In nine countries around the world, Kraft Foods operates 26 plants that have hit zero waste-to-landfill status. The Northfield, IL-based company’s strategy has been simple, according to Andrew Tybus, associate principal engineer, sustainability lead-snacks growth, Kraft Foods: to generate less waste and find new uses for the waste it produces.

“We know that solid waste generated from manufacturing accounts for more than 99% of our total waste. Yet, we’re able to recycle or reuse about 90% of our manufacturing waste,” noted Mr. Tybus, who is based in East Hanover, NJ, where the company’s snack business operates. “In some cases, we’re using manufacturing byproducts as energy sources. And we’ve done quite well in several other areas, too. For the legacy Kraft Foods business, since 2005, incoming water is down 30%. Net waste is down 42%. Packaging is down 100,000 metric tonnes (200 million lb), and 96 million km (60 million road miles) have been removed from our transportation/ distribution network.”

Kraft Foods’ global snack business produces a wide variety of cookies, crackers, bars and nuts. To achieve its goal to reduce energy usage, the company launched several initiatives such as an extensive program of oven optimization, including repairs and tuning efforts. This activity had the added benefit of not only improving product quality but also yielding improved consistency, which in turned helped reduce product waste, according to Mr. Tybus.

“We know employees want to work for companies that respect and preserve the world around them,” he said. “Everyone is realizing we can minimize the impact on the environment, help society and increase revenue and profit all at the same time. At Kraft Foods, we’re changing our behavior and business practices, and as a result we’re changing the culture. We’re making formal changes from the top down, and we’re fostering empowerment at the grassroots level.”

Baking & Snack: How is Kraft working with its supply chain to ensure they are in compliance with your company’s sustainability initiatives?

Andrew Tybus:Kraft Foods recently expanded our sustainability goals after making significant progress against our focus areas. The company’s new goals — now including the Cadbury and LU businesses acquired since 2007 — build upon previous success around energy, carbon dioxide, water, waste and packaging reductions.

It’s also a matter of building upon our successes to date. Previously, we were more focused on what we had the most control over — those activities in our plants and within our four walls. Since then, we’ve been learning, improving and looking beyond our four walls for opportunities.

Our new goals will help us do more. For the 2010-15 timeframe, Kraft Foods has added transportation and agricultural commodities to what it will be measuring. For example, our increased focus on sustainable agriculture will further boost our scale to help accelerate long-range development in more communities and for more commodities than ever before.

For the past five years, we’ve been more focused internally with our own sustainability goals, initiatives and Environmental Performance Indicators (EPIs). This may change in the future. One of the reasons we participated in the first Biscuit & Cracker Manufacturers’ Association’s sustainability conference [earlier this year] was to reach out to other bakers, including co-manufacturers, to show how seriously we are taking this important subject.

What tools do you share with your suppliers or customers?

To date, our work has been more about doing the hard work within our plants and letting our partners know about it. That’s because we know our consumers and customers care about the benefits of reducing our environmental impact. That’s good for business, good for the environment and good for people. As a result, we’re making a positive impact across our supply chain — from crop to cookie.

What areas of sustainability have been the most challenging to meet your objectives and why?

Energy and manufacturing-related carbon dioxide have been the two toughest areas, but we’re making steady progress. Globally, energy use is down 16% since 2005, and CO2 emissions are down 18% in that same time period, for the legacy Kraft Foods business. These two metrics are very closely tied together. Although it may be a blessing when in decline, natural gas price fluctuations have made return on investment (ROI) difficult to predict.

Also, there are lots of variables to take into account when figuring out how to get the best savings that make the most sense for the business. It’s a combination of assessing the age of our infrastructure, the size of our bakery network and the variation in product mix/volume. All of this adds to the challenge.

In a cookie and cracker operation, what key areas can have the most immediate impact as far as achieving sustainability goals?

The simple answer is, it’s all about employee awareness and engagement. You cannot expect a single person such as the safety and environmental lead to find all of the problems within a massive manufacturing facility. So by making the entire facility’s population aware of the need to reduce waste and the impact that they can have on success, you become much more effective.

However, the staff has to become engaged, or this effort will die off quickly. People need to see that their suggestions are being taken seriously and that their contributions are making a difference — celebrate their successes.

Identifying compressed air and water leaks has allowed us to save both energy and water. Also, by setting up sorting stations throughout each bakery and training the employees on what to save and where to do it, we’ve been able to increase recycling within plants and the dollar value of those waste streams.

Finally, would you please provide us with examples where advances in technology resulted in energy savings or heat recovery?

In our manufacturing facilities, 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. 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.

A separate big advancement in technology is T8 lighting, which we’ve been implementing in various plants and supply chain facilities over the past several years. Increasingly, LED lighting is gaining applications, and both of these technologies have a positive impact on energy usage.