Part of Illuminating Better Options (one of the three pillars of our sustainability strategy) is enhancing education. One way we strive to do that is by using packaging that clearly communicates with consumers about how it can be recycled once empty. Since 2012, we have partnered with the Carton Council to spread the word about recycling programs across the U.S. The partnership has helped increase carton recycling access to 58 percent of communities nationwide.
Subsequently, we have extended recycling awareness and participation beyond just cartons and into our broader product portfolio. We participate in the How2Recycle labeling program through the GreenBlue Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to the sustainable use of materials. How2Recycle is a standardized labeling system that clearly communicates consistent and transparent on-package recycling instructions to consumers. We have begun to feature the standardized labels on our cartons and clamshells this year, as we update our packaging.
Cultivating a responsible food system is not just about ingredients. It’s also about packaging and how we can help illuminate better recycling options for our consumers.
The global food industry uses 70 percent of the world’s freshwater supply, and most of this is use supports crop growth. In fact, one-third of the world’s food is grown in areas of high water stress or competition. As a food company, we have a responsibility – to our consumers, to the planet and to future generations – to protect our natural resources in the face of climate change and growing environmental pressures like water scarcity.
That’s why, we are proud to be participating in the World Wildlife Fund and Ceres’ AgWater Challenge to expand our commitment to responsible agricultural water use and raise awareness of the important role companies can play in addressing food and water security. We have worked in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund and Ceres to assess our water risks in agricultural supply chains and set new commitments in water stewardship.
As part of our participation in the AgWater Challenge, WhiteWave will:
1. Develop a road map to agricultural water stewardship over the next 24 months that addresses shared water challenges facing our key commodities (dairy, soy, almond and produce in particular) in areas of greatest water risk. The road map will include issues such as: specific water risks of key commodities, general strategies and clear targets for influencing and advancing water stewardship for high risk sourcing regions/key commodity combinations, and channels for transparent disclosure of progress and challenges.
2. Engage in policy advocacy to strengthen water management in our priority sourcing regions. We will scale our partnership with the Business for Water Stewardship network, which is comprised of more than 1,100 businesses that depend on and support a healthy and thriving Colorado River system. And we will become a signatory of Ceres’ Connect the Drops initiative, which seeks to elevate the voice of businesses in favor of resilient water solutions.
We’re excited to join six other companies – Diageo, General Mills, Hain Celestial, Hormel, Kellogg, and PepsiCo – in this collaborative initiative to reduce water use, and as part of our continued commitment to making products that support farmers and respect natural ecosystems throughout our supply chain.
Guest Blogger: Geoff Renstrom
As a food company, we recognize that we play a major role in the use of our earth’s natural resources. Globally, 86 percent of all consumed freshwater is used to grow food, so the choices we make when it comes to managing our water use can have a big impact, and we take the challenge of reducing our water footprint seriously.
Our commitment to cultivating a responsible food system has driven us to take a holistic approach to managing of our environmental impacts, including our impacts on water.
Water Resource Credits
This holistic approach begins by carefully measuring and monitoring our manufacturing footprint and setting goals for improvement. One of the ways we do this is by balancing portions of our water usage with water restoration certificates (WRCs). WRCs allow companies to offset their water use by funding water restoration projects. For each WRC purchased, 1,000 gallons of water is restored to critically dewatered rivers and water systems across the U.S.
In 2015, we balanced 45 percent of our global manufacturing water footprint through the purchase of WRCs from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation, an Oregon-based non-profit organization that supports water restoration programs and the development of new sources of renewable energy. Since 2009, our WRC commitments, many of them benefitting key areas within our supply chain, have restored more than 1.9 billion gallons of water.
We are also a charter sponsor of BEF’s Change the Course water stewardship campaign. This effort aims to engage companies and individuals in conservation awareness, action, and replenishment of freshwater ecosystems. Our financial support has helped the campaign restore more than 5 billion gallons of water through 17 new restoration projects across seven states.
Putting Water to Work
In addition to our purchase of WRCs, we’re also focused on efforts to better manage our water use in the production of our products.
One of these projects is in place at our Mt. Crawford, Virginia manufacturing facility. In 2015, we completed the first phase of a two-phase wastewater treatment project at the plant. Specifically, we put a process into place that allows more than half of the water used by the plant’s cooling tower to be cleaned and put to use in other parts of the facility.
The project reduced the plant’s demand on available water by 7 million gallons in the first three months of operation. In turn, this has shrunk the plant’s water footprint by 10 percent, which is the equivalent of 4 million individual showers!
The two examples above are just some of the ways we’re working to optimize and manage our water footprint in ways that promote environmental stewardship and ensure we are doing our part to help replenish America’s freshwater ecosystems. We’re committed to continuing to work with our suppliers and within our own operations to reduce our water usage and protect the high-quality freshwater that is integral to sustaining our environment for generations to come.
