What are some secrets to achieving greater financial success with lower production costs, improving product function and quality, and increasing market share?
How do we improve environmental performance, develop better relationships with stakeholders, and lower risks?
According to the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, the answers to all of these questions are one and the same: incorporate sustainable practices.
Simply stated, “sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”
So says Our Common Future, a landmark document also known as the Brundtland Report.
Published in October 1987 by the Brundtland Commission, an independent entity launched in the fall of 1984 at the request of the United Nations, this revered document coined and defined the meaning of the term “sustainable development” that continues to be universally embraced today.
Sustainable development seems more critical than ever before, especially since the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) estimates that citizens of planet Earth will need to increase global food production by 60 percent by 2050 to feed a population that will top the mind-boggling nine billion mark.
Speaking at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture held in Berlin, Germany in January this year, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva emphasized that, to address the challenge of feeding more people while using less land, water and energy, concerted efforts and investments are needed to support a widespread, globe-spanning transition to sustainable farming systems and land management practices.
Food processing is typically the second largest source of environmental impact from food and beverage products, after agriculture, according to Food Manufacturing (FM). Moreover, FM reports that food processing accounts for 25 percent of all water consumption worldwide and 50 percent to 80 percent of all water used in industrial countries. Additionally, an estimated seven percent of the food supply is wasted at the point of processing, FM notes.
Clearly, in all components of the food chain, a comprehensive approach to sustainability focuses on the interdependent nature of a robust natural environment, fiscally responsible economy and a vibrant equitable community. Such an approach recognizes that the wellbeing of human systems is supported by a healthy environment and that future generations have an equal claim on our planet’s resources.
Strong Consumer Interest
A 2010 national Capstrat-Public Policy Polling survey found that 59 percent of consumers consider products’ environmental sustainability to be very important in their buying decisions.
And 56 percent of the survey respondents noted they would pay “a little” to “significantly” more for a product that was environmentally friendly.
For many consumers, sustainability is no longer just “nice to have” but is instead a critical differentiator, according to a 2010 UN Global Compact-Accenture CEO Study. Furthermore, the report says, “as consumer awareness of sustainability issues increases, companies are being held to a higher standard, and being asked to demonstrate the wider impact of their operations.”
So not surprisingly, some 93 percent of CEOs believe that sustainability issues will be critical to the future success of their business, and 88 percent of CEOs believe that they should be integrating sustainability through their supply chain, the study reports. “The speed and ease of information sharing by consumers across social networking platforms has raised the transparency of business operations,” the study continues, stating that, “more than ever, businesses see the urgency of truly ‘living the brand,’ extending their brand values throughout their operations.”
Paul Bulcke, CEO of Nestlé S.A., is quoted in the study as saying “consumers are asking who is behind the brand, so we have to make it visible.” According to the study, “Nestlé is tackling this issue head-on by using social media channels to inform and engage its stakeholders on environmental and social activities.”
In response to consumer demand for more sustainably produced foods, other companies are doing their part to be good stewards of Mother Earth’s resources with ever increasing fervor.
First LEED Platinum Food Plant
On June 16, 2010, Shearer’s Snacks Millennium Manufacturing facility in Massillon, Ohio attained LEED Platinum status. In achieving this prestigious distinction, the Massillon plant became what is believed to be not only the first LEED Platinum snack-food manufacturing facility in the world, but also the first LEED Platinum food manufacturing facility of any kind in the world.
Developed by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, or LEED, is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices. LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home, or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health, namely sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality. (LEED is a registered trademark of the USBC.)
There are four levels of LEED certification, Certified (40 to 49 points), Silver (50 to 59 points), Gold (60 to 79 points), and Platinum (80 or more points).
It’s interesting to note that, at the beginning of the Massillon project, Shearer’s set the goal of simply becoming LEED Certified. The Platinum rating, LEED’s highest, that actually came to pass, far exceeded this goal.
Construction of this landmark then $10 million project began in July 2009; and the result was a brand new 47,000-foot (ft.)2 plant on 34 acres designed for the production of chips in the Shapers and Tangos lines.
“Before we started, we developed a vision for the facility,” says Mark Schwerdtfeger, Shearer’s vice president of sustainability, safety and wellness. “We wanted to create the most sustainable snack manufacturing plant we possibly could, while overcoming the limitations of our small municipal footprint. Key goals were to optimize plant layout and process flow, and also to automate building controls. We wanted all of this to allow for easy expansion.”
