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7 Inspiring Sustainability Reports: Must Reads from the Food Industry

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Corporate social responsibility (CSR) reports are vital tools for communicating your company’s efforts within the areas of environmental sustainability and social impact. So what makes a sustainability report “good”? Here at Spoiler Alert, the best ones we’ve come across:

1. Contain clear goals (both quantitative and qualitative) and showcase the impact of your efforts on your whole business, including within your supply chain and throughout your customer base.

2. Target a diverse audience of stakeholder groups - both internal and external. This includes influencers, employees, investors, and customers.

3. Include digestible content. You don’t always need fancy graphics and powerful imagery, but crisp, well-designed presentation helps convey the information clearly and effectively.

Our process for selecting these seven inspiring sustainability reports was completed through the lens of this integrated approach. We looked for examples that featured transparent, powerful data coupled with real stories, strong goals, clearly defined action steps, and a specific mention of a waste reduction strategy (true to Spoiler Alert’s mission!).


1. ConAgra Foods

ConAgra’s approach to their citizenship report is grounded in three main pillars: good food (a reference to their commitment to food safety), stronger communities (a call out to their hunger relief initiatives), and better planet (mention of their dedication to eliminating food waste). This three-pillar strategy is further broken down into four focus areas, one of which is specific to “eliminating waste.”

In fact, in their 2015 fiscal year, over 94% of their solid waste was recycled, donated, used as animal feed, or composted.  Here are their goals surrounding food waste reduction:

  • Reduce waste generated in our facilities by one billion pounds.
  • Continue our zero waste-to-landfill journey, while focusing on directing materials to the most beneficial use.
  • Lead the industry in packaging for sustainable systems with continuous improvement of design and expertise in the role packaging plays in preventing food waste.

Our favorite example of food waste diversion from ConAgra’s report? An example of blended pudding (pg. 93).

“During flavor changeover, the pudding line would produce a blended product until the new flavor completely displaced the current flavor. These flavor combinations which were a result of normal production were processed and packaged in the same manner as the traditional flavored puddings. Employees noticed that high quality pudding, albeit uniquely flavored, was leaving in waste trailers. Successfully launching a blended SKU, the pudding was packaged into finished goods and sold to correctional facilities, eliminating 1,048 tons of food waste previously destined for the landfill.”

Check out pages 91 - 94 for specific information on ConAgra’s food waste strategy.

2. Darden Restaurants

Like ConAgra, Darden (owners of Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and five other full-service restaurant brands) segments its corporate citizenship definition into three parts: people, planet, and plate. From those categories, the company emphasizes team member development and community involvement, sustainability and natural resource protection, and responsibly sourcing food.

Tackling food waste is a major part of their strategy. For Darden, food waste is the single largest component of their waste stream. In full transparency, they acknowledge that their landfill diversion rate for fiscal year 2014 didn’t improve from the previous year, and at a diversion rate of 28.3%, they still have their work cut out to reach an aspirational 100% diversion rate.

However, despite its waste diversion progress holding steady over the past three fiscal years, Darden proactively outlines its strategy moving forward in their food waste reduction efforts:

  • Use advanced forecasting systems to better anticipate demand at restaurant locations and better distribute food accordingly to minimize waste
  • Donate high-quality, surplus food to hunger relief organizations
  • Develop an operational model for composting

Check out pages 31 - 32 for more information about Darden’s food waste management, the critical information they discovered from a waste stream audit, and how the Massachusetts Commercial Food Waste disposal ban impacted their operations.

3. Kroger

The 2015 sustainability report for Kroger (one of America’s largest grocery store chains) contains four focus areas: social, environment, supply chain, and economic.

Kroger increased their focus on waste reduction in 2014, expanding waste diversion initiatives to 1,061 retail locations. Through this networked effort, they increased organic waste diversion by 12% and diverted 33,000 tons of food waste through composting, anaerobic digestion and animal feed programs.

As part of their sustainability strategy, the company continues to follow the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy and participates in the EPA’s WasteWise program (Spoiler Alert is an endorser of WasteWise).

Check out page 35 to learn why Kroger plans to partner with the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy on their waste diversion goals, and read pages 54 - 59 for more information about Kroger’s food waste goals.

4. Boston University Dining Services

Boston University is a trailblazer in the university food service scene. What strikes us as most impressive is their students’ passion for sustainability. In fact, a student survey showed 30% of students are interested in seeing waste reduction as part of BU’s sustainability efforts.

The university partnered with Student Food Rescue, which allowed them to donate 2,000 pounds of food in 2014. Additionally, Boston University is a Massachusetts WasteWise partner.

Check out RecyclingWorks MA's Food Waste Composting Case Study on Boston University for a deeper look at their food waste reduction efforts.

5. Kellogg Company

Under the umbrella of corporate responsibility, Kellogg’s report showcases four company efforts in the form of marketplace, workplace, environment, and community. There’s even a special section solely dedicated to responsible sourcing. All of these efforts are part of their 2020 Sustainability Commitments.

One step Kellogg took towards food waste reduction was updating their Global Supplier Code of Conduct in 2014, which set new expectations for suppliers to mimic Kellogg’s corporate responsibility commitments by implementing sustainable agricultural practices.

Kellogg follows a waste pyramid model in their facilities - which is similar to the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy. The chart shows the most preferable to least preferable options for handling waste.

Kellogg has accomplished some impressive goals in the past few years. Their waste to landfill per metric tonne of food produced decreased by 12.1% in 2014. Additionally, they’ve decreased waste to landfill by 25% since 2009.

Looking forward, the company aims to have 30% of Kellogg plants sending zero waste to landfill by this year.

Find out more information on pages 68 - 69 about Kellogg’s hunger reduction and food waste recycling initiatives.

6. Nestle

Nestle’s sustainability strategy is embedded in their corporate mantra of “Creating Shared Value” - by delighting customers, reducing an environmental footprint, and making a positive impact in the community.

Through smart packaging design, responsible sourcing, and partnerships with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the United Nations Environment Programme, and the World Resources Institute, 12 of Nestle’s U.S. facilities reached landfill-free status and that number increased to 23 facilities in May 2015. They hope to achieve zero-waste facilities in all factories by 2020.

In January 2016, Nestle made news with involvement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke along with 29 other leaders met to discuss how to halve food waste by 2030. We’re also eager to see how Nestle celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, and hope that elevated sustainability goals will be a central point of the celebration.

7. Campbell Soup Company

Campbell Soup Company’s report is structured nicely - a message from leadership, a breakdown of the company’s CSR strategy, a snapshot of performance data, a discussion of future opportunities, and a brief overview of their reporting practices.

The company credits the Food Recovery Hierarchy, composting, recycling off-speciation product for animal feed, and participating in a leadership committee with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute as current efforts to help them achieve their waste reduction goals.

Their goal for 2020 is to recycle 95% or more of their waste output. (For reference, their recycling rate in fiscal year 2014 was 86.1%).

One story that stood out to us last year from Campbell’s was their partnership with the Food Bank of South Jersey. The company produced 60,000 jars of fruit salsa using blemished and undersized peaches that were headed to the landfill.

Check out pages 110 - 111 for Campbell’s Soup’s waste reduction discussion.

Are there any stellar sustainability reports from the food industry that we missed? Let us know by commenting below.

Inspired by these sustainability reports and ready to supercharge your food waste diversion programs? Find a great list of tools to get you started in “9 Food Waste Management Resources You Need To Use Now.”

 Read now


Topics: sustainability, food brand, Customer Spotlights