Published 3 years ago.
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The three founding members of the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance discuss how the pioneering partnership is propelling their individual sustainability strategies.
The creation of the Farm Powered Strategic
(FPSA) is an industry-first initiative by leading food companies to
repurpose unavoidable food waste from manufacturing and supply chain operations
into carbon-negative, farm-derived, renewable natural
This circular solution is a powerful tool for mitigating climate
while supporting regenerative agriculture practice at farms across the US.
I recently caught up with the founding members of the Alliance to learn more
about sustainability and their business. Here’s what Ale Eboli, Head of
Supply Chain Operations at Unilever North America; Michael Kobori, Chief
Sustainability Officer at Starbucks; and David Darr, SVP and Chief
Strategy & Sustainability Officer for Dairy Farmers of America had to say.
Ale Eboli: First, Unilever
has 2030 science-based targets to have no carbon emissions from Unilever
operations, and to halve the greenhouse gas emissions footprint of our products
across the full value chain. Additionally, we’ve committed to net zero emissions
from all our products by 2039. This includes everything from the sourcing of the
materials we use to the point of sale of our products in the store. Second,
we’re investing €1 billion in a new Climate & Nature
for Unilever’s brands over the next ten years to take meaningful and decisive
action. Third, we’re committing to reduce food waste by 50 percent from our
owned operations by 2025 and to repurpose any unavoidable waste that is unfit
for consumption into renewable natural gas.
David Darr: Dairy Farmers of America is part of
an industry-wide collaboration on environmental sustainability through the
Innovation Center for US Dairy, committed to carbon neutrality or better by
2050. In 2020, we became the first US dairy cooperative to establish a
science-based target and to commit to a 30 percent greenhouse gas emissions
reduction across our supply chain by 2030. The expansion of anaerobic digester
systems on dairy farms by Vanguard Renewables
will be one key strategy we’ll utilize to help reach this target. Our
Cooperative’s vision is to enrich communities and consumers’ lives; and we’re
also focused on producing dairy responsibly, ethically and sustainably.
Michael Kobori: At the beginning of 2020, Starbucks announced a bold
aspiration to become resource
— storing more carbon than we emit, providing more clean freshwater than we use,
and eliminating waste. We set targets to cut our carbon, water and waste
footprints in half by 2030. Among our strategies to achieve these goals are
deeper investments in eco-friendly operations, regenerative agricultural
and environmentally friendly menus. We will continue to develop these strategies
with a focus on advancing racial equity and environmental
MK: We knew our resource-positive aspiration would require transformational
and systemic change. Leadership in sustainability takes commitment, investment,
innovation, partnership and time. It took nearly two decades of dedicated effort
in partnership with Conservation International to achieve the milestone of
sourcing 99 percent of our coffee ethically, through Coffee and Farmer Equity
practices. As our CEO, Kevin Johnson, has shared, we learned over the years
that — absent the same rigorous analysis, partnerships and investments that made
us leaders in sustainable coffee and green building — our results underperformed
our high expectations and underscored the need for a different approach. Without
drastic action from everyone — including governments, industry, companies, and
all of us as individuals — adapting to the impact of climate change in the
future will be far more difficult and costly.
DD: It’s important that we have professional partners to help meet our
goals. Food waste anaerobic digesters are complex systems that require a lot of
alignment between farm locations, food-waste sourcing, energy off-takers, and
overall project financing. So, if any of the key parts are missing, projects
likely do not get completed.
AE: In the United States, more than 40 percent of all food produced is
discarded. While eliminating that waste is a priority, some of this unavoidable
food waste is still sent to landfills or incinerators but can be repurposed to
produce renewable energy. This is why achieving zero non-hazardous waste to
landfill and our work to ensure all waste — including food waste — is reused,
recycled or recovered is so important. We need to take a holistic, whole systems
approach in order to address the interlinked challenges in climate, nature, food
and people. Everyone must step up — from businesses like us to governments,
smallholder farmers, civil society and consumers. It’s the only way forward to
effectively reframe the global food
and contribute to sustainable development goals.