Manufacturing potato chips (regular and kettle), tortilla chips, extruded products (corn curls), rice crisps, multi-grain chips, cookies, and crackers, Shearer’s Snacks is a custom manufacturer and private-label producer for retailers throughout the country.
The company started in 1974 as a potato chip distributor, with manufacturing added five years later. Production in 1979 was limited to two batch kettles capable of producing 250 pounds of potato chips a day.
Today, according Schwerdtfeger, management oversees numerous production lines in eight facilities, seven in the U.S. and one in Ontario, Canada, with a total of 3,400 employees. “While they do not have LEED certification, our other existing buildings employ the same technology as our Massillon plant to be energy efficient and sustainable,” he mentions.
As the green story goes, the company co-founder and former chairman and CEO, Bob Shearer, was inspired to make sustainability part of the Shearer’s Snacks way of doing business upon hearing the General Electric CEO Jeffrey Immelt speak on that very subject.
Bob Shearer launched his own personal quest for sustainability in 2006 by engaging the food firm in the Energy Star Partnership Program.
“The relatively simple initial additions to the Massillon plant included replacing large motors with smaller VFD (variable frequency drive) units, installing waterless urinals, and harvesting rain water from the roof,” Schwerdtfeger says.
Since those “early days” of recognizing the importance of sustainability, Shearer’s Snacks has formalized a solid corporate sustainability mindset. “At Shearer’s, sustainability is not just a philosophy,” Schwerdtfeger emphasizes. “It’s about finding creative ways to positively impact the environment, our community, and our business. We try to incorporate sustainability in everything we do on a daily basis.”
To that end, Shearer’s has developed a sustainability mission statement: “We strive for the world of Shearer perfection. This passion for the better world is evident in our products, our people and our commitment for a more prosperous future. At Shearer’s we provide Goodness Beyond the Bag.”
Millennium Manufacturing has enjoyed four additions since the original building was completed. The second and most notable expansion, completed in 2011, added 64,000-ft.2 at a cost of $12 million. “This 2011 addition was constructed with at least 22 percent recycled materials,” Schwerdtfeger notes. “The initial investment of $40 million had a return on investment based on energy savings of about three years.”
The Millennium Manufacturing building features R50+ insulation, argon encapsulated windows, Forest Stewardship Council-certified materials, extensive day lighting and controls, thermal comfort controls, and continuous outside air monitoring. “We have a white roof and parking lot to lower building temperature,” Schwerdtfeger says. “What’s more, indigenous plantings account for more than 50 percent of our landscaping.”
Thanks to its innovative design, the Massillon facility uses 30 percent less energy in manufacturing, reduces water consumption by more than 30 percent and cuts oven gas usage by 47 percent, Schwerdtfeger says.
Company-Wide Green Accomplishments
Shearer’s Snacks set the corporate goal of sending less than 1 percent of waste to the landfill and to ship non-sellable, non-usable edible materials for animal feed. “These efforts helped us to divert 24 million pounds of waste from the landfill in 2014,” Schwerdtfeger relates. “Six of our factories reached zero waste status in 2014, with recycling revenues reaching almost $2 million last year.”
With regard to utility consumption, Shearer’s 2014 corporate goals for reduction of natural gas, electric, and water consumption were set at greater than four percent annually. “We actually had a 9 percent reduction in water use over 2013, a 6 percent reduction in electric use, and a 4 percent reduction in natural gas use,” Schwerdtfeger says. “We enjoyed a $600,000 savings from our utility conservation efforts in 2014.”
At Millennium Manufacturing, specifically, water conservation features the process water innovations of low water corn cook, push water recycling, and low flow nozzles. The building water program includes the aforementioned waterless urinals and also sanitation wands. As for reclamation, the 17,000 gallons of rainwater harvested from the roof each month is used for the facility wash rooms.
Also at Millennium Manufacturing, Shearer’s pulls starch out of water, dries it and sells it for revenue. The water is then cleaned, treated, recycled, and reused as rinse water for cleaning.
Wastewater at the Massillon plant is treated via anaerobic digestion. “This makes our operating costs significantly less than if we used a more traditional wastewater treatment,” Schwerdtfeger says. “That’s because we don’t use chemicals or air blowers. Ours is a more efficient process, with less maintenance, especially since there is very little byproduct of the treatment process to deal with.”
