How Stonyfield Farm is using SAP to measure its carbon footprint

How Stonyfield Farm is using SAP to measure its carbon footprint

As part of everyday business operations, Stonyfield Farm now calculates the carbon footprint for just about every product it makes -- the only U.S. company to take such a big step.

So far, it has calculated the footprint of 150 of its 200 products, while French food giant Danone Group, its parent company, is doing the same for its 35,000 products.

What's impressive about the process is that it covers the entire life cycle of every product, from raw material extraction to disposal at the end of its life.

This is possible because of groundbreaking software developed by SAP that tracks the actual amount of greenhouse gases produced throughout a product's life in real time.

When a production order is issued to make a products, SAP's software automatically goes into action, integrating carbon measurements into the daily production process.

The software automatically attaches carbon footprints to each material in the order. "The majority of our carbon footprint is in our raw ingredients. This tool allows us to see exactly where those emissions are, and to track targeted efforts to reduce them," explains Mary Fischer, Stonyfield's Carbon Master.

Every stage of manufacturing and distribution - including all suppliers - is thrown into the equation: raw material production, manufacturing, transportation of raw materials and finished products, storage by retailers and consumers, packaging and end-of-life disposal.

People from every department enter data into the software, such as procurement and logistics.

Watch this video to learn more about Stonyfield Farm's effort to measure its carbon footprint:

Stonyfield now has a clear idea of where emissions are generated. The majority comes from milk production (52 percent), followed by manufacturing (13 percent), packaging (10 percent), product distribution (8 percent), refrigeration in stores and homes (7 percent), transportation of ingredients and packaging (6 percent), non-milk ingredients (3 percent) and disposal (2 percent).

Stonyfield actually began measuring the company's carbon footprint in the early 1990s, focused on the energy that powers its factories. "In the late 1990s, we performed our first comprehensive carbon footprint. We were stunned to find out that milk production -- that is, on the farm -- was the single biggest part of our footprint," the company says.

Now, cross-functional employee teams work together to address each of the areas with the most environmental impact.
For milk production, for example, they have programs that reduce on-farm energy use, methane generated by manure, and emissions from feed production and even cows' digestive processes. Unexpectedly, not only has the program cut emissions, but also has significantly increased the nutritional value of milk.

"Until now, companies have typically reported a very limited amount of their actual greenhouse gases and have been unable to report the more challenging areas featured in Stonyfield's new software," says Wood Turner, Stonyfield's Vice President of Sustainability Innovation. "Now we‘re able to get an immediate understanding of the climate impact of every single ingredient in our products as they're made, which allows us to both react quickly toward reducing impact and adjust our approach to making a continually lower-impact yogurt."

Soon the software will go beyond carbon and measure the water footprint as well. 

"We hope that our footprinting work will provide a model for other companies to follow, and help lead to greater transparency in the food industry - something that is desperately needed in the U.S.,"says Fischer.

Since it began the process in 2008, Danone has cut emissions 30 percent. The company is consistently rated as one of the top companies on addressing climate change by Climate Counts.

Watch this webinar on Stonyfield's product carbon footprint journey.

Read about Stonyfield's progress here.   

This story is reprinted with permission from Sustainable Business.

Photo of Stonyfield Farms building provided by Mark Warner via Wikimedia Commons.