Image credit: Vanguard Renewables
DD: While the entire dairy industry — from farm to manufacturer — only
contributes about 2 percent of total US greenhouse gas emissions, we know it’s
imperative to keep doing better and making improvements. The FPSA will help us
continue to accelerate our sustainability initiatives and make dairy a
sustainable food choice for consumers. Working with the Alliance members will
enhance overall coordination between farm locations, food waste sourcing, energy
off-takers and overall project financing.
AE: As part of the Farm Powered Strategic Alliance, we are accelerating
long-term commitments to avoid or eliminate food waste first and repurpose what
can’t be eliminated into renewable energy. By joining the Alliance, we are
taking a leadership position to create a better market for renewable natural
gas. We believe businesses that thrive in the future will be driven by purpose
for the benefit of all
A multi-stakeholder approach enables us to understand the challenges preventing
society and ecosystems from thriving and to find ways to begin addressing them.
We engage shareholders, governments, NGOs and civil society organizations, and
aim to shape the business landscape through advocacy. Our range of opportunities
to achieve transformational change includes partnerships and alliances such as
MK: The FPSA is a perfect example of the kind of partnership we look for —
one that drives visionary thinking and new ways of working. Starbucks has made
great strides in eliminating food waste at the store level with our Starbucks
program, which has helped divert 25 million meals from landfills. The Farm
Powered Strategic Alliance is the next step in managing waste at a much greater
scale and offering an innovative solution for our supply chain. It brings us one
step closer to our goal of a resource positive future.
AE: To meet our demand for thermal energy from renewable sources, Unilever
is exploring the potential to use new technologies across our organization.
These include heat pumps, concentrated solar power, biogas, biomass and
hydrogen. Many of these options are not yet commercially viable or widely
available, so we are supporting innovation and looking for ways to integrate
innovation into all of our operations.
MK: Starbucks currently uses natural gas in our roasting operations and for
some in-store thermal purposes. Natural gas is a meaningful, but not extensive
portion of Starbucks' global carbon footprint.
DD: At DFA, we look at changes in energy sourcing as a long-term evolution.
From a hauling and trucking perspective, we have some percentage of our fleet
that has transitioned from diesel fuel to compressed natural gas to lessen our
environmental footprint. Our manufacturing facilities are also focused on
reducing total energy consumption and engaging with renewable energy production
such as solar. Ultimately, renewable natural gas will be a key piece of our
MK: Today, more than ever, the world needs leadership and a multi-decade
commitment to environmental sustainability. The Alliance is an impactful
solution to tackling both food waste and carbon emissions.
DD: We welcome other companies to join the FPSA. Dairy farm-hosted, food
waste anaerobic digesters make sense to achieve waste reduction, renewable
energy sourcing, and supply chain greenhouse-gas reductions. Successful projects
not only support local dairy farms, but they also support our communities and
our planet. We are excited to see this effort grow!
AE: We cannot transition to a low-carbon economy alone, and encourage other
businesses to join us in this crucial alliance to scale it up and help make it a
JH: It has been a mere month since we officially announced the Farm Powered
Strategic Alliance; and we are humbled by the feedback, as well as the
tremendous opportunity to achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas
emissions. Join our
on Tuesday, January 27th, at 1pm ET — to hear from these founding companies
about the Alliance, and their sustainability goals and challenges.
Published Jan 21, 2021 7am EST / 4am PST / 12pm GMT / 1pm CET
John Hanselman is Founder and Chief Strategy Officer of Vanguard Renewables — the U.S. leader in farm-based organics to renewable energy. John launched Vanguard Renewables in 2014 to connect farm-based anaerobic digestion to agricultural resilience and produce renewable energy. His work includes finding a decarbonization pathway for the food and beverage industry by enabling the repurposing of unavoidable manufacturing and supply chain waste into renewable natural gas. John’s strength is bringing together partners in the decarbonization journey and Vanguard has strategic partnerships with Dairy Farmers of America and Dominion Energy, among others. (Read more ...)
This article, produced in cooperation with the Sustainable Brands editorial team, has been paid for by one of our sponsors.