Shearer’s plan is to use the methane gas byproduct as an alternative fuel to power some of the factory processes, Schwerdtfeger mentions.
Schwerdtfeger is quick to point out that Shearer’s Snacks is committed to the human element of sustainability as well. “We offer a wellness program to all of our employees, along with incentives for participation,” he relates. “We provide free ongoing, onsite medical clinics for our associates at all of our U.S. plants. We also have financial incentives for meeting healthy biometric targets.”
Schwerdtfeger adds that all Shearer’s Snacks team members, company-wide, are fully invested in another vital component of sustainability, namely openness to change and a willingness to embrace sustainability as an integral part of company culture. “Shearer’s is not afraid to install new equipment with a serial number of 1, meaning new innovative designed building and process equipment,” Schwerdtfeger says.
By the way, Earth Day, April 22, is a big deal for Shearer’s Snacks.
“Associates at many of the factories will provide park cleaning efforts on this day,” Schwerdtfeger says. “Additionally management provides a green gift, an energy efficient light bulb, for a green idea submitted by associates. Some of the factories have provided tree seedlings to employees to plant at home and others even provide a sustainable garden onsite for them to grow crops.”
To further honor Earth Day, Schwerdtfeger shares company milestones with all the Shearer’s associates. In 2015 he proudly shared these: “In the past year, our recycling efforts generated over $2 million of positive impact to the company,” Schwerdtfeger boasts. “We avoided more than 24 million pounds of waste that normally would have gone to landfills. Six of our factories are considered zero waste facilities. We had over $600,000 last year in utility savings. In natural gas and electric we saved approximately the equivalent of planting 53,000 trees, eliminating 450 cars, and heating 300 homes for the year. And we saved roughly enough water last year to fill 46 Olympic size swimming pools.”
Lamb Weston: Something Sweet
Jan. 20, 2011 was a sweet day for Lamb Weston’s processing facility in Delhi, La. That’s when the Delhi operation reportedly became the first frozen food manufacturing plant in the world to earn LEED Platinum certification.
The plant primarily processes sweet potatoes from Louisiana and the surrounding states, which are prime sweet potato-growing regions. “We produce many different frozen retail and restaurant products,” says Rick Martin, Lamb Weston’s vice president for manufacturing. Operations at the Delhi plant began in September 2010.
A brand of ConAgra Foods, Inc., the Kennewick, Wash.-based Lamb Weston is an international supplier of frozen potato, sweet potato, appetizer, and other vegetable products, serving both the food service and retail industries around the globe. Lamb Weston maintains 16 manufacturing facilities in the U.S., Canada, and China.
Built from the ground up using the newest and best processing and packaging technologies, the state-of-the art equipment featured in the 164,000 ft.2– Delhi plant was uniquely designed to process sweet potatoes in the most efficient and environmentally responsible way, all geared for long-term, economic sustainability, Martin says.
“We believe the plant’s unique design provides positive environmental and economic benefits to the local community, including water conservation and energy efficiency,” he elaborates. “For Lamb Weston, efficient operations mean more efficient use of natural resources within the community, including energy and water.”
Martin says the company’s 10 years of experience with producing quality sweet potato products allowed the Lamb Weston team to bring the best of what they had learned to the design and construction of the Delhi plant, which is located in the northeastern part of the Pelican State.
Project partners included Fisher & Sons Design/Build, a leading design and construction firm with expertise in the food industry based in Burlington, Wash., and Paladino and Company, a Seattle, Wash.-based sustainability and green building consulting firm at the forefront of the green building movement.
“From the beginning, LEED was used as a back check to validate the sustainable strategies implemented during design and construction,” Martin says. “To earn the distinction as the first LEED Platinum frozen food manufacturing plant in the world reflects the entire project team’s hard work and ConAgra Foods’ investment in innovation and excellence. The Platinum rating is the positive outcome of our team’s focus on balancing the project’s impacts to the planet, employees and the community, and Lamb Weston’s bottom line.”
Specific criteria that are evaluated for LEED Platinum certification include sustainable sites (protecting the environment), water efficiency, energy and atmosphere, materials and resources, indoor environmental quality, and the innovation and design process.
