DOWNERS GROVE, ILL. — Sara Lee Corp. has reduced its water usage by more than 21% and the amount of waste sent to landfill by 18% in four years, according to the company’s annual sustainability report.

"Fiscal 2009 marked another milestone year for Sara Lee’s sustainability efforts," said Audra Karalius, Sara Lee Corp.’s vice-president of sustainability, environment and safety. "Our annual sustainability report highlights our progress in our three key areas — environment, wellness and nutrition and social responsibility. With better reporting processes and goals in place, we look forward to continuous sustainability improvement in the future."

"We have a lot going on (impacting Sara Lee’s meat businesses), much of which is covered in our report," Mike Cummins, Sara Lee’s director of corporate communications, told

Highlights include:

  • Packaging — In fiscal 2009, the packaging team developed a new sustainable re-sealable rigid deli-meat tub for Hillshire Farm. It took 3/16 in. of material out of the container, making the packaging more sustainable. The team redesigned everything—the bowl, the shipping case, the deli tub, the pallet pattern—and removed about 900 trucks from the road to ship it. The project also removed about 6,500 pallets from the system, and it reduced the amount of plastic used by about 284 tons, the amount of fuel used by more than 42,000 liters, and the amount of corrugated by more than 286 tons.

"Another Jimmy Dean packaging effort focused on the Breakfast Bowls product," Mr. Cummins said. "By reducing the height of the bowl and removing the handles, we were able to have a major impact. These changes led to annual savings of 235 fewer trucks of product shipments, more than 284 tons of plastic, more than 159,000 liters of fuel, 34 tons of corrugated and 429 tons of G.H.G."

  • Energy — Sara Lee’s Claryville, Ky. Meat-processing facility developed a green commuter program that provides preferred parking to team members who car pool or drive a hybrid (or alternative fuel vehicle) to work. "They currently have 35 car pool groups registered, with 85 team members," Mr. Cummins said. "The facility has reduced vehicle miles by 2,500 miles per day, which equates to 650,000 less vehicle miles per year."

In Kansas City, Kan. Sara Lee is renovating a meat-slicing facility. Some of the key energy-efficient measures that will be used are the installation of a reflective roofing material, high-efficiency electric motors on production equipment, high-efficiency lighting in some production areas (some existing lighting is being re-purposed) and the use of a Quikwater system to replace the current boiler.

  • Waste — The St. Joseph, Mo. meat processing facility participates in a recycling/composting program with Missouri Organic Recycling. The program consists of recycling hot dog casings, waste ash from smoke generators and other scrap material found in the plant. The facility expected to recycle 1,600 tons of waste in fiscal 2009, and has plans to expand the program in the future.
  • Sara Lee launched Lower Sodium premium deli meats, which have earned the American Heart Association’s (A.H.A.) heart check mark.