Cargill Sustainability Report: GHG Intensity Up Year-on-Year
In the latest report, covering FY 2013, the privately-held provider of food, agricultural, financial and industrial products and services reports a 3.9 percent improvement in GHG intensity versus the baseline. In last year’s report, Cargill reported a 4.9 percent improvement.
It is aiming for a 5 percent reduction in GHG intensity by 2015.
Environmental performance worsened along several other metrics last year. Energy efficiency was up 3.3 percent against the 2010 baseline, but down from the 3.6 percent improvement reported last year. Likewise, the 4.1 percent improvement in freshwater efficiency reported for 2010-2013 is below the 4.8 percent reported last year.
Cargill is targeting 5 percent improvements in each, both by 2015.
Renewables, on the other hand, increased. Renewable sources accounted for 14.2 percent of Cargill’s total energy use in 2013, exceeding the company’s 2015 target of 12.5 percent, and above the 13.5 percent reported last year.
The 20-page PDF report is light compared to those of similarly sized companies (Cargill has 140,000 employees in 65 countries). It offers few organization-wide environmental metrics. For example, the company does not report how much energy or water it uses, or how much carbon it emits.
The company says an “expanded version of the report” is available online, but this hardly provides any additional information. At times, the organizational choices seem odd. For example, the baselines for the metrics reported above all came from the company’s annual report – they are not included in the corporate responsibility report.
EL PRO considered both the PDF and online version of the corporate responsibility report in writing this analysis.
Cargill says it generates energy from 17 different renewable sources – though it only mentions a few of these.
The company has teamed up with TEVA Energy to install what it calls the largest solar energy system at a California meat processing facility. The Fresno beef processing plant will use solar energy to pre-heat water used for food safety and sanitation. The plant already captures nearly 30 percent of its natural gas requirements from methane, generated by anaerobic digestion at its onsite water treatment ponds.
Cargill also installed a waste-to-energy system at its beef processing system in High River, Alberta, which the company says is the largest such plant in Canada, handling 4,500 head of cattle a day. Between the plant’s waste-to-fuel and methane capture system, almost 80 percent of the facility’s energy needs will soon come from renewables, the company says.
Cargill operates more than 30 combined heat and power units, which give it an average of 20 percent better energy efficiency compared to separate systems, and it says it is expanding its use of such systems. CHP accounted for 12 percent of the company’s electricity generation last year.
The firm says its Fort Morgan, Colo., beef processing plant has found a 10 percent reduction in natural gas use over the past three years and an 8 percent increase in biogas recovery. The company has installed a more efficient boiler at the plant, as well as high-efficiency fluorescent lighting.
In China, Cargill is reducing carbon emissions by using a pipeline to move product from its corn processing facility to a nearby customer, rather than using trucks.
Cargill is one of the world’s largest charterers of dry bulk freight, with more than 500 vessels in use at any one time, and transports 200 million metric tons of cargo a year. It is a member of the Sustainable Shipping Initiative.
In 2012, the company began factoring greenhouse gas emissions into its ship selection process. Cargill uses indices developed by RightShip, a ship vetting specialist, to compare vessels’ relative energy efficiency. Last October Cargill, Hunstman Corp., and Unipec, a unit of China’s biggest oil trader, said they will no longer use vessels ranked in the lowest two of seven categories in the Existing Vessel Design Index (EVDI), a rating of ship efficiency.
Last year Bloomberg reported that record fuel prices prompted Cargill to reduce vessel speeds an additional 18 percent, to 9 knots.
Cargill and its partners, BASF and Novozymes, reached a milestone in their effort to produce acrylic acid from renewable raw materials when they produced a renewable building block, known as 3-HP, in pilot scale. Acrylic acid is used to make a variety of items, such as superabsorbent polymers found in baby diapers and hygiene products, but today is usually made from crude oil.
In 2012, Cargill introduced a responsible supply chain assessment tool to help its businesses and customers identify, quantify and prioritize risks and opportunities. The tool assesses financial materiality by assigning cost and revenue implications, based on likelihood and business impact. Cargill developed and piloted the tool in 2012 and 2013, and so far has conducted assessments across 17 of its businesses, involving 20 customers.
In North America, Cargill says it is responding to customers’ increasing interest in how commodity crops – including canola, corn, soy and wheat – are grown. For example, when a major US retailer asked for sustainability data from its suppliers, Cargill gathered information about agricultural practices governing over 9 million acres of US-grown wheat. It spoke to grain elevator operators across the country to gather information on the use of fertilizer and fuel; water use and irrigation; soil fertility and erosion; and integrated pest management (none of which is presented in the report). Cargill says its customers now have more insight into environmental practices, so they are better prepared to answer consumers’ questions.
Cargill is partnering with Field to Market to increase corn and wheat farmers’ use of the organization’s Fieldprint Calculator, which helps track water, land and energy use, soil conservation and climate impact. Cargill’s AgHorizons business also works directly with farmers, using the company’s NextField tools, to maximize yields while optimizing fertilizer use.
Since 2004, Cargill has worked with The Nature Conservancy to improve productivity while reducing impacts on land, water and biodiversity. In 2012 and 2013, Cargill says it increased its support of the non-profit’s Global Agriculture Program, although it didn’t say by how much.
Cargill is working with The Forest Trust to map its palm oil supply chain, work it expects to complete next year. By 2015, Cargill says the palm oil products it supplies in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand will all be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, or will originate from smallholder growers (excluding palm kernel oil products). By 2020, it will extend that commitment to all palm oil products and all customers worldwide.
The company says it is on target to source more than 100,000 metric tons of certified sustainable cocoa beans from Côte d’Ivoire by 2015. It has achieved Bonsucro certification for its sugar and ethanol supply chains in Brazil, and has conducted training courses about the Bonsucro standard at six of its partner mills.
In January Cargill’s cotton business in Zimbabwe became a verified partner of the Cotton made in Africa program, a designation it already holds in Zambia. With co-financing from the Aid by Trade Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, it is training farmers in both countries to improve soil and water conservation techniques, and to optimize cotton and food crop production in balanced crop rotation plans.
Earlier this year, Cargill said it would close its Plainview, Texas beef processing plant, citing a tight cattle supply brought on by years of drought in the region.
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