Food for thought: Tyson releases latest sustainability report

The food production giant is exploring how the waste in its operations -- namely inedible fats and greases -- could become a source of renewable energy.
Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

As you might expect given its corporate mission, sustainability strategy for food production company Tyson Foods is tied closely to certain natural resources: mainly, carefully using the water that it needs to produce healthy chicken, beef and pork, and ensuring that renewable energy research and development won't mess with its feedstock supply.

In fact, Tyson itself hopes to be a contributor to the biofuels arena. It has established a joint venture with Syntroleum called Dynamic Fuels, a facility that will convert inedible fats and greases into biofuels. According to the company's latest sustainability report released this month, the first facility in Geismer, Louisiana, is supposed to begin production this year. That plant is supposed to produce up to 75 million gallons a year in renewable diesel fuels.

When it comes to water conservation, Tyson reports that it now uses about 14 percent less water to produce each pound of its finished product. It is pushing for another 10 percent reduction in its water usage over the next two years compared with levels supported at the end of its fiscal year 2008.

Another stated goal: "Support government policies that will encourage the use of non-food sources for renewable energy."

Although Tyson apparently doesn't spend a lot of time trumpeting its corporate sustainability programs (this is only its third annual report), it seems to me that sustainability underlies the management of its operations. Its subtle goal of ensuring that renewable energy research doesn't interfere with food supplies is obviously self-interested, but its move to apply that policy to a venture in biofuels -- one that makes use of waste in its supply chain -- is the sort of innovative thinking that, for me, distinguishes smart sustainability strategy.

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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