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ConAgra Foods CR Report: Carbon Intensity Down 2%

ConAgra Foods’ carbon intensity, or metric tons of carbon per ton of finished product produced, fell by approximately two percent since fiscal year (FY) 2008, according to the company’s 2010 corporate responsibility report. In FY 2010, the company’s Scope 1 and 2 greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions were less than 2 million metric tons with over 95 percent resulting from natural gas and electricity use. The foods company produces about 4.6 tons of finished goods for every metric ton of greenhouse gases emitted.

The report covers specific initiatives underway within each focus area of the company’s corporate responsibility platform: “Good for You. Good for the Community. Good for the Planet.” Here are some highlights on the company’s progress since the last report.

Since ConAgra’s last report in 2008, the company has set five sustainability goals to meet by the end of 2015. These include reducing GHG emissions by 20 percent per pound of product produced, reducing water use by 15 percent per pound of product produced, and diverting at least 75 percent, or 10 percent above the base line, if greater, of all solid waste from landfills.

The packaging goal encompasses three strategies: reduce packaging by 10 percent per pound of product produced, increase the amount of packaging made of renewable resources from 45 percent to more than 50 percent, and increase the use of recycled content in its packaging by 25 percent.

As part of its packaging efforts, in March 2009, ConAgra Foods adopted a 50 percent post-industrial recycled Polylactic Acid (PLA) shrink film.

The company continues to use bisphenol A (BPA), despite some studies that link the synthetic sex hormone to developmental problems, heart disease and diabetes. ConAgra says in the report that it “remains confident in the safety of all of its products, including canned items that utilize liners made with Bisphenol A (BPA).”

The company has started packaging some products, specifically tomatoes, in non-BPA lined cans, and will evaluate non-BPA liners for the remainder of its canned-product portfolio.

The supply chain goal includes working with its suppliers to encourage continuous improvement in the areas of energy, water, materials and waste, and collaborating with growers of key specialty crops to implement sustainable farming practices that optimize yield while improving land stewardship.

Also since the last report, the company began construction of a LEED-certified, state-of-the-art sweet potato processing facility. The Lamb Weston Sweet Potato facility is incorporating environmentally friendly processing and packaging technologies.

The company’s Scope 3 emissions associated with its supply chain, product retail distribution and consumer use represent a significant portion of ConAgra’s overall carbon footprint.

Since the last report, the company has started to track greenhouse gas emissions associated with business travel and product transport, and has also requested that its largest suppliers disclose their greenhouse gas inventory and emissions reduction strategy to the Carbon Disclosure Project.

Between fiscal years 2008 and 2010, ConAgra reduced its absolute electricity and natural gas use by 2.6 and 8.4 percent, respectively. The company’s energy intensity, or energy use per ton of finished product produced, decreased for natural gas by 5.2 percent and increased slightly for electricity by 0.8 percent.

The company is looking at a variety of capital and behavior-based energy efficiency projects to reduce energy use.

Although less than 3 percent of its transportation fleet is owned by ConAgra Foods, the company is working with its transportation business partners, distributors and customers to improve transportation efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For both contracted and owned fleets, the company is focused on improving efficiency in all modes of transportation, with the company’s “Perfect Pallet” initiative as the centerpiece of its efforts. The initiative focuses on improving pallet efficiency by adjusting product packaging size, shape and orientation.

The company is also focused on improving its water efficiency, and the quality of the water it discharges. ConAgra has spent more than $30 million in infrastructure improvements to improve discharge water quality. Thirty-seven percent of its wastewater is used for irrigation or soil amendment at neighboring farms.

ConAgra also recently began assessing business risk associated with the availability of clean water. Based on 2025 projections, most of its plants (88 percent) are located in areas with adequate water supply, including 77 percent that are located in areas of abundant water, and 86 percent of its total water use is coming from areas of low water stress based on the World Business Counsel for Sustainable Development’s (WBCSD) Mean Annual Relative Water Stress Index. Just two sites representing less than one percent of its total water withdrawal are located in water scarce areas.

The company also has made significant progress in establishing processes to get accurate information from its solid waste and recycling vendors. About 75 percent of its facilities are now tracking this information monthly.

Many of company’s largest facilities, including nearly all of its Lamb Weston specialty potato sites and many of its frozen foods and snack foods facilities, have achieved waste diversion rates from 80 to more than 95 percent.

However, about 25 percent of its facilities still lack reliable data regarding solid waste disposal and recycling. The company will work with these sites to obtain accurate solid waste information, which will allow the foods company to report complete solid waste metrics for fiscal year 2011.

Since FY 2008, ConAgra has reduced its Notices of Violation (NOVs) by 70 percent, from 95 NOVs in fiscal year 2008 to 29 in fiscal year 2010. The company attributes the reduction to the implementation of its environmental management system. In fiscal years 2009 and 2010, ConAgra Foods completed environmental assessments in 18 and 47 facilities, respectively, and 35 assessments are planned for fiscal year 2011.

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