Next time you're wondering which brand of hot dogs to grab for the summer barbecue or which sort of cookies should go with the quart of milk you just bought, consider this: $48 billion snack food and "quick meal" company Kraft has made some significant strides in corporate sustainability in the past four years.
The company has cut the net waste from its manufacturing plants by 30 percent against 2005 levels (its goal was 15 percent). Nine facilities -- including the one right near me in Fairlawn, N.J., -- have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status.
Kraft has managed a 15 percent reduction in energy use; its goal is a 25 percent reduction by 2011
Water usage has been slashed by more than 30 percent, versus its 15 percent reduction plan by 2011
When it comes to water use, the company says it has met its goal by improving its manufacturing processes, maintaining equipment and figuring out how to reuse water. For example, in Australia where Kraft makes Vegemite (I didn't know Kraft made Vegemite!), the company was able to reduce water use by 58 percent. The wastewater discharge from the plant was cut by 65 percent. Oh, by the way, energy consumption dropped by 52 percent at the same time, proving that energy efficiency and water usage reduction are definitely symbiotic goals.
Kraft has invested heavily in technology at the two of its plants in order to convert whey into a "digester" that produces enough methane to replace about 30 percent of the natural gas it uses to power these plants.
Its Zurich, Switzerland, facility is called the "Lightcube," a nod to the glass, automated shades and weather station that are used to help monitor and meter energy usage. These technologies help the facility use 50 percent less energy for lighting and 60 percent less for ventilation.
Looking forward, the things to really watch will be Kraft's initiatives with respect to sustainable agriculture and eco-packaging.
The company already is allied with the Rainforest Alliance, and it bought more than 34,000 metric tons of coffee certified by the alliance last year. (That's 12 times the amount of sustainable coffee that it bought in 2003.) It has extended this purchasing to cocoa, and Kraft is now the biggest buyer of both coffee and cocoa from the Rainforest Alliance. Watch for Kraft to become an even bigger activist related to this commodities, as well as palm oil. Deforestation will be another place it places its sustainability investments.
On the packaging front, Kraft has created something called the Packaging Eco-Calculator, which measures the post-consumer recycled materials content of its packages as well as the related energy and carbon dioxide emissions. It is involved with the Global Packaging Project, which is working on an initiative to set industry-side standards on sustainable packaging.
This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com