responsibility at San Diego-based Bumble Bee.

The company has set goals and releases reports on its progress annually. One goal is to ensure that all seafood sourced will be externally recognized as sustainable or in a formal program moving toward certification by the end of 2025. “We’re already there on wild salmon and clams, and are transitioning our light-meat tuna in 2022,” notes Hushka.

Bumble Bee is extending its partnership with the Global Ghost Gear initiative to collect lost and abandoned fishing equipment as a part of its five-year million-dollar commitment to Ocean Conservancy, and supporting regenerative ocean practices through a partnership with SeaTrees to restore kelp off the coast of Los Angeles and to plant 15,000 mangrove trees off Biak Island, in Indonesia.

The seafood provider also recently revealed an industry-first shift from shrink wrap to paperboard cartons for its multipack can products. “This is significant because it will eliminate an estimated 23 million pieces of plastic waste annually, and it also moves our company to 98% readily recyclable packaging within our total product line,” observes Hushka. The paperboard is made from 100% recycled material, with a minimum of 35% post-consumer content, and is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. That means that the multipack can product packaging is fully recyclable in home recycling systems, both the box exterior and the cans inside. 

“We’ve received very positive feedback about the new paperboard packaging from our retail customers,” says Hushka. “They benefit from the flexibility the new package design offers on the shelf, including the option to set the product vertically or horizontally to maximize shelf space. The recyclable package also helps retailers move toward their own sustainability goals, including plastic waste reduction.”

Providing alternative, sustainable ways for consumers to enjoy ocean-inspired food is a key pillar of the company’s long-term commitment to ocean health. Bumble Bee is the first and only major seafood company to enter the plant-based protein sector through a joint distribution venture with Good Catch Foods, a brand of Austin, Texas-based Gathered Foods.

Since consumer education is an important component of sustainability, Bumble Bee is listening and responding more than ever to shoppers who are searching for healthy and sustainable food options. “Data shows that the pandemic has not hampered shoppers’ commitment to buying sustainable products, and we are working hard in our marketing efforts to make sure that consumers understand that The Bumble Bee Seafood Co. is committed to sustainability,” asserts Hushka. “We’ve also heard our consumers consistently ask for sustainable packaging choices that make recycling easier. Now consumers can easily recycle our multipack can products within their home recycling systems.”

Image
Sustainability Matters
Clorox's concentrated formula uses less water and fewer raw materials.

The Clorox Co.

The Clorox Co. has made a significant dent in minimizing waste in the manufacturing and packaging of its products. 

“People can only be well and thrive in a clean world,” notes Miranda Helmer, VP of R&D, sustainability, and packaging at The Clorox Co., which is based in Oakland, Calif. “That’s why Clorox has set ambitious goals — integrated into our corporate strategy — to reduce plastic and other waste in our packaging and operations.”

One signature goal set by the company is to reduce its virgin plastic and fiber packaging by 50% by 2030. “We’re innovating across our portfolio to help achieve this goal, including our new Clorox multipurpose refillable cleaner starter kit that uses 80% less plastic, our Burt’s Bees Rescue Elderberry Lip Balm tube that is made from 60% recycled and plant-based plastic, and Glad ForceFlex Plus Tall Kitchen Drawstring Trash Bags made with 50% recovered plastic, and packaging made from 100% recycled paperboard,” says Helmer. “We’ve made significant progress but recognize there is still more work to do.”

In 2019, the company introduced Clorox Compostable Cleaning Wipes, made with a plant-based cloth, and earned Safer Choice certification from the Environmental Protection Agency for the product in 2021. 

Clorox Bleach added a 25% more concentrated formula to its lineup in 2020, saving resources across the product’s lifecycle. Sold in a smaller bottle, the bleach uses less water and raw materials, and has a lower carbon footprint during manufacturing and distribution. The move to a concentrated bleach saves millions of gallons of water, 4 million pounds of paper from corrugate shippers, and 15 million pounds of plastic annually.

The company’s Burt’s Bees brand uses an average of 50% or more post-consumer recycled materials in its packaging, avoids over-packaging, limits mixed-materials packaging that’s hard to recycle and uses innovative recycled materials. Burt’s Bees Facial Towelettes, for example, are made with repurposed cotton from T-shirt manufacturing, and the packaging uses a sticker rather than a plastic closure as a safety seal. 

The brand also partnered with Trenton, N.J.-based TerraCycle on a packaging recovery program that makes it easy for consumers to recycle Burt’s Bees’ packaging once it has served its purpose. TerraCycle has collected more than 130,000 pieces of Burt’s Bees packaging from consumers since the program began.