We’re now halfway through Share What We Do Well month at WhiteWave and employees from around Colorado have already participated in a variety of activities. Share What We Do Well Month truly embodies the spirit of WhiteWave — it’s all about empowering employees to bring their passion and skills to the causes they care about most. This is the 6th year in which most of our employees have taken paid time off to help feed the hungry, build playgrounds, pitch in at animal shelters, work with children, provide support to the homeless, and preserve our open parks spaces. In fact, last year, 97 percent of employees from our corporate offices, plants and regional sales offices spent time volunteering with non-profit or value-driven organizations in their communities.
At WhiteWave, we understand that a better future won’t create itself, so we work hard to give back to the places that give so much to others. Our communities are our partners, and by taking care of each other, we can show the world a better way. To learn more, check our short video about empowering employees.
World Food Day is Sunday, October 16 and this year’s theme is, “Climate is changing. Food and agriculture must too.” The UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that in order to meet growing food demands, agriculture and food systems need to become more resilient, productive and sustainable to adapt to the adverse effects of climate change.
We couldn’t agree more. At WhiteWave, we realize that human and environmental health are interconnected. That’s why we partner with organizations to promote resource conservation and sustainable agriculture, to build a culture of responsibility and show the world a better way. The month of October is also Share What We Do Well Month, company-wide initiative dedicated to volunteering. We leverage the scale of our business to give back to the communities in which we live and work to ensure access to healthy, nutritious foods and beverages for everyone.
In honor of World Food Day and Share What We Do Well Month, we would like to highlight just a few of our local partners dedicated to alleviating hunger in our community:
- Community Food Share: We have a longstanding partnership with Community Food Share (CFS), a Feeding America food bank that distributes to those in need in Boulder and Broomfield counties in Colorado. Since 2006, WhiteWave has donated approximately 12 million pounds of product to CFS. Additionally, every year WhiteWave participates in the Compete to Beat Hunger Corporate Challenge – our dedicated annual fundraising event and a key initiative within CFS. Our contributions last year alone allowed us to provide more than 1.5 million meals to those in need.
- Growing Gardens: WhiteWave is a proud sponsor of the Growing Gardens Orchard, a Boulder-based nonprofit, and supports their mission of enriching lives in the Boulder community through sustainable urban agriculture. WhiteWave continues to be a sponsor of the annual Cultiva Farm Dinner. This summer celebration and fundraiser casts the spotlight on the Growing Gardens’ Cultiva Youth Project. It is a collaboration of all-star chefs joining to support the Cultiva Youth Project with their creation of an enchanting selection of one-of-a-kind appetizers, signature dishes, and memorable desserts—all paired with wine and beer. Organic produce and herbs grown on the Cultiva farm are incorporated into gourmet appetizers, a five-course sit-down dinner and dessert. Locally raised meats, cheeses, grains and other ingredients are donated by our event sponsors. The program offers educational opportunities for gardeners of all ages and provides food for community-based food share programs benefiting low income families.
- Food Bank for the Rockies: Food Bank of the Rockies, a local food bank and member of Feeding America, provides food for more than 411,000 people annually, by distributing 131,000 meals daily through more than 500 hunger relief partner agencies and the organization’s direct service programs. WhiteWave volunteers have helped sort, organize, and pack donated food in the distribution area of Food Bank for the Rockies’ warehouse.
We strongly believe our purpose is about much more than providing great tasting, responsibly-produced food. We volunteer our time and passion because we want to build stronger communities and address key environmental concerns like reducing food waste. Now more than ever, an innovative approach to business that balances growth and sustainability is critical to changing the way the world eats for the better.
At WhiteWave, we take a holistic approach to sustainability that includes nurturing the health of our bodies, our planet and our community. One of the key pillars of our sustainability strategy is Cultivating a Responsible Food System.
To us, this means embedding sustainability in every product, via the use of sustainable agriculture, efficient operations and innovative design. To learn more about how we do this, and why we feel it’s so important, check out this short video , the first in a three part series that we’ll be sharing over the next couple of weeks about each of our three sustainability pillars.
At WhiteWave, we empower our employees to live their personal values, and the company’s values, through engagement in areas like volunteerism, community activism and commitments to better themselves and the environment.
One way we make a difference in our communities is through Share What We Do Well Month. This is the seventh year we have organized the company-wide volunteer initiative that takes place throughout the month of October. We are proud to share that in 2015, 97 percent of employees from our corporate offices, plants and regional sales offices participated in volunteer activities ranging from stocking food banks to pitching in at community gardens and animal shelters. In total, more than 30 nonprofits in 15 cities were supported by our volunteers.
Share What We Do Well Month truly embodies the spirit of WhiteWave. We believe our communities are our partners, and by taking care of each other, we can show the world a better way. We will be posting news and photos from our various excursions throughout this month, so be sure to check back with us for updates.