Martin takes pride is pointing out notable features of the Lamb Weston LEED Platinum plant.
As a green benefit for employees, the entire plant is climate controlled to increase worker productivity, safety, and comfort. “Climate control in such a hot, humid environment reduces condensation build up and water on the floors, reducing slip and fall and hazards,” Martin notes.
Materials such as low VOC (volatile organic compounds) carpeting, cleaning products, and paints are used in the interior of the plant to reduce occupant exposure to airborne pollutants.
Energy-saving processing equipment saves 40 percent of the annual energy consumed at a comparable plant. “By identifying and recovering potential wasted energy within the building systems and processes, energy demand is greatly reduced,” Martin adds.
Biogas, produced by treating process wastewater, is piped back to the plant boilers to produce steam. “This process offsets approximately 20 percent of the annual natural gas demand of the plant, and prevents methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, from entering the atmosphere,” Martin says.
More than 100 acres of the Delhi property are maintained as open space, including protected wetland areas, ponds, and restored native vegetation. Water is conserved outside the building by landscaping with native plant species that require no irrigation once established.
As a unique perk to employees, priority parking is given to low-emission, fuel efficient vehicles. “Beyond the efficiencies related to the building, we want to create a culture of sustainability among our employees,” Martin says.
He is quick to reiterate Lamb Weston’s global vision for sustainability.
“Operating sustainably, and doing our part to address environmental issues like climate change, water resources, waste elimination, and access to materials is critical to creating a sustainable global food supply,” Martin emphasizes.
WhiteWave Gone Green
You could say WhiteWave Foods Co. is riding a green wave since its beverage manufacturing plant in Dallas, Texas achieved LEED Certified status for new construction in July 2014. The 325,000 ft.2-facility, which produces Silk soymilk, almond milk, and coconut milk, along with Horizon Organic milk and International Delight flavored coffee creamers, was completed in 2012 and employs nearly 300 people.
Becoming LEED Certified, WhiteWave’s Dallas plant follows the LEED Certified achievement of the company’s North American headquarters in Broomfield, Colo.
“WhiteWave is committed to changing the way the world eats for the better,” says Tom Wiester, Jr., the firm’s vice president of quality assurance and food safety. “To that end, we recognize that how we make our products is just as important as what we make. Sustainability is embedded in how WhiteWave does business, from sourcing and manufacturing to our buildings and employee programs.”
“Improving the environmental profile of our manufacturing process helps us to offer consumers more sustainable food choices, and reinforces our commitments to reduce our environmental impact,” says Wendy Behr, senior vice president of R&D and sustainability at WhiteWave Foods. “Having a LEED Certified plant was a major step for our company to showcase our commitment to sustainability by taking an approach that emphasizes sustainability at all levels of the construction and production process.”
Nearly half of all building materials were manufactured within 500 miles of the site, Behr points out. “100 percent of the wood-based building materials we used are certified sustainable by the Forest Stewardship Council,” she relates. “And nearly 90 percent of all demolition and construction waste associated with the project was diverted from landfills.”
WhiteWave used materials and design techniques that facilitate solar reflectivity, such as choosing light colors to help reduce heat transfer. “This helps to address ‘heat island’ challenges associated with urban development here in Dallas,” Behr explains.
According to the U.S. EPA, the annual mean air temperature of a city with 1 million people or more can be 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit to 5.4 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than its surroundings, increasing summertime peak energy demand, air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and heat-related illness.
On the water conservation front, WhiteWave’s Dallas plant features landscaping that requires no irrigation and plumbing fixtures such as high-efficiency appliances in washrooms that use 30 percent less water than standard versions. “Water conservation is a major focus at WhiteWave throughout the production process,” Behr mentions. “We’re committed to using less water and the LEED building program provided an opportunity for us to have that positive impact.”
WhiteWave Foods manufactures plant-based foods and beverages, coffee creamers and beverages, premium dairy products, and organic produce at eight facilities in the U.S., including Jacksonville, Fl., Mount Crawford, Va., and Dallas, Texas.
In addition to its recent focus on green building, WhiteWave’s sustainability initiatives are driven throughout its supply chain, according to Deanna Bratter, the company’s director of sustainability. “Improving the environmental and social impacts of our business; improving responsible material sourcing; increasing packaging sustainability; and reducing waste-to-landfill, water consumption, and greenhouse gas emissions are all important components of driving our business and our sustainability ambitions,” Bratter emphasizes.
