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Kraft Foods Takes Measure of its Environmental Impact; Sustainable Agriculture Key to Improvement Efforts

December 20, 2011 |

Kraft Foods on Dec. 14 released results of a survey that measured the impact of its activities on climate change, land and water use. Conducted in partnership with Quantis Inc. and reviewed by World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and academics at the University of Minnesota Institute on the Environment, the multi-year study provides Kraft management a “big picture” views of its environmental footprint that “goes far beyond the company’s walls,” according to Kraft’s media release.

“Having the ‘big picture’ of our total footprint — from farm to fork — validates the focus of our sustainability efforts, particularly advancing sustainable agriculture,” explained Roger Zellner, Kraft Sustainability Director for Research, Development & Quality. “Experts say climate change, land and water use may be among the biggest challenges in feeding a world of 9 billion people in 2050.  As we continue our sustainability journey, we now have more insight into where we can make the greatest difference.”

Sustainability Across a Multinational Food Product Chain

One of the world’s largest multinational food and beverage producers, Kraft’s operations extend across a vast supply chain that includes farmers, ranchers, food processors and distributors. To conserve valuable natural resources requires that the company “work with suppliers to reduce the impact of producing raw materials,” added David McLaughlin, VP of Agriculture at WWF. “This means forging long term partnerships based on shared objectives, creating a transformational supply chain, a key strategy of WWF’s market transformation initiative.”

Kraft found that the largest aspect of its environmental footprint begins on the farms that grow ingredients for the company’s products. More than 90 percent of its carbon footprint is produced outside its plants and offices and nearly 60 percent comes from growing farm commodities. About 12 percent results from transportation and distribution of its products from stores to consumers’ homes. Another 5 percent comes from consumers, mostly in food preparation.

Examining land use, Kraft found that more than 80 percent of land impact is from agriculture. The environmental impact of its manufacturing facilities and offices is comparatively negligible, the company reported.

Turning to water usage, Kraft found that about 70 percent of its water footprint results from growing raw materials, including agricultural commodities it uses to make food products, while just 10 percent originates from its manufacturing facilities and offices. Another 10 percent comes from consumers, mostly related to food preparation.

Kraft doesn’t own any farms, but it does rely on them extensively to carry out its business, and it’s working to promote and foster sustainable agriculture related to key commodities that can improve crop yields, reduce environmental impacts and improve the lives of farm workers and their families. Its internal sustainability efforts focus on reducing energy use, carbon dioxide emissions, water, waste and packaging.

Assessing its progress on sustainability as measured across reducing energy, CO2 emissions, water, waste, packaging and transportation across its global operations between 2005 and 2010, Kraft Foods found the following:

  • Energy use is down 16 percent
  • CO2 emissions are down 18 percent
  • Incoming water is down 30 percent
  • Net waste is down 42 percent
  • Packaging is down 100,000 metric tons (200 million lbs)
  • 96 million km (60 million road miles) have been removed from its transportation/distribution network

In May, Kraft announced it was expanding its sustainability goals and highlighted progress that its made on six focus areas. Measuring resource use, waste and environmental impact on transportation and agricultural commodities were added to what was included in its 2005-2010 sustainability initiatives.

Management set the following sustainability goals for 2015, as measured against a 2010 baseline:

  • Increase sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities by 25 percent
  • Reduce energy use in manufacturing plants by 15 percent
  • Reduce energy-related CO2 emissions in manufacturing plants by 15 percent
  • Reduce water consumption in manufacturing plants by 15 percent
  • Reduce waste at manufacturing plants by 15 percent
  • Eliminate 50,000 metric tons (100 million lbs.) of packaging material
  • Reduce 80 million km (50 million miles) from its transportation network

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