Nurturing Nature

 

 

The success of our business is intertwined with responsible stewardship of nature, the source of our products and profits.

 
 

Peach flowers in our orchard in Modesto, California

 

The success of our business is intertwined with responsible stewardship of nature, the source of our products and profits. As such, we continuously build on our agro knowledge and experience, and communicate our Environmental Policy to our stakeholders as we support resource-efficient processes to enhance our environmental footprint.

Our environmental management system (EMS) sets out rigorous guidelines and processes to ensure that our facilities meet the highest standards of environmental performance, every day. Our programme is based on the ISO standard 14001. We view full compliance with all applicable regulations as a minimum goal, and strive to exceed industry standards across our operations.

Del Monte has an excellent track record in maintaining compliance with all applicable environmental regulations. We conduct in-house audits for all our US-based facilities at least once every three years.

We maintain a written Environmental Policy that is updated periodically to reflect new advances in best practice and to better serve the Company’s operating needs. This policy is posted in our facilities, communicated to facility management, and also incorporated into training for environmental and operations staff.

Our environmental team remains on the cutting edge of environmental management by being active in industry and governmental forums, and by taking leadership roles in local, regional, and national environmental organisations.

In the Philippines, our Carbon Footprint is negative, implying that our operations are eco-friendly. We employ best practices to monitor and continuously improve our overall Carbon Footprint.

 
 

Fry Zucchini harvest in Goshen, California

 

Agricultural Practices in the USA

Partnering with Growers

Del Monte contracts with 900 farmers across North America, and about 90% of the food we produce is grown in the US. Our crops are locally sourced and travel less than an average of 100 miles from the field to the manufacturing gate, and an average of 350 miles from distribution centre to retailer. Many growers are 3rd generation Del Monte growers, especially in fruit where we have families that have grown for Del Monte for over 70 years. Tomato growers have somewhat shorter tenure, but many have grown for 30 plus years. Vegetable growers have been with our Company in excess of 20 years, with less than two percent turnover year-to-year.

Our Company is unique compared to our competitors in that we have our own dedicated agricultural Seed Operations research team. This team carefully selects those plants that exhibit desirable traits to produce stronger crops through traditional breeding techniques. Seeds for peas, beans, corn, and spinach are ones that originate from varieties that we have bred to exhibit beneficial characteristics such as high yield, hardiness, and pest-resistance which in turns reduces the overall environmental footprint. The Seed Operations team provides growers with the majority of our seeds for certain crops, including peas; Blue Lake, Romano, and wax beans; corn; and spinach where we are able to yield more common cases per acre for our corn and green beans. For example, the yield per common case of corn was 43% greater from 2000 vs 2014.

Lastly, we are an avid participant in the Stewardship Index for Specialty Crops, a multi-stakeholder organization piloting on-farm metrics with growers to track and monitor agricultural inputs to drive continuous improvement and gained efficiencies.

 
 

Grape plantation in Earlimart, California

 

Reducing Fertilizer Use

Our growers apply fertilizer to crops to ensure that the plants receive enough nutrients to grow vigorously and produce abundant yields. Too much fertilizer, however, can be worse than not enough: in many crops, excess nutrients can lead to lush vegetative growth and reduced crop yields. Fertilizers can also leach into groundwater, or wash off with the rain into nearby waterways, entering polluting streams and causing problems such as algae growth. Finally, synthetic fertilizers are often based on petroleum—an expensive and non-renewable resource.

Given the environmental risks and operating costs associated with improper or excessive fertilizer use, our research teams coordinate with our growers to identify the optimal amount of fertilizer suitable for the specific varieties grown. We have found that some crops need much less fertilizer to flourish than expected. For example, over the past several years, our pea and green bean growers have reduced fertilizer application by upwards of 25 percent over 50,000 acres. Although rising fertilizer costs contributed to this decision, Del Monte research also showed the crops would do as well or better with less fertilizer.

 
 
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Pea plantation in Minnesota

 

Reducing Pesticide Use

We have helped growers apply the principles of Integrated Pest Management (IPM) to minimize the amount of pesticides used to control insects, other pests, and crop diseases. IPM is a common-sense approach to pest control where Del Monte field staff and growers closely monitor crop conditions by field scouting, pheromone traps and use cultural tools to help avoid situations that could contribute to pest outbreaks.

