Editor's Plate: Green, Sustainable, Good

Take the time to assess your company's sustainability efforts.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief

Food Processing Green Plant of the YearIn announcing our third annual balloting for Green Plant of the Year, it's also interesting to note the evolution of what constitutes a green plant. For that matter, the term "green" is moving out of vogue in many manufacturing circles, replaced by the more realistic term "sustainable."

This is no revelation, I realize. That refinement was well under way even before ConAgra spelled it out for us after the company's Lamb Weston sweet potato plant in Delhi, La., won our Green Plant of the Year contest last year.

ConAgra Foods' view on green or sustainable food manufacturing is an outgrowth of the company's philosophy on good corporate citizenship. ConAgra drew an interesting three-way balance among purely "green" pursuits, economic sustainability and how those two affect and are affected by the company's responsibility to the communities in which it operates. That last point means not only not polluting the town but employing lots of locals and becoming enough of a successful enterprise that the plant can give back to the town in terms of volunteerism.

The company's view on the subject is expressed as the triad "good for the planet, good for the community and good for you" (that last point referring to "safe, delicious and nutritious foods").

We spoke last year to James Lime, head of the company's sustainability efforts. His official title – vice president of environment, health and safety – implies how ConAgra's Earth-friendly efforts are rooted in the practical needs of manufacturing, with at least one eye on the bottom line.

In many of his statements on the subject, the word "sustainability" was followed by the phrase "that produces tangible business results." Elsewhere, the company acknowledges, "We recognize that sustainability is intricately linked to the company's long-term success and that our overall performance is measured not only by financial metrics, but also by our impact on the environment."

That's hard to argue with.

So I exhort you to take two electronic actions.

First, as I said, we have begun balloting for our annual Green Plant of the Year. We have to excellent nominees for you to choose from:

  • Hormel's Dubuque, Iowa plant
  • General Mills' Albuquerque, N.M., plant

Read about their qualifications and then vote for one on our electronic polling place: Last year, we had an overwhelming response – 3,092 votes were cast. That will be difficult to top this year, but we're hopeful. It all depends on you.

But hurry: The deadline is Aug. 3. We'll profile the winning plant in our September issue.