“From 2013 to 2014 WhiteWave has reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions 5 percent, waste to landfill by 17 percent, and non-ingredient water use by 4 percent per pound of product produced at all of our owned manufacturing facilities.” Bratter relates.
As for upcoming sustainability plans, WhiteWave is applying for LEED Certified status for its new Technical Innovation Center, located in Louisville, Colo.
“We recognize that our goal as a company isn’t just about producing great-tasting food, it’s about doing so in a way that’s good for people and the planet,” Bratter says. “Sustainability is a core to the mission of WhiteWave and we look forward to continued progress toward our sustainability goals for years to come.”
LEED: Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design
Recognized worldwide as the premier mark of achievement in green building, Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program that recognizes best-in-class building strategies and practices.
As an internationally recognized mark of excellence, LEED provides building owners and operators with a framework for identifying and implementing practical and measurable green building design, construction, operations, and maintenance solutions.
Specifically, LEED is a set of rating systems for the design, construction, operation, and maintenance of green buildings, homes, and neighborhoods.
Affording flexibility, LEED applies to all building types, including commercial, residential, and entire neighborhood communities. LEED works throughout the building lifecycle, namely design and construction, operations and maintenance, tenant fitout, and significant retrofit.
Developed by the Washington, D.C.-based U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), LEED helps building owners and operators be environmentally responsible and use resources efficiently. (LEED is a registered trademark of the USBC.)
LEED certification provides independent, third-party verification that a building, home, or community was designed and built using strategies aimed at achieving high performance in key areas of human and environmental health: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection, and indoor environmental quality.
The Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI) is the third-party administrator of the LEED certification program. The GBCI performs the technical reviews and verification of LEED-registered projects to determine if they have met the standards set forth by the LEED rating system.
Some 12.4 billion square feet of building space are participating in the suite of LEED rating systems and 1.85 million square feet are certifying per day around the world, according to the USBC. As of March 2015, approximately 44 percent of all square footage pursuing LEED certification existed outside the U.S., also according to the USBC.
How to Receive LEED Certification
To receive LEED certification, building projects satisfy prerequisites and earn points to achieve different levels of certification.
Prerequisites are required elements, or green building strategies that must be included in any LEED certified project. Credits are optional elements, or strategies that projects can elect to pursue to gain points toward LEED certification. Prerequisites and credits differ for each rating system, and teams choose the best fit for their own respective projects.
Once a project team chooses a rating system, they use the appropriate credits to guide design and operational decisions.
There are five rating systems that address multiple project types.
Building design and construction applies to buildings that are being newly constructed or going through a major renovation.
Interior design and construction applies to projects that are a complete interior fit-out.
Building operations and maintenance applies to existing buildings that are undergoing improvement work or little to no construction.
Neighborhood development applies to new land development projects or redevelopment projects containing residential uses, nonresidential uses, or a mix. Projects can be at any stage of the development process, from conceptual planning to construction.
Homes applies to single-family homes, low-rise multi-family (one to three stories), or mid-rise multi-family (four to six stories).
Each of the five rating systems is made up of a combination of credit categories.
Within each of the credit categories, there are specific prerequisites projects must satisfy and also a variety of credits projects can pursue to earn points. The number of points the project earns determines its level of LEED certification.
There are four levels of LEED certification, Certified (40 to 49 points), Silver (50 to 59 points), Gold (60 to 79 points), and Platinum (80 or more points).
Integrative process requirements, while not a credit category, promote reaching across disciplines to incorporate diverse team members during the pre-design period.
Location and transportation credits reward projects within relatively dense areas, near diverse uses, with access to a variety of transportation options, or on sites with development constraints.
Materials and resources credits encourage using sustainable building materials and reducing waste. Indoor environmental quality credits promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.
Water efficiency credits promote smarter use of water, inside and out, to reduce potable water consumption.
Energy and atmosphere credits promote better building energy performance through innovative strategies.
Sustainable sites credits encourage strategies that minimize the impact on ecosystems and water resources.
Indoor environmental quality credits promote better indoor air quality and access to daylight and views.
Innovation credits address sustainable building expertise as well as design measures not covered under the five LEED credit categories.
Regional priority credits address regional environmental priorities for buildings in different geographic regions.—L.L.L.