By limiting pesticide use, we reduce the potential for contaminated runoff from fields, protect the health of farm workers, prevent the destruction of beneficial insects and other field organisms, and ultimately decrease the chance that any pesticide residue remains on the crop when it is harvested and processed.

We have participated in a number of IPM-related partnerships and initiatives to share knowledge and best practices:

  • Charter member and active participant in the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Environmental Stewardship Programme (PESP)
    • Board member of the National Foundation for IPM Education
    • Partner in the California Pear Pest Management Research Fund, which has funded more than US$2 million in IPM and sustainability research
    • Lead Processor in the Pew Centre for Agricultural Partnerships (CAP) Northwest Pear Initiative
    • Participate in the IR-4 programme to evaluate alternative and safer pesticides for use on minor acreage crops.
    • In 2007, Del Monte’s Dr. Brian Flood co-edited the definitive text on IPM in Midwest vegetables titled Vegetable Insect Management. The principles outlined in the book apply to both disease and weed pests and serve as a constant reference for our pest management team.
    • Partner with seed companies on finding successful downy mildew resistance. Over 300 plots are put in annually to screen for natural resistance of this fungal disease that has affected peas.
    • Annual meeting with Seedway, a commercial vegetable seed supplier to evaluate carrot varieties on disease resistance, yield potential, growth and canning characteristics to best suit our needs.
    • We work with the University of Wisconsin Madison on herbicide trials for beets and impacts of insecticides on pollinators.
 
 
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Peach orchard in Linden, California

 

Increasing Crop Density

Del Monte researchers are investigating increased crop density as a way to increase yield per acre while cutting pesticide and fertilizer use. High-density agriculture requires significant investment in research. Growers must also switch to new equipment that can accommodate closely spaced plants. The potential benefits with regard to resource and cost savings, however, are also significant. We continue to explore the possibility of rolling out high-density techniques to other crops.

 
 
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Irrigating our pea farm in Wisconsin

 

Optimising Irrigation

Our growers use various irrigation systems to supplement natural rainfall and ensure a steady and reliable water supply for their crops. We are mindful that in many parts of the country, water scarcity is a real and pressing environmental concern. We work with our growers in implementing the least water-intensive cultivation methods possible.

We recently embarked on a new irrigation optimisation project with other food processors and the California Tomato Growers Association. The initiative focuses optimising water use while maintaining crop productivity, thus lessening the strain on drought-stricken regions of the state. To date, over 98 percent of our 25 tomato growers located in California utilise drip irrigation.

 
 
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Pineapple harvesting operations in Bukidnon, Philippines

 

Agricultural Practices in the Philippines

The foundation of our sustainable agriculture practices is efficient land use, carried on from our pioneers who started farming in 1926 in areas where no forests in the Philippines were cleared to give way to pineapple fields. Additional land acquired later by our pioneers were already cultivated to other crops. Today, pineapple is the fifth major farm produce in the Philippine province where we continue to farm, after corn, rice, sugar cane and banana. Pineapple fields account for five percent of the province’s agricultural land area of 375,000 hectares or about two percent of its total land area of 1.04 million hectares.

Across 91 years of operations, our land use practices are mainly aimed at improving plantation yield through ecologically friendly land preparation, plant disease management and chemical application; efficient water sourcing and drainage; and use of sustainable planting materials.

We installed soil conservation measures in pineapple fields implemented by crop growing units for better soil and drainage management, deepen and install auxiliary canals and silting basins specially designed for each field and planted trees along river easement near pineapple fields. Furthermore, our agricultural team conducted soil erosion study and created a soil conservation manual. We also reinforced technical competency through continuous training and education on soil management to reduce soil erosion in our plantation.

During the business fiscal year, our plantation experienced El Nino weather phenomenon that affected the Group’s crop yield. To counter this weather condition, the Group implemented continuity plans, programmes and initiatives to mitigate these effects.

With better fruit quality and greater operational efficiency, we have initiated programmes to minimise waste, improve efficiencies in electricity and water consumption; increase usage of recycled but viable packaging materials; measure production efficiencies via 5S, Total Productive Maintenance and 6 Sigma; enhance the health and well-being of our workforce and their families; and ensure compliance of our service providers with local labour laws.

Our agricultural teams work closely with local farmers to adopt agronomic measures that can mitigate adverse consequences of crop agriculture on soil and water conservation. Responsible farming focuses on sustainable crop cultivation and efficient drainage systems, with innovative as well as tried-and-tested practices, including minimising buildup of surface water during heavy rain, and positioning grass strips at strategic points to slow down waterflow.

Following local government regulations, the Group has not expanded its farmed areas in the Philippines. The Group’s biggest leased landholdings remains under the collective ownership of the Del Monte Employees Agrarian Reform Cooperative, a cooperative among the Group’s employees organised in 1988 under the Philippine Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Programme. The Group fully cooperates with agrarian reform beneficiaries and the Philippine Department of Agrarian Reform towards efficient implementation of CARP. Other landholdings are leased by the Group from lawful landowners by virtue of their respective ownership or stewardship documents as attested by concerned government agencies.

Our plantation in the Philippines received its first Global GAP (Good Agricultural Practices) certification, further affirming a management system focused on Food Safety, Worker’s Health and Safety, Environmental Protection and Conservation of Wildlife. Global GAP is a globally-recognised private sector body that sets voluntary standards for agricultural products. Our pack house for fresh fruits was certified ISO 9001:2008 for growing, harvesting and packing of fresh fruits by SGS United Kingdom Ltd Systems and Services Certification body.

Our participation in the Global GAP certification process was voluntary, and was a strategic response to customers calling for safe food worldwide. A Philippine GAP certificate issued by the Philippine Department of Agriculture in the Philippines in 2010 also attests that our farms grow, pack and distribute fresh produce in conformance with international standards on food safety and quality.

 
 
 

The generator sets for the waste-to-energy facility in Philippines

Energy Efficiency

In the United States, as early as 2009 solar panels began generating renewable energy at our primary tomato production facility in Hanford, California. We installed 6400 solar panels covering over 122,473 feet and producing 1.8 MM kWh – equal to more than 8 percent of total electricity requirements during non-pack season. The solar panel installation at our Hanford facility has enabled us to become members of the EPA Green Power Programme. As a result of these efforts, Del Monte received the 2011 Greenhouse Reduction Award from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) and the Industrial Environmental Association (IEA). This Award recognises companies that display environmental excellence in their operations.

Our Modesto Plant serves as an example of a facility that implemented multiple initiatives to reduce its energy consumption. In ongoing continuous improvement efforts, the plant installed a combined heat and power system, selective catalytic reduction unit, condensing economizer, and backpressure turbine generator to its boiler system. These upgrades cut natural gas use by 20 percent. Lighting, compressed air, and other electric efficiency upgrades also reduced energy use by 12 percent. We have a company-wide programme dedicated to implementing condensing economizers to improve heat recovery and steam system efficiency. As of 2012, 50 percent of our facilities utilize this technology, and we continue to expand this programme across our other facilities.

DMFI began utilizing one type of energy efficiency equipment in 2001. This equipment helps us capture waste heat from boilers and reuse it in other plant processes. Six facilities installed "condensing boiler stack economizers" to use hot exhaust gases from boilers to preheat water in a heat-exchanger system. This process improves the operating efficiency of the boilers by up to 12 percent, reducing the amount of natural gas needed to run the boilers by the same percentage.

We continue to evaluate which facilities are good candidates for installing additional condensing economizers. Among the factors we consider are whether the extra production of hot water at the plant would be beneficial, whether similar results could be obtained through other (less costly) means, and whether the new equipment costs make sense given overall facility fuel consumption patterns. Currently, we are installing condensing economizers at two additional plants.

We will continue to seek out energy reduction opportunities across all our facilities and invest in the improvements that collectively reduce both our air emissions, including greenhouse gases (GHGs), and our operating costs. Our Company continually assesses our investment opportunities in renewable energy solutions at each of our facilities.

We track “total network miles” as a way to determine the success of our efforts to reduce the distance our finished products travel between processing plant and store. Since 2015, we have eliminated 2.3 million miles (the equivalent of approximately 390,000 gallons of diesel fuel) from our distribution network through a variety of initiatives.

In Mindanao Philippines, power supply has been an issue for operating companies there. Power interruption causes businesses to cease operation and losses pile up most especially food products.

Responding to this challenge and the global clamour for the use of renewable energy, Del Monte embarked on a Renewable Energy project that produces bio-gas using the Cannery Wastewater. More significantly, cleansed water discharged at coastal waters of Macajalar Bay remains at BOD levels below mandated government food production industries.

This Plant supports our Company’s long-range Business Plan for increased production which ensures 100% wastewater treatment, and serves as a shield against unstable power supply and power cost increases. This plant will take over the job done by an equally eco-effective but power-intensive aerobic treatment plant.

