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Low Hanging Fruit Can Feed Your Triple Bottom Line

August 22, 2016

By John Lillard, Mindful Grocer

Gordon Gekko made the line “Greed is good” famous in the 1980s movie Wall Street, but I think his line today would be “Green is good”. With natural resources getting depleted at an alarming rate and new toxins being uncovered daily, sustainably and responsibly sourced food production is top of mind with consumers and they are using social media and their pocket books to be heard. In order for businesses to remain competitive in this environment, a focus on the triple bottom line (social, environmental, financial) or TBL is now the key driver for measuring success. One of the main contributors to loss on a TBL balance sheet is waste generated along a company’s value stream. As the title eludes to, these waste streams in a food production business can range from low hanging fruit to full trees worth of opportunities.

Let’s take a look at the stats to ground ourselves in the problem. Per our resident Grandfather of Green, David Suzuki, nearly half of the food produced worldwide is lost along the modern food chain (processing, transportation, grocery stores, homes). In Canada alone, it is estimated that around $31 billion is wasted annually and that doesn’t consider water, energy, and other resources lost which could triple that total. The stats are staggering and it is imperative that we take efforts to turn that around. Home is a great place to start considering that it is 50% of the problem, but trimming food waste in the workplace hits on all 3 aspects of the TBL. I think any good business owner would be interested in saving money while doing what’s best for the planet thereby enabling a goodwill story to share with their customers.

So where do you start? As Steven Levitt, author of Freakonomics and one of my favourite thinkers says, “Go out and collect data and, instead of having the answer, just look at the data and see if the data tells you anything. When we’re allowed to do this with companies, it’s almost magical.” This can be a daunting task for most considering the multitude of other priorities required to keep your doors open. Luckily there are companies such as Provision Coalition, a government funded entity that works directly with the food and beverage manufacturing industry providing sustainability tools and resources through their website. Recently they worked with sustainability consultants to develop a food waste toolkit enabling businesses of all sizes to ask the right questions for assessing waste streams, identifying potential savings and capital costs, as well as gaining alignment from leadership to implement changes.

If you prefer more of a hand-holding approach, there are numerous sustainability consultants such as Enviro-Stewards (one of the authors of the toolkit) that can assist you with the auditing process. Prior to initiating the audit, you will want to pull any data obtained from operations that relate to ingredient usage. Some opportunities may be readily apparent and ripe for plucking, but others may require historical data analysis combined with visual observation of the waste point. Once initial data retrieval is complete get out on the floor and review each unit operation along the production cycle, and take pictures.

Your best source of opportunity assessment, besides visually witnessing the waste stream, is through communication with your operators. Set aside some time to meet with your operations team and leaders to review pain points that may be occurring in production. If loss reporting is not currently in place, begin the documentation process and initiate a culture of engagement with your team. In Brett Wills book, Green Intentions, he provides simple worksheets enabling you to evaluate your current state, future state, and green state.

Once you have reviewed the data for any and all contributors and have validated the opportunity through visual and operator input you can begin formulating your action plan. The action plan may be as simple as retraining your operators to allow for any systems you have in place (ie. optical sorter) to fully do their job. There may, however, be capital improvements required and this is where diligent number crunching, operator verbatims, and the pictures you took will help to build your case for approval.

A recent project between Enviro-Stewards and Global Vintners Inc. is a great example of an inspiring TBL win. Global Vintners Inc. is a subsidiary of Andrew Peller, which is the largest Canadian owned winery in Canada. Using Enviro-Stewards assess, implement, and monitor approach they were able to realize the following:


The assessment identified annual opportunities to save:

* 15,000 m3 of water (49%), which is enough water to fill 6 Olympic size swimming pools

* 150,000 kWh of electricity (20%), which is enough electricity to power 14 homes

* 3,000 m3 of natural gas (2%), which is enough natural gas to heat a home

* 265,000 L of grape juice, which is enough to fill 590 barrels (or 350,000 bottles) of wine


Measures implemented to date are saving $300,000/yr with a Return on Investment of 1,000% (payback of 1.2 months).


The measures avoid the need to use the equivalent of 38 soccer fields of vineyard (27 hectares) to make the same quantity of finished product. Thereby reducing transportation and its associated carbon footprint, while increasing job security through profit margin enhancement.

So get out there and start picking! Even small changes can lead to big wins.

Connect with John Lillard and Mindful Grocer at [email protected] and