The 2010 Corporate Responsibility Report covers specific initiatives underway within each plank of the company's corporate responsibility platform: "Good for You. Good for the Community. Good for the Planet." The report provides detail on the progress made since ConAgra Foods issued its last report in 2009.
Among the achievements highlighted, ConAgra has launched comprehensive sustainability goals, has announced aggressive sodium-reduction goals across its consumer foods portfolio, has constructed a LEED-certified, state-of-the-art sweet potato processing facility, and has made multimillion-dollar donations to child hunger efforts.
“Through collaboration and innovation, our commitment to protecting the environment is deeply rooted in our company values,” the report reads. “We recognize that sustainability is intricately linked to the company’s long-term success and that our overall performance is measured not only by financial metrics, but also by our impact on the environment. This year, we have taken our commitment to a new level by developing five goals that provide focus and direction to our sustainability strategy.”
These five goals—which ConAgra has committed to achieving by year-end 2015 – include the following:
• Reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20% per pound of product produced.
• Make every drop count. Reduce water use by 15% per pound of product produced.
• Reduce waste. Divert at least 75%—or 10% above the baseline, if greater—of all solid waste from landfills.
• Package smarter. Reduce packaging by 10% per pound of product produced. Increase the amount of packaging made of renewable resources from 45% to more than 50%. Increase the use of recycled content in packaging by 25%.
• Make the most of natural resources. Actively work with the supply chain to encourage continuous improvement in the areas of energy, water, materials and waste. Collaborate with growers of key specialty crops to implement sustainable farming practices that optimize yield while improving land stewardship.
Packaging communicates commitment
ConAgra’s report notes that packaging provides a visible identity for the company’s products and serves as one of the most important communication mechanisms with its consumers. “With products in 97 percent of American households, there’s a good chance that our consumers are literally holding our products in their hands every day,” the report reads. “Packaging is critical to delivering safe, quality food and enables us to communicate key nutrition information and cooking instructions to consumers.
“Because of our diverse portfolio of products, our packaging is composed of a variety of materials, from corrugated and paper-based cartons to plastic resins and metal cans. These materials must first meet food safety and user performance requirements. However, we’re also committed to minimizing the environmental impacts of our packaging. Our 2015 packaging goals illustrate this.
“…Guided by sustainable packaging principles established in 2008, RQI [ConAgra’s Research, Quality & Innovation team] uses life cycle thinking to consider the impacts of packaging materials, including sourcing, manufacturing, delivery, and end of life.”
Recent innovations cited
The report also cites two of ConAgra’s recent successful sustainable packaging designs. In 2009, the redesigned the jar for its Peter Pan peanut butter to significantly reduce the environmental impacts associated with the product’s packaging. As part of this goal, ConAgra reduced the weight of the jars and reduced the complexity of the packaging by decreasing the number of caps used from twelve to four. Overall, this project reduced packaging material use by more than 700,000 pounds while also converting an additional 190,000 pounds of nonrecyclable PVC to recyclable PET.
ConAgra was also the first company in North America to incorporate post-industrial recycled Polylactic Acid into shrink film packaging materials for tamper-evident seals on its table spreads. By collaborating with its suppliers, the company converted 260,000 pounds of resin from nonrenewable resources (PVC and PETG) to PLA.
According to the report, “Switching materials not only reduced our Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions by more than 250 metric tonnes, but also enabled less energy use at our facilities because the temperature needed to shrink the material is 20 percent lower than before.”