This plant highlights our commitment to environmental stewardship on reduction of our greenhouse gas emissions (GHG), recycling while enhancing our business competitiveness through reduced energy costs.

 
 
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Tomato factory in Hanford, California

 

Water Efficiency

Our plants use water for tasks such as washing and sanitising fruits and vegetables, thermally processing our canned products, and sanitising equipment. To the extent possible, we capture and reuse water within the plant. We recycle our can cooling water and, through heat exchangers, use it to preheat our boiler feed water in most of our facilities. By doing so, we reduce the amount of new water needed and also reduce our energy needs.

Water discharged from our facilities is sent to various destinations based on the quantity of water and whether it requires treatment to remove contaminants before it can be returned to the environment.

Given all that we do, we do understand the current risks associated with water supply and quality. We operate and contractually grow food in seven states where water availability may be in jeopardy. Our water risks include:

  • Fresh water shortages due to drought and pressures on limited surface and groundwater supplies. Increased drought may pose a particular risk to our water supplies in Mexico, California, Texas (the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer), and Wisconsin (the Central Wisconsin Sand and Gravel Aquifer) near term as well as longer term (over the next 15-45 years).
  • New regulatory restrictions on fresh water use and grey water discharges
  • Reputational damage if issues of sustainable and equitable water use are not properly addressed
  • Increasing costs and/or reduced revenues due to all of the above risks

We also understand in order to decrease the risks, we need to:

  • Invest in technologies to improve water conservation
  • Encourage business culture to make saving water a daily priority
  • Reuse and/or recycle water in operations as many times as possible before discharging to grey water
  • Improve the quality of grey water discharges through source point pollution control and new raw product processing methods that discharge less pollutants of concern

Work with growers to encourage the use of more water-efficient irrigation systems and techniques to use less water.

 
 
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Waste-clean up drive in the pineapple plantation in the Philippines

 

Waste Management

In the United States, we are currently benchmarking our waste management practices and specifically comparing landfilling to recycling rates to ensure that we are managing our waste streams in the most efficient manner possible. We instituted a “Ner0 Landfill” policy where we aim to divert up to 98 percent from reaching the landfill based on the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Reduction Hierarchy.

For over four years, we have been actively involved in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (a collaborative effort between the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Food Marketing Institute, and National Restaurant Association). We research food waste in our supply chains and identify where/how we can make a difference by learning from each other and receiving guidance from European entities, environmental organisations and industry-related firms. We were featured in the FWRA’s Member Spotlight in April 2016.

Less than 3% of the total waste generated at production facilities, distribution centres, and research locations went to a landfill. We supplied local farmers with approximately 290,000 tons of organic material for animal feed and 54,000 tons for land application purposes.

Our Walnut Creek Research Centre (WCRC) in California received a “RecycleSmart” Award from the Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority for our food waste recovery efforts. The WCRC diverts the food and packaging materials of the unused food by the manual opening of pallets of un-donatable packaged food, recycles the container and sends the food to compost for energy as part of a local restaurant programme, Food Recycling Project. Our WCRC is also certified as a Bay Area Green Business due to its efforts to conserve water, energy and waste, implement eco-friendly materials and engaging employees in conservation behaviour best practices.

In the Philippines, our pineapple pulp waste disposal system, a pioneering effort started in the 1950s, converts a by-product of the cannery into feed for our cattle farm at the plantation. This helps us reduce waste and cut costs.

We operate effluent treatment plants that treat wastewater discharged from our agro-industrial facilities. Our high-filtration extraction system processes excess juice into pineapple concentrate and syrup, significantly reducing volume of wastewater.

Plantation-based families share in our total conservation effort as they segregate domestic solid waste right in their own homes. Recyclable materials collected from households are sold to fund community projects.

 
 
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Our R&D employee adhering to strict quality standards

 

Responsible Use of Materials

We work with suppliers and community organisations to ensure a safe environment for our workers and host communities. We comply with government standards in the use of fertilizers and industrial chemicals, including safe transport and handling, and collection and recovery of packaging materials. We conduct regular safety audits on our fertilizer and chemical storage and work areas. A Supplier Quality Management programme and product traceability measures are in place to respond to customer requirements. Audit results are shared with concerned teams to ensure deficiencies are immediately addressed. Workers handling chemicals are issued protective equipment and undergo regular medical check-ups.

