Sustainability Movement in Corporate Food

Consumers arguably care about the issue of sustainability now more than ever before, particularly when making purchase decisions. Consider research from Nielsen which found that 66% of global respondents in 2015 were willing to pay more for sustainable goods, compared to 55% in 2014 and 50% in 2013. Additionally, a recent report from The Hartman Group found that the majority of consumers – 69% – want more transparency from retailers about their sustainability efforts. Moreover, consumers increasingly view sustainability as an indicator of quality.

In practice, sustainability comes in many forms. For example, some use the word to refer to animal welfare while others use the term to describe resource conservation. Regardless of its many manifestations, massive food and beverage corporations are now taking action in support of sustainability. Many companies recognize its benefits reach wider than merely protecting the planet: sustainability can also make and save businesses money.

DanoneWave is a top 15 US food and beverage company that, in April, became the largest public-benefits corporation in the country. The newly established B Corp recently committed to sustainable dairy farming and pristine milk supplies. CEO of DanoneWave, Mariano Lozano, explains that being a B Corp has enhanced employee engagement, attracted more talented hiring potential, and can help build brand equity.

PepsiCo placed the largest public pre-order of Tesla electric semi-trucks to date, totally 100 vehicles. Senior director of North American supply chain for PepsiCo subsidiary Frito-Lay, Mike O‘Connell, said the semi-trucks are a key part of its plan to cut back on emissions across its supply chain by at least 20 percent by 2030.

Mars, Inc. will be investing about $1 billion over the course of three years toward its Sustainable in a Generation Plan, which addresses deep issues ranging from resource scarcity to climate change to fair labor. Interestingly, the investment will originate from business expenses rather than corporate social responsibility or philanthropic programs. The idea is that deriving these funds from business expenses will embed the issues into core business and tie them to business growth, aiding their adoption and success.

A number of industry giants, including Kraft Heinz, Nestle USA, and The Campbell Soup Co., have recently committed to improving the welfare of their supplied broiler chickens by 2024.

Nestle, maker of Perrier and Pure Life water, has commissioned Alliance for Water Stewardship to monitor whether twenty plants meet its water use standards by 2020. Already, four plants in Pakistan and California have been certified by the group.

General Mills, Cargill, and Walmart have all invested in research on improving soil health.

McCormick & Company has committed to creating packaging that will decrease packaging weight, carbon footprint, emissions, and water use. The company has already reported progress on their initiatives, including the fact that their redesign of the iconic Old Bay and Black Pepper cans with completely recyclable PET containers has led to a 16% drop in associated emissions. Mike Okoroafor, VP of Global Sustainability and Packaging Innovation, laid it out clearly: “One important and significant learning from our sustainable packaging initiatives is that sustainable packaging often provides the best financial choice.” McCormick has saved over $2 million from reduction of raw materials and packaging waste at one location in Hunt Valley, MD alone.

Sustainability is obviously more than a mere trend that food and beverage brands should cater to. Sustainability, or the lack thereof, has long-term implications on our present, our future, and our future generations’ futures. Encouragement can be derived from the fact that many food and beverage behemoths are recognizing not only the societal need for but also the financial advantages of sustainability.