Originally printed in the September 2022 issue of Produce Business.
On Aug. 16, U.S. President Joe Biden signed a bill into law that he has described as “the most significant legislation in history to tackle the climate crisis.” The Inflation Reduction Act contains $437 billion of spending — $369 billion of which will go toward emissions-cutting measures such as tax breaks for low-carbon energy and electric vehicles.
While this is a major step in terms of aligning global efforts, the unfortunate reality is the environmental crisis is not going away. Many academic reports state Earth will continue to warm up until 2050 and the consequences will be more severe from year to year. Only solutions that can reduce the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere will help. Investors are increasingly putting money into sustainability — and sustainability impact measurement is now an important component.
But how does one weave sustainability into all areas of operation of a ‘food and fresh’ company? And does it pay off? While many companies are still paying lip service to sustainability, the Swedish food company Greenfood has turned itself into a formidable, sustainability-focused business. With cutting-edge processes and an unfailing commitment to creating a better future, the company maintains solid growth that has attracted a substantial sustainability-linked bond investment from global investors.
Greenfood’s goal is to make as small a climate footprint as possible. For Greenfood, it is about securing smarter solutions, using more sustainable materials, having better transport solutions and, together with producers and suppliers, reducing the environmental impact throughout all its group companies.
First, Greenfood is working to reduce energy consumption and switch to renewable electricity. Part of that change is to produce its own green electricity. The company already runs three photovoltaic parks and is investing in one more, its largest solar park yet. At the same time, Greenfood is modernizing its refrigeration systems and investing in heat recovery.
Second, Greenfood believes while plastic packaging can extend the shelf life of a product and minimize food waste, it also has a definite environmental impact. The company is determined to reduce the amount of plastic used in packaging; use only plastic that is renewable or recycled; and, wherever possible, replace plastic with other materials with a lower environmental impact.
To reduce the climate impact of its transportation, Greenfood uses computer modeling to optimize its loads and increase coordination between companies. The company is also replacing more of its diesel and gas vehicles with more environmentally friendly alternatives and is investing in technology for more digital meetings.
Tackling the climate crisis requires tough measures and ambitious climate goals that are measurable. Greenfood has taken a big step by joining the Science Based Targets Initiative (SBTi) to set climate targets in accordance with the Paris Agreement. As part of setting scientifically established goals, Greenfood is now reviewing the company’s total emissions throughout the entire value chain using the (SBTi) model. (SBTi is a global standard that helps companies set climate goals in line with the science required to reach the Paris Agreement.)
During the first quarter of 2022, Greenfood’s climate impact from its own operations decreased by a record 40%. The primary reasons for this decrease are (among others) the investment in new cooling systems and improved working methods, which has led to greater energy efficiency; introducing biogas at the facility in Helsingborg; switching to renewable electricity at group companies in Sweden and Finland; and electric vehicles gradually replacing diesel-powered company cars.
Greenfood is currently developing a new super plant in Helsingborg. When completed, the new building will be 44,000 square meters in size and one of northern Europe’s largest centers for sustainable and healthy food innovation, production and distribution. The facility will create a food ecosystem in a specially adapted, state-of-the-art and environmentally efficient food and logistics center that allows the company to grow significantly in Europe by further developing its range of healthy, plant-based food solutions. The new facility features efficient cooling and modern heat recovery systems, as well as solar cells that provides the electricity it consumes.
By bringing several of its group companies under one roof, Greenfood Greenhouse will become a modern ecosystem for innovation, production and distribution of food. Construction started in May 2021, and will be completed in the third quarter of 2023.
Using its powerful climate-focused strategy as springboard, in 2021 Greenfood issued a sustainability-linked bond linked to the goals in its sustainability framework. The company has linked its bond to the outcome of three defined sustainability goals. These include a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from own operations by 55% for each ton of food it sells. Second, Greenfood will define science-based CO2 emission reduction targets that will be validated by SBTi; and third, it intends to cut food waste by 20% by 2025, and 45% by 2030.
The Governance Group (TGG) completed an independent review of Greenfood’s sustainability framework and gave it the highest possible rating.
Investing in sustainability has created a deeper loyalty between Greenfood, its customers, growers and service providers. From a commercial point of view, it has created solid growth, and attracted the interest from investors. Last, but not least, it has created a true purpose that is embraced by its employees.
Want to read more about Greenfood’s unique business model? Visit https://greenfood.se/sites/default/files/pdf_files/Greenfood_Sustainability_Report_2021_SCREEN.pdf.
Nic Jooste, owner of NJ Immersed, is a fresh produce marketing and CSR specialist based in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. He can be reached at email@example.com.