At the GMA Executive Conference in August, the primary topics of discussion included food safety, retailer and manufacturer collaboration, innovation, operational efficiency, and sustainability. Siemens Corporation CEO Eric Spiegel hosted a panel on sustainability with the CEOs of Cargill, Kroger, and CH2M Hill – all made it clear their companies sustainability strategies very much take into account what impact their manufacturing and retail practices will have on the environment, cities, and municipalities that they do business in. Here’s a link to a recap on this panel discussion. Areas like water consumption, wastewater management, solid waste, and energy usage all are considered in developing a sustainability strategy by these and other organizations. One of these other organizations is General Mills: they use the waste from Cheerios production as biomass to power two of their plants in Minnesota.
The company, which won the 2011 CPG award for innovation from the Grocer Manufacturers Association (GMA), is very focused on making their plants more energy efficient, while at the same time, doing good for their surrounding community. Their innovation is an oat hull burner: essentially, they use the leftovers from Cheerios oat production (80,000 tons per year!) as a source of energy. In fact oat hulls have the same BTU as bituminous coal. They now power 100% of their plants in Fridley and Minneapolis, MN using oat hull biomass. The results are impressive: not only are they now avoiding a $540,000 natural gas bill per year, but they are also reducing their carbon footprint by 21%.
As a bonus to the energy and financial savings General Mills experiences, leftover oats hulls are sold to local electricity provider Koda Energy to power approximately 17,000 homes per year. Truly a triple bottom line achievement: people, planet, profit. See the following video for more on this alternative energy innovation from General Mills: