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Del Monte’s sustainability efforts yield carbon footprint reduction

In 2014, Del Monte Fresh Produce issued an official Sustainability Report noting that it “has transitioned from a company with diverse sustainability initiatives to a company with focused sustainability programs and goals” and articulated those goals as “rational, measurable and verifiable.”

The latest year for which it has numbers is 2017 and that report shows that the company has been able to reduce its use of electricity, water and fuel, with the fuel reduction leading the way, and noted several other achievements on the sustainability spectrum.Forest-Boardering-Pinapple-Operations-Costa-Rica-2Forest boardering Del Monte’s pinapple operations in Costa Rica.

Using usage numbers from 2011 to 2014, Del Monte established baseline average on which it would judge itself. In an email interview with The Produce News, Vice President of Marketing Dionysios Christou revealed that in 2017 fuel usage dropped 24.1 percent, while the company reduced its use of water 9.2 percent and realized a 1.5 percent reduction in electricity usage.

“Over the past five years, we have been able to achieve reductions in energy and water use by implementing and utilizing LED lighting, fuel efficient vehicles and sea vessels, containerization of product, and water/nutrient recycling,” he said. “Our investments in irrigation system maintenance and upgrades, along with optimized travel routes for land and sea, have also contributed to our successes.”

He added that the company’s water efficiency success has been aided by various upgrades throughout the years, including drip irrigation, upgraded sprinklers and efforts such as utilizing gray-water recycling, converting to shallow wash tanks in packinghouses, creating water recycling facilities in Guatemalan greenhouses, and switching to low-flow faucets in offices.  

“Our goals remain to improve our energy and water efficiency by 10 percent by the end of 2020,” Christou said. “We are also working toward managing our water risk, including disclosure of our water usage for several years with CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project).”  

Del Monte’s energy use reduction has been helped by the addition of solar panels in multiple global facilities and also the incorporation of bio-fuel for boilers and delivery trucks.

“Our Mann Packing facilities in California have wind turbines to help support their energy needs as well,” he said.  “Another initiative includes an investigation into bio-gas production to capture methane, compost and liquid fertilizer from our Jordanian operations.”

Since 1994, the company claims to have recycled 130,000 tons of plastic waste, and since 2000, it has reduced 160,000 tons of paper in its pineapple boxes alone.

The 2014 report also called for a reduction in the creation of solid waste for landfills. “We have made excellent progress in waste reduction,” said Christou. “Some highlights include our paper recycling programs that have included more than 13,000 tons of corrugated material in 2017, and more than 130,000 tons of plastic in Central America since 1995. We have initiated a ‘No Food to Waste’ program that would capture products for an alternative market and reduce waste.”

Christou added that the firm also had had some impressive conservation accomplishments, including preserving more than 10,000 hectares worldwide to maintain corridors “for local flora and fauna to flourish. There are hundreds of plant, insect and animal species that make their home within our protected natural areas. Eight-hundred and twenty-three hectares of our land in Costa Rica are recognized by the government as private wildlife refuges. We also proudly protect the population of nearly 100 hippopotami living within our Kenyan operations.”

There have been obstacles outside of the company’s control that have made it challenging for Del Monte to achieve its stated goals.

“Natural pressure from climate change and effects from El Nino weather systems have caused a significant impact on our operations, namely ongoing droughts that affected several growing regions,” he said. “Challenges like these force us to pull water from surface sources, like rivers, to support our operations.”

But the company marches on with its sustainability quest. “We believe that addressing sustainability issues is critical to the future of our planet, people and our business. A global effort to implement sustainable practices and programs is crucial to protect the health of our planet,” he said.  “Because we are vertically integrated, we would encourage and rely on others in our supply chain to reduce their impact on water use, carbon footprint and fuel economy.”