Wikipedia defines Sustainability “as the capacity to endure. In ecology the word describes how biological systems remain diverse and productive over time. For humans it is the potential for long-term maintenance of wellbeing, which in turn depends on the wellbeing of the natural world and the responsible use of natural resources.” As such, “Sustainability” is a journey… an evolution if you will… a long term business plan… and a wonderful opportunity to position your company…
Our Food Sector Networking Event this month focused on Sustainability: What is Your Green Footprint? Manufacturers in Eastern and Southwestern Ontario enjoyed the opportunity to hear our Guest Speaker - Laura Rourke, Environmental, Health and Safety Manager, EMC Canada, address this topic. Everyone present took advantage of engaging with their peers - looking at ways to begin a process, identifying areas of opportunity, enlisting the support of our people, sharing current practices and thoughts on continuing the momentum for improving Sustainability Programs already in place.
Together we explored the evolution of Sustainability, the reporting mechanisms of the past and present, the upstream and downstream considerations and those as owned operations. We also discussed the requirements of third party certifications and took look at Walmart's questionnaire in particular - certainly one to benchmark with in industry. Industry stakeholders such as Walmart can really drive reporting requirements and it is not such a simple thing being a supplier anymore to such a large organization. Walmart's supplier criteria regarding sustainable performance is readily available on the web and covers the following categories:
- Energy and Climate
- Material Efficiency
- Nature and Resources
- People and Community
With those present, Laura also highlighted the GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) Sustainability Reporting Guidelines and Categories as it applies to the Food Sector. This type of reporting is growing every year across all industries.
We enjoyed some excellent discussion on current initiatives in place for some of our participants and how those activities evolved. This subsequently led into industry trends and the role of media and external resources - particularly the internet - and the impact that has had on the consumer and their quest for additional product knowledge and awareness of health and well-being issues. Thoughts were shared on the power of the media in general particularly when topics are addressed through venues such as Oprah - captivating millions of people on an issue at a given time. Movies such as "Food Inc." (which has just been nominated for an Oscar) http://www.foodincmovie.com, and books such as "Fast Food Nation" (http://www.amazon.ca/Fast-Food-Nation-Dark-All-american/dp/0060838582) draws direct attention to industry and the consumer and subsequently a demand for change. It is no wonder that sustainability initiatives are becoming ever more important to all organizations.
Laura mentioned in her concluding thoughts, that implementing a Sustainability program can be a huge endeavour, and to "eat the elephant just one bite at a time". Some things to consider perhaps:
- Look for the areas that make sense to attack from a dollar and cents aspect.
- Collecting the data to show where the opportunities exist can be an exercise in itself - engage your people.
- Set a five to ten year plan with realistic, measurable and achievable short and long term goals.
- Think about how you are managing your product and communicating your "green" initiatives to your customers.
- How is your supply chain producing your product - can they reduce their footprint?
- Where can you minimize your carbon footprint? Utilizing local products, markets, services; offering preferred supplier advantages; considering greener transportation vehicles; sharing transportation…
- Conduct a waste audit to see what is going to landfill and where the opportunities might lie
- Examine purchasing policies - are you using sustainable forestry paper products, recycled components, etc.
- Can you reduce the packaging element of your product?
- Are you tracking utilities? Energy?
- Are there opportunities through gas ovens and process heat - recycling it through the plant to heat the building, etc.?
- Where can you conserve water?
Our Members suggested that if a product could be designed for end use with recycling in mind, it would increase the recyclability of the product as a whole. That is also something to consider when developing your Sustainability Plan or looking for other opportunities. (A SR&ED project perhaps!) According to our participants, everything is recyclable - it is just a matter of segregation and volume.
There are many things that you can do without a lot of cash outlay. Engaging your people and seeking their involvement on these issues is key to success. Develop Teams with a waste management priority - institute recycling programs and challenge yourself to look towards achieving zero waste. Utilize Co-op students to look at waste and utility bills for the past couple of years - show the downward trends. Celebrate your achievements! Some companies share the recycling profits from cans and bottles with their employees by donating it to local clubs and charities, Christmas parties, etc. Communicate your efforts with your customers and suppliers, in your product brochures and on your website!
Laura's presentation was excellent and is available for review on our website along with the Walmart Supplier Criteria. (Just click on the link following to access: http://www.emccanada.org/documents/emcfoodsec/sustainabilitypresentations or view under the Services Tab - Food Sector.)
As a group, we also shared some interesting information on green initiatives with regards to Coca-Cola Bottling Company's "Commitment 2020: Sustainability Beyond 2010" which was rolled out for the Olympics focusing on their Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability Program. They have set quantifiable, long-term goals for: water stewardship, sustainable packaging/recycling, energy conservation/climate change, product portfolio/well-being, diverse and inclusive culture. This was an excellent communication piece and is available on their website at http://www.coca-cola.ca/corporate_responsibility_environment.htm.
Cascades also produced an informative booklet for their customers on their sustainability efforts and the direct relationship to their products. They share their environmental commitment with respect to conserving water, purifying air, saving energy and protecting the earth, and elaborate on those by demonstrating the savings through their use of recycled fiber as an example. They also outline the importance of measuring to improve and of innovation to move forward on sustainability endeavours. Cascades - Green by Nature - has a brief synopsis of that booklet on their website as well http://www.northriverwind.com/product.php.
Other interesting articles and websites to check out include the following (please feel free to share others with us!):
- "Fresh Ideas for Green Manufacturing", Scott McNeil-Smith, EMC Canada BLOG, from RSS Feed, The Globe and Mail, Randy Ray, April 22nd, 2009.
- "The Colour of Money", Elizabeth Kelly, HR Professional, February-March 2008, pp. 28-36.
- "From Brown to Green: What Colour is Your Employment Brand?", Anthony Watanable, HR Professional, www.HRThoughtleader.com, February-March 2008, pp. 47-49.
Finally, just a thought that was shared at the beginning of this Blog, that now is the time to start seriously considering what you can do to reduce your Green Footprint. In five years, the industry stakeholders, our own customers and certainly the consumers at large, will definitely have a larger impact on our organizations and our initiatives in this arena. Sustainability is a journey… an evolution if you will… a long term business plan… a wonderful opportunity to position your company…
What are you doing to reduce your Green Footprint at work, at home and in the Community?
Special thanks to our Hosts - Reynold's Food Packaging - in Summerstown and our Friends at OMAFRA in Woodstock!
Have a wonderful "green" week!