Finding global green solutions
Dec. 1, 2012
by Shane Whitaker
To get the best results when it comes to determining and making the right changes to reduce its environmental footprint, Mondelez International, Northfield, IL, employs several tools including lifecycle assessment (LCA) and its own Eco-Calculator. Together, the complementary assessments provide the company with “ways we can uncover opportunities to better manage our resources and help eliminated waste in manufacturing,” noted Roger Zellner, Mondelez’s director of sustainability for research, development and quality (RD&Q).
Mr. Zellner is responsible for the development and implementation of the company’s sustainability strategy, platforms and tools for product, process and package design. He also leads RD&Q function for sustainability, interacting frequently with customers, nongovernment organizations, governments and universities.
Along with Andrew Tybus, Mondelez’s associate principal engineer in snacks packaging RD&Q, Mr. Zellner offered insights into the company’s sustainability efforts. In Mr. Tybus’ role as the sustainability lead for the Packaging Development Group, he said that he is “called on to identify opportunities for sustainable improvements in packaging and to quantify the value of various product/package changes.”
Mr. Zellner began his career with Kraft (Mondelez’s predecessor) in 1983 and has worked in management positions in product and packaging development for the past 20 years. Mr. Tybus joined Kraft in 2005 and is based in its R&D center for snacks in East Hanover, NJ.
Baking & Snack: What does LCA measure, and how can it help assess a company’s sustainability efforts?
Roger Zellner: LCA measures the footprint of what goes into making a product from farm to fork. It builds on the multiyear footprinting project Kraft Foods (Mondelez’s predecessor) used to map its total impact on climate change and land and water use.
LCA gives us a competitive advantage because it gives us more insight into how to reduce our products’ footprints, find efficiencies, and validate and explain those benefits to customers and consumers. Together, we’re focusing and working smarter and communicating better, which is good for the environment, people and our business.
How do Mondelez’s Eco-Calculator and LCA intersect with its overall sustainability initiatives?
Mr. Zellner: Applying these insights can reduce the amount of raw materials used at the beginning of the supply chain. LCA also can help measure how product and packaging innovations improve on previous designs and provide a common system to measure and explain those benefits.
Our Eco-Calculator is a proprietary tool that helps packaging designers create more efficient, sustainable solutions. The Eco-Calculator figures the percentage of post-consumer recycled material in a given package design, along with the amount of energy and carbon dioxide emissions required to create the package. It also tells packaging designers how efficiently they’re using materials and how well their designs will fit a product’s physical dimensions. The tool is used along with other business practices such as economic assessments and ability to manufacture before deciding on a final design.
When we’re making more efficient designs and more effective use of the raw materials to make our products and packaging, we’re making changes that benefit our business, the environment and our consumers and customers. This knowledge is power, and it can help us make further progress toward our overall sustainability goals.
How does Mondelez use intel gathered from LCA to reduce its products’ footprints?
Mr. Zellner: We already have some success stories based on insights we gained through our LCA work. LCA helped employees reduce energy use, product waste and even the amount of time and space needed to maintain and operate bakery equipment. Thanks to a global network, team members are working to share these improvements with Oreo production lines around the world.
Andrew Tybus: Our global biscuit team is another great example. Oreo is the world’s top-selling biscuit brand, and the team is sharing more efficient manufacturing technologies thanks to LCA. By collaborating with European colleagues who’d completed an assessment on a similar sandwich cookie line in Belgium, the team found ways to streamline their manufacturing in the US.
What have been the company’s biggest success stories toward eco-friendly operations?
Mr. Zellner: Since 2010, when we announced our expanded sustainability goals, we’ve made great progress, and our work continues. As a company, we’ve increased sustainable sourcing of agricultural commodities by 36%; cut packaging by 20,500 tonnes (45 million lb) from our supply chain; we’ve eliminated 20 million km (12.5 million miles) from our transportation network, and we’ve cut energy by 3%, CO2 emissions by 6%, water use by 3% and manufacturing waste by 18%. Our data are normalized to production, and we define sustainable sourcing as third-party certification or verification.
From our work in sustainable agriculture to promoting healthy lifestyles, we continue to evolve the way we do business — reducing our environmental impact and enhancing our contributions to society while delivering outstanding financial performance.
What benchmarks does the company use to measure its sustainability efforts?
Mr. Zellner: For years, our approach has been about continuous improvement, and we’ve been steadily raising the bar. We measure success through our progress against our sustainability goals — something we’ve done since 2005. We’ve been tracking our performance globally because you can’t improve what you don’t measure.
We expanded the company’s sustainability goals in 2011 to build on our past success. The expanded goals added the Cadbury and LU businesses we acquired, and we also added specific goals for two additional focus areas — sustainable agriculture and transportation/distribution. Today, we have a culture of looking across our supply chains for unique opportunities, and we’ve put systems in place to measure and reward improvement.
Which areas of cookie and cracker operations has the company most scrutinized its sustainability initiatives?
Andrew Tybus: We’re working across each of Mondelez’s six sustainability focus areas — agriculture, packaging, energy, water, waste and transportation/distribution. For biscuit manufacturing, energy and manufacturing-related CO2 continue to present the biggest challenges, but they’re also opportunities for us, and we’re making steady progress.
We’re focusing on reducing our total energy use. We’ve developed an integrated energy management system aimed at significantly reducing our total energy consumption. And we’re installing heat recovery systems in specific areas of our bakery network. However, at the moment, we’re not aware of any brand-new technologies to add to our production.
Another advancement in technology is T8 lighting, which we’ve been implementing in various plants and supply chain facilities for several years. LED lighting, for example, is becoming more applicable to our work, and both technologies have a positive impact on energy usage.
Which areas can see the greatest improvement in the least amount of time?
Mr. Tybus: We have been extremely effective in reducing our waste going to landfills and now have 11 snacks facilities that achieved zero waste-to-landfill status. This remarkable achievement was accomplished through our partnering with a key packaging supplier, Sonoco, and its Sustainability Solutions unit and the engagement of each facility’s staff.
By sorting common scrap throughout each facility and keeping each waste stream as “clean” or specific as possible, we are able to maximize the downstream value for recycling or repurposing. That last bit of trash that cannot be recycled is harvested for its energy value at the nearest waste-to-energy incinerator.
How do you ensure continuous improvement in sustainability?
Mr. Zellner: We ensure continuous improvement by holding ourselves accountable to our company’s sustainability goals. Having aggressive, measurable goals helps us see how we can build on our past successes, how we’re doing today and where we need to continue working in the future.
Where do you see sustainability efforts within Mondelez and the industry in the next 10 years?
Mr. Zellner: While we can’t predict the future, we do know that, globally, resources are being consumed more quickly than they can be replenished. To reverse this, we need to “do more with less.”
We’re doing our part with our sustainability efforts by supporting sustainable agriculture development, using less packaging material and reducing our energy, water and waste footprints. We know our consumers play a role as well. That’s why we’re introducing products made with sustainably sourced ingredients or made with less packaging.
We’re also supporting programs that will help encourage more sustainable behavior and helping support research to improve the recyclability and reuse of products that can’t easily be recycled today.
We had a huge recent project in mapping the company’s total environmental impact for land, air and water use. The footprinting project, as well as our ongoing LCA work will continue to give us insight and focus on future projects —from farm to fork. As we continue our sustainability journey, we now have more insight into where we can make the greatest difference than ever before.