“Burt’s Bees has worked incredibly hard over the years to use less packaging, to be a leading brand in our use of recycled content and to design packaging that is recyclable,” affirms Matt Kopac, associate director, sustainability for Burt’s Bees.

Meanwhile, Clorox’s Glad brand features technology that allows its kitchen drawstring bags to be made with 7% to 22% less plastic than the top 10 competing brands. Glad ForceFlex Plus Recovered Materials trash bags use 20% post-consumer recycled plastic diverted from landfills, plus 30% reclaimed plastic, which is reused scrap material from the manufacturing process. 

In the United States, Glad has declared specific 2030 sustainability targets to reduce its environmental footprint, including investments in strategic partnerships that amplify sustainability efforts. One example is Orem, Utah-based Recyclops, a technology-enabled sustainability and recycling startup that aims to expand access to recycling for more than 100,000 U.S. households currently without viable curbside options.

Image
Sustainability Matters
Del Monte works with farmers on a variety of sustainability initiatives.

Del Monte Foods

As one of the largest producers, distributors and marketers of premium branded food products for the U.S. retail market, Del Monte Foods has seized the opportunity to positively influence the way that food is grown on farms across the country.

The Walnut Creek, Calif.-based company has been a pioneer in introducing agricultural practices that minimize the use of pesticides and help farmers grow more robust crops and achieve greater yields with less fertilizer, water and other materials. 

Del Monte works with farmers on a variety of sustainability initiatives, including the development of drought- and pest-resilient seed varieties. The company also focuses on enhancing soil quality while reducing the use of chemicals through innovative processes like plant breeding, managing water use in farms and processing/packaging to maximize efficiency and minimize pollution, and proactively addressing climate change and working to minimize its carbon footprint.

Recycling is also an area of sustainability commitment for Del Monte, and the company is committed to informing consumers what’s in its packaging and how it can be recycled. By 2025, it will add How2Recycle icons to 100% of its packaging. Del Monte joined the Sustainable Packaging Coalition to partner with other leading packaging suppliers and CPGs to work toward more sustainable packaging solutions.

Only 4% of the company’s packaging by weight contains any plastics; the rest is fully recyclable steel-, glass- or paper-based. Del Monte is working to develop a compostable fruit cup, as well as beverage and fruit cups that contain post-consumer recycled content, and aims to source more recyclable polypropylene suitable for food contact. In addition, it started trials on two new plant-based plastic alternatives while expanding recyclable packaging to roughly 96%.

Through its Del Monte Blue Lake Petite Cut and Blue Lake Farmhouse Cut Green Beans products, which are made with 100% upcycled and sustainably grown green beans from Wisconsin and Illinois, Del Monte redirected approximately 600,000 pounds of surplus green beans last year, helping to provide healthy and affordable food while reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. 

“Helping to lead the upcycled food movement with the industry’s first canned vegetable product to be Upcycled Certified reflects our team’s dedication to always ensuring that nutritious food reaches its highest purpose,” says Greg Longstreet, president and CEO of Del Monte. “We’re continuously focused on uncovering new opportunities to reduce waste.”

The company has begun repurposing syrup from its boba and pineapple product lines to use in a new line of Del Monte Fruit Infusions cups. It’s also diverting apricot pits for use in beauty products, and fruit pulp to be turned into juice. Del Monte will continue to identify opportunities to expand its upcycling efforts across its portfolio of brands.

“As we look to the future, setting and achieving ambitious sustainability targets is more important than ever,” observes Molly Laverty, Del Monte’s senior manager of environmental and social governance. “From adopting sustainable and regenerative agricultural practices to innovating around nonplastic and recyclable packaging, we remain focused on growing good for our planet.”

Image
Sustainability Matters
The Hershey Co. is working to create better outcomes for farmers, their families and cocoa-growing communities.

The Hershey Co.

Hershey is working toward a world where cocoa communities and ecosystems will thrive for generations to come. In 2018, the Hershey, Pa.-based company launched its Cocoa For Good strategy to holistically address systemic social and environmental challenges in cocoa communities. “Our Cocoa For Good program aims to improve farmer incomes and livelihoods, eliminate child labor and improve children’s nutrition, and protect the environment,” says Leigh Horner, VP, corporate communications and global sustainability. “These pieces are interconnected and work together to create better outcomes for farmers, their families and cocoa-growing communities.”

Like other challenges in cocoa sourcing, deforestation and biodiversity loss due to encroachment into protected areas is also caused by a complex set of root causes, such as poverty, the absence of land titles, a lack of clarity on land tenure arrangements, limited knowledge of sustainable farming practices and poor law enforcement. To combat this, Hershey is investing in helping farmers secure land titles where they farm, spreading climate-positive farming methods, and investing in protecting the delicate ecosystems where cocoa is produced in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. 

