On its purposeful journey to become “the most sustainable protein company on earth,” Maple Leaf Foods marked one year as carbon neutral on November 7, 2020. Maple Leaf Foods is the only protein company in Canada to have set science-based emissions targets that are aligned with the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.
Achieving carbon neutrality was the result of a company-wide initiative to review every aspect of its business – from farm to table – and make sustainability a priority.
ChefConnexion.com connected with Tim Faveri, vice president of sustainability and shared value at Maple Leaf Foods, for some insights on what they’ve learned so far, and where they go from here.
Question: What are some of the key actions Maple Leaf Foods has taken to become a leading carbon-neutral food company?
Answer: In order to meet our ambitious sustainability goals, we have aggressively reduced our emissions where possible in our plants and supply chain. And we have invested heavily in a variety of high-impact environmental projects across Canada and the United States – from supporting forestry and renewable energy initiatives to waste diversion projects – to offset our emissions.
Question: What are the benefits of sustainability and how has sustainability impacted operations and product development?
Answer: We are extremely proud to take leadership in demonstrating that a strong business model and sustainability initiatives are not mutually exclusive goals. A recent survey conducted by Angus Reid found that 91% of Canadians expect companies to do their part to protect the environment and reduce carbon emissions, so companies that aren’t willing to prioritize sustainability and climate action will fail to meet the expectations of their customers.
In 2019, Maple Leaf Foods engaged in a rigorous process to develop a comprehensive Carbon Management Strategy and calculate our carbon inventory to fully understand where our greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reside. This gave us the opportunity to review our supply chain and manufacturing processes to optimize efficiency and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Question: Do your sustainability initiatives affect the foodservice sector, as well as the company’s product lines?
Answer: Absolutely. The sector plays a major role in climate change and there is an increasing demand for more sustainable food choices. In the same survey conducted by Angus Reid, 84% of Canadians said they would like to know that the food products they purchase are made in an environmentally friendly way.
To make it easier to identify sustainable food choices, Maple Leaf Foods has introduced a new Carbon Zero logo on the packaging of many of our leading brands.
Question: Is Maple Leaf Foods’ expansion of its plant-based protein products part of the sustainability focus?
Answer: Yes. Interest in plant-based protein is growing, with 51% of Canadians considering adding more plant-based foods to their diet. As a leading North American producer of meat and plant protein products, Maple Leaf Foods is committed to providing the foodservice industry with more choices to satisfy this growing demand.
The production and launch of Maple Leaf 50/50 this year was a direct response to Canadians’ desire to eat sustainably by offering the taste and texture of traditional meat products, a simple and easy to understand list of ingredients, and 50% of the meat.
Question: What has Maple Leaf Foods learned through this process that you believe could also help foodservice operators to make their businesses more sustainable?
Answer: There is a real demand for companies to prioritize sustainability, and there is enormous opportunity within the food sector to do this.
First, review your business and identify opportunities where you can reduce your waste and emissions.
We have studied every aspect of our company – from the way we route our trucks to the lightbulbs in our offices and facilities – to prioritize sustainability. When evaluating partners, prioritize companies that have committed to setting science-based targets and seek them out as partners in sustainability, as these targets indicate a commitment to ongoing emissions reductions, reporting and transparency.
Question: How about packaging for the foodservice sector? What are notable changes there?
Answer: Canadians are seeking simple ways to take sustainable action every day and 74% say they would prioritize recyclable products where possible to positively contribute to the environment. The foodservice sector is listening to these needs and is adopting more eco-friendly practices, including recyclable and reusable packaging.
Maple Leaf Foods is working on a sustainable packing strategy with the goal of shifting to fully recyclable materials over time. This includes reducing packaging materials used where possible and sourcing materials with high recycled content. We have also begun rolling out more recyclable packaging for our protein products – including new Maple Leaf 50/50.
About the Author
A writer, photographer and broadcaster for 30+ years, Lawrence Herzog is an experienced and accomplished communications professional with a specialty in foodservice and tourism. He was editor of Flavours magazine and contributing editor of Your Foodservice Manager magazine.