Copenhagen-based Danisco, a bio-based ingredients supplier, is no newcomer to the sustainability movement. According to Jeffrey Hogue, Danisco's new vice president of corporate sustainable development, it has been an integral part of the business plan for many years.
Hogue came from a 15-year career at Genencor, a division of Danisco, directing the company's sustainability efforts. He has seen the word 'sustainability' wax and wane in popularity. "It doesn't really matter what you call it, as long as it allows your organisation to anticipate social, environmental and financial risks. We wanted to hold on to the word in the beginning, but it became apparent that it was more important that the strategy be integrated into the business management systems," he said.
Today, one of the strategies that is becoming more important to Danisco's efforts is 'lifecycle analyses.' "These determine the environmental health and safety impacts associated with the life cycle of a material or product in a specific application, thus identifying opportunities for improvement. We examine the impacts from the genesis of our raw materials, through the transportation and production processes. We use a standard methodology to helps us determine these varied impacts.
"For years," he said, "we have tracked environmental impacts and compared them over time to determine if we were improving. We produce high-volume products, and we're always trying to squeeze efficiency out of our production — water reduction and energy reduction used in processing, etc. Within each of our divisions we have energy-reduction teams working on reducing water in cleaning, for instance, and working to optimise these processes."
Stewardship, however, involves far more than a simple numbers game, he said. "It amounts to operational risk reduction. It is a continuum, and you must balance environmental impact with financial and social impacts — 'people, profit, planet.'" He offers an example from Bruges, Belgium, where Danisco has a facility located in the middle of the city. "We have to know, for instance, if our neighbors are concerned with impacts of our manufacturing processes like noise or odour. In order to sustain our relationship with communities, we have to have a formal process in place to evoke this kind of dialogue with the community, not wait until it becomes an issue that may impact our licence to operate."
With such giant retailers as WalMart announcing sustainability initiatives, he said, the impact is going to be widespread. "Companies really need to take a global view and determine what is important to the business now and in the long term. You can't wait until retailers demand this of their customers. You must anticipate these types of trends and respond."
And the process never ends, he said. "What's relevant today may not be tomorrow. Constant anticipation is really essential if you want to maintain a global leadership position, as well as attract satisfied employees. Companies that are socially responsible tend to attract better talent and retain them. People want to work for responsible companies, so that when they meet their friends and family on the weekends, they can be proud of where they work.
"What I've found is that saying you're green or sustainable is a misnomer and lacks a standard definition — it's really an aspiration. Companies should strive to identify where they should focus their efforts to improve their sustainability profiles, all which have to be systematically planned and properly resourced. This anticipation can assist them in maintaining market leadership long into the future."