Conagra Brands saved more than $5 million in the past year by implementing employees’ sustainability ideas. Based on those ideas, Conagra diverted more than 8,700 tons of waste from landfills, saved more than 245 million gallons of water, and reduced emissions by more than 2,100 metric tons. The company also reduced packaging material by 3,800 tons.
Conagra has enlisted employees to help improve the company’s sustainability and energy management initiatives since 2009; employees are recognized and rewarded for their successful implementations with Conagra’s annual Sustainable Development Awards. The company says that since the program was implemented, employee projects have saved $232 million.
Each year, employees enter projects that showcase improvements in four key areas: Climate Change & Energy Efficiency, Water Conservation & Wastewater Management, Waste Reduction & Recycling, and Sustainable Business Innovation.
Some initiatives included:
Improving its labeling and capping procedures to reduce ketchup waste, saving $100,000 and cutting waste by 130 tons;
Adjusting a labor-intensive sterilizing process – following rigorous testing – to using filtered water instead of other materials to make the process more efficient, reducing sanitizing time by 50% and materials used by five tons;
Cutting out an unnecessary cooling process for sauces, allowing the facility to close a water valve used for cooling in the system and preserving 132,000 gallons of water per day.
Conagra awards are given to the “most breakthrough projects” in each area, along with an overall Award of Excellence. There is also a People’s Choice Award in which all Conagra employees vote for their favorite project. Winning facilities receive a $5,000 grant from the Conagra Brands Foundation for sustainability-focused public service projects in their community.
Bacardi is another company that recently announced the winners of employee-led environmental sustainability-related initiatives in its 3rd Annual Bacardi Limited Good Spirited Awards program. Projects that won achieved significant savings in a variety of areas:
The Bacardi distillery in India reduced power consumption by 15% over the last two years with a complete changeover to LED lighting from less-efficient CFL bulbs. The facility also promoted energy-saving tips and awareness on campus.
The Bacardi Bottling Corporation facility in Jacksonville, Florida, reduced water use by 21.5% and decreased water waste as well as liquid losses through “enhanced operations” that cut processing time in half.
A plant reached 97% recycling of its materials and achieved zero-waste-to-landfill for seven out of 12 months. To accomplish its zero-waste-to-landfill status, the facility invented a “Recycle Rodeo” for its 250 employees where recycling containers were installed around the 92-acre campus. These new containers collate waste into separate recyclables and garbage bins. The campus also activated a “GarbageCon” initiative to encourage central recycling. The result was the volume of waste reduced by more than 300 tons—equal to a 35-ton reduction in landfill waste.
(Pictured: Conagra Sustainable Development Award winners)