Maple Leaf hits carbon neutral

The company has been working throughout its operations to reduce environmental impact

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Maple Leaf Foods says its operations are carbon neutral, a status achieved through improvements in its own operations and investments in offsets elsewhere.

The company claims to be the first major food company to be able to say that it is carbon neutral.

Why it matters: Major operations decisions by large companies almost always have impact on suppliers and in this case it will have an effect on farmers supplying feed, hogs and poultry to the company.

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“We will be asking all of our suppliers to participate in this journey with us,” said Maple Leaf CEO Michael McCain during a conference call to introduce the policy. “It’s important for them and us.”

The introduction of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere is generally accepted as the reason for a warming climate. That has prompted companies of all size to measure their carbon footprint.

Smithfield Foods, the Chinese-owned largest swine producer in the world, has aimed to reduce its carbon footprint by 25 per cent by 2025 in the U.S.

McCain called the decision to be carbon neutral “deeply personal” as he says it aligns with the values of Maple Leaf and its target to be the “most sustainable protein company on the earth”.

Maple Leaf has moved from its base in animal proteins as a large processor pigs and chickens, to plant proteins with its purchase of Lightlife and the building of a plant in Shelbyville, Indiana to make Lightlife products.

How is carbon neutral determined?

Maple Leaf used the Science-Based Target initiative as its certifying body for its carbon claim. McCain explained that the group has three areas of scope it looks at. They include Scope 1, which is the company’s direct emissions, Scope 2, which is emissions around energy production, usually involving outside sources and Scope 3, the emissions of suppliers. Each scope is worth about a third of the evaluation weighting.

He says since 2015 Maple Leaf has reduced its usages of:

  • Electricity by 86 million kilowatt hours,
  • Natural gas by more than 4.3 million m3,
  • Water by 1.2 billion litres.

McCain said that lower carbon source and renewable electricity generation jurisdictions could be more attractive to companies in the future, as the generation of that power affects the carbon neutrality rating of the companies that buy it.

The company has had to invest in carbon offsets for what it calls its “unavoidable emissions”. That includes finding areas like composting, forestry and biomass that are carbon negative.

Their commitment includes continuing to reduce emissions as they grow, and McCain said that sustainability improvement is an area where the company will never be finished.

“Mission accomplished will never be in our sustainability lexicon,” he said.

Randall Huffman, Maple Leaf’s chief food safety and sustainability officer, says that the company expects the carbon neutral status to resonate with its customers, especially younger people.

About the author

Editor

John Greig has spent his career in agriculture journalism and communications. He lives on a farm near Ailsa Craig, Ontario. Contact John at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @jgreig

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