Del Monte products carry with them a pledge of freshness and quality—that the products we bring to the table will consistently deliver delicious, flavourful, and healthful nutrition. Part of the reason we can guarantee such high quality is our attention to product packaging. We devote significant effort to good packaging design to ensure that we meet the basic packaging criteria, but that we also use the least amount of materials and resources to package our products.

While Del Monte’s innovations are focused on new products, new packages and meeting consumer needs, they also target environmental consciousness and affordability. By reducing the amount of materials used in Del Monte packaging everyone wins. Less packaging materials used means a lower carbon footprint for Del Monte’s overall operations, and associated greenhouse gases emitted are lessened. Del Monte has been on a multi-year journey to safely reduce: the amount of metal used in our cans, the amount of plastic in our cups, and the amount of corrugate in our cases. Since 2009, Del Monte in the USA has reduced the amount of packaging by almost 15%, which equates to a reduction of about 20,000 tons of packaging materials. By using state of the art testing and simulation techniques, Del Monte’sengineers continue to design the most lightweight materials required to meet their required function. 

Our focus on packaging efficiency has significant benefits all along our production chain. Even slight adjustments to individual containers can result in big savings of materials, energy, and fuel when considered over millions of units. Reductions in secondary packaging can also significantly minimise waste during shipping.

One project of the Del Monte Foundation is to use recycled wood from Del Monte Philippines’ Cannery, to fabricate 900 classroom chairs for 12 public schools and 50 sets of kiddie tables and chairs for day care centres and pre-schools in 10 towns where the company grows its pineapples. It also continued its partnership with Manolo Fortich and Libona in the production of armchairs for which the local government units provide labour and other materials.

 
 
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Tree planting activities by Del Monte employees

 

Green Initiatives

Under our new sustainability framework, we have significantly enhanced our stakeholder advocacy programme for environmental conservation. While our carbon footprint remains within global standards, many initiatives were undertaken during the year to reduce process residues, strengthen energy conservation in all worksites and plantation homes, and explore more efficient energy sources.

Through the participation of about 600 volunteers, including Foundation programme beneficiaries, and the support of local communities, about 15,000 trees were planted by the Foundation in various municipalities this year. Seedlings planted came from local farmers’ nurseries supported by the Foundation.

The Foundation continued its pledged donation of 10,000 indigenous tree seedlings to the Xavier University Science Foundation to help rehabilitate Mt. Kalatungan in Bukidnon. This brought the cumulative donation of the Foundation to 20,000 seedlings which were all planted and cared for by an Indigenous People group.

Finally, the Foundation was able to implement its agro-forestry project in Libona. The project aimed to help reforest Mt. Kitanglad while at the same time provide livelihood to the IP’s residing in the protected mountain. To prevent them from cutting down trees, the Foundation organized the IP community to plant coffee and bamboo and care for the trees until these bear fruit. The initial 5,000 trees are now in their growing stage. The project is being implemented in partnership with the Municipal Agriculturist Office of Libona, the DENR through the Protected Area Management Board and the LGU of Sil-ipon.

Our cannery employee volunteers conducted its annual coastal clean-up of the shoreline of Macajalar Bay, one of Mindanao’s largest bays and home to many marine species.

These green initiatives are geared towards a more sustainable environment and fulfilling our duty as stewards to nourish our resources, enrich biodiversity, everyday!

 
 

Del Monte Foods’ efforts to save the Karner Blue butterfly in the States

 

Karner Blue Butterfly Habitat

The Karner blue butterfly is a threatened species in Wisconsin. It relies exclusively on wild lupine as its food source. Unfortunately, lupine is a prairie wildflower whose range has declined precipitously as agriculture has expanded into prairie lands. Del Monte partnered with the Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection over a five-year period to grow lupine at the Company's research farm in Plover, Wisconsin. We distributed seeds from the lupine to volunteers for planting to spread the distribution of this native wildflower and support the resurgence of the Karner blue butterfly in its natural range. Read more about the Karner blue butterfly and habitat restoration efforts at: http://dnr.wi.gov/

Beneficial insect conservation is another project Del Monte participates in. We planted a mixture of milkweed and lupine seed in the dry corners of our research field to provide habitat for beneficial insects and pollinators. Many of our growers also participate in county funded programmes to put in windbreaks to aid against wind erosion.

As part of our participation in the SYSCO Sustainable Programme we work with producers to establish and maintain pollinator habitat on and near their farms and also maintain field edge buffer zones to aid in erosion control and off target movement of pesticides.