I try to make my impact on the planet as small as possible. I make it a habit to recycle paper, plastic and glass products; I utilize reusable produce bags and grocery sacks religiously when I’m shopping at the supermarket; and all the drivers in my household drive either hybrid or electric cars. I feel good about the small efforts that I’m making, but I know I could do more. I could make the extra effort to grow my own vegetables; I could compost my food waste instead of throwing so much away; maybe I could even add some solar panels to my home to produce a bit of the energy my household is consuming. There’s a lot that we as consumers can do to be more sustainable and environmentally conscious. It all helps and it all can make a little difference.
But the production companies of the world – the ones that produce our food, our consumables, the products that we use in our everyday lives – they are the ones that can make a big difference. It may not seem fair that the burden is placed on them – afterall, they are providing consumers with the products they demand, the conveniences we’ve come to expect in life and the food that we need to survive. But the more those companies produce, the more resources they use and the bigger impact they have on our planet.
Thankfully, production companies – many of which are leaders in the meat and poultry industry – are stepping up and taking their responsibility seriously.
Butterball LLC debuted its Corporate Social Responsibility Report on Oct. 8. As a part of this document, the company outlined its initiatives regarding worker safety and health, philanthropy and sustainability projects. Butterball President and CEO Jay Jandrain said, “We’ve seen an increasing demand for greater transparency in sustainable business practices from those who serve, sell and consume Butterball products. Publishing this first public-facing corporate social responsibility report underscores our commitment to responsible food production and agricultural practices.”
Similarly, Pilgrim’s Sustainability Report boasted how the company exceeded its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent, with a reduction of 20 percent and exceeded a goal of 12 percent reduction in electricity use with a 13 percent reduction. The company is setting sustainability goals for itself and the entire operation is working hard at reaching and exceeding those goals.
I respect that these companies, and countless others, are trying to take responsibility for their environmental impact and are doing what they can to reduce it. In early November, Maple Leaf Foods Inc. went one step further by setting a goal to become the “first major food company in the world to be carbon neutral.”
Michael McCain, Maple Leaf’s president and CEO, explained, “There is simply no more time to waste. The devastating impact of climate change on our planet must be confronted head-on by business leaders with decisive and immediate action. The global food system must change dramatically if we are to sustainably feed the world’s growing population.”
Maple Leaf set the lofty goal of reducing its environmental footprint by 50 percent by 2025. The company is reducing its electricity, natural gas and water consumption as well as developing environmental projects including supporting wind energy, recovering methane gas from landfills, developing compositing and biomass programs to reduce methane emissions and implementing forest protection and re-forestry programs to conserve species and biodiversity.
“We hope our actions inspire food companies and businesses broadly to join us in the critical fight against climate change,” McCain said. Maple Leaf is stepping up and making huge promises to do its part. Now it’s your turn to follow the lead.