“We have spent the past few years comprehensively mapping our cocoa-growing farms in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana to create a baseline deforestation rate through measuring annual tree cover loss and to closely monitor farm locations for encroachment into protected forest areas,” explains Horner. “Farms supported by Cocoa For Good showed less tree cover loss than the national averages for both Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana.”

Recently, Hershey has changed how the company prioritizes environmental sustainability to align with the best available science to drive impact and action.

“We announced science-based greenhouse-gas reduction goals just over a year ago,” notes Horner. “To cut Scope 1 and Scope 2 emissions, we’re focused on renewable energy through investing in the construction of three utility-scale solar farms, and energy efficiency projects like becoming an Energy Star Partner and joining the U.S. Department of Energy’s Better Building, Better Plants Program.”

Hershey recognizes that its greatest opportunity for emission reduction is within its extended value chain, which includes cocoa, dairy and sugar sourcing, as well as packaging and logistics. “In each of these areas, we are engaging in multi-stakeholder planning and taking action to reduce the impact made by our products and their ingredients,” says Horner. 

Since much of the company’s value chain emissions are due to land-use change from the farm-level production of ingredients, Hershey is addressing land use as a significant part of its climate action plan and has committed to eliminating commodity-driven deforestation from its ingredient supply chains by 2030, as well as many other initiatives to help the company achieve its emission reduction goals. 

Hershey also encourages its employees to participate in the Green Team initiative, which “now [has] nearly 20 groups leading wide-ranging, impactful projects — from pollinator gardens to PPE recycling and more — in locations around the world,” says Horner.

Green Teams are an important force in educating colleagues on the company’s ambitious commitments and how they can be part of achieving those goals. As Horner puts it, “We knew that tapping into the pride and passion of our Hershey colleagues would drive action and change, and move us closer to our goals.”

Image
Sustainability Matters
From producing food to packaging, Kellogg Co. is committed to reducing its carbon footprint.

Kellogg Co.

The first box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes cereal in 1906 was made from recycled content. Today, Battle Creek, Mich.-based Kellogg Co. has one of the smallest plastic packaging footprints among peer food companies, and 76% of its packaging is recyclable globally. 

“Over the years, we’ve significantly reduced the amount of material in our cereal boxes, liners and other packages,” says Janelle Meyers, chief sustainability officer at Kellogg. “We’ve reduced flap sizes, eliminated excess air and introduced other innovations to make our packaging better for the environment.”

Kellogg is working hard to ensure that more of its packaging contributes to the circular economy. To that end, 100% of the timber-based packaging that goes into Kellogg’s cereal and other boxes comes from low-risk, certified-sustainable or recycled sources.

In addition, Kellogg has set a sustainable packaging goal to work toward 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging by the end of 2025, and is aggressively collaborating with its partners on cutting-edge innovation that will affect how packaging with an even smaller environmental impact protects and enhances foods.

In North America, the company became a member of The Recycling Partnership to support projects related to curbside recycling. “Leveraging these collaborative partnerships with retailers, suppliers and other companies supports our efforts to design packaging materials that work within both existing and future infrastructure,” says Meyers.

Bold packaging redesigns have allowed the company to significantly reduce waste. In 2020, Kellogg launched Bear Naked’s first fully recyclable pouch for granolas in the United States, making it available for store drop-off at more than 18,000 stores nationwide. The brand kicked off a social media campaign on Instagram to support the launch of the bag. The campaign encouraged consumers to take pictures of themselves dropping off the bags and served to generate more interest among consumers.

By moving to redesigned resealable bag packaging for its MorningStar Farms veggie foods, Kellogg reduced packaging weight by 38%. An added benefit of the new packaging is better protection against freezer burn, which further reduces food waste.

In the United States, Kellogg is reducing the thickness in some of its bag-in-box retail cereal packages by 17% to reduce plastic packaging, and recently decreased the size of cereal boxes while maintaining the same amount of food in each box. The result was a reduction in size of corrugated shipping cartons that hold these packages, and the elimination up to 1 million pounds of packaging material.

“Currently, we have some instances where we bulk ship cereal in reusable bins from the production facility to the final destination, where it is packed into pouches or bag-in-box packages,” says Meyers. “This happens with our granolas and cereals in multiple regions. In 2019 alone, we reduced packaging in South Africa, India, China and Australia by over 80,000 pounds.”

Kellogg continues to invest heavily in innovation, and recently expanded the Innovation Suite at its W.K. Kellogg Institute for Food and Nutrition Research to include a 40,000-square-foot design studio to allow for world-class innovation, from concept to execution, including work on compostable and sustainable packaging. 

ALSO WORTH READING