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Bringing well-being to the environment

Sustainable Materials Management

SunOpta has long understood the connection between strong environmental stewardship and strong financial performance. The company is focused on improving operating margins by using less energy and water in production facilities and partnering with recyclers to maximize the reclaimed value from waste products.

Key Performance Metrics

79% of waste from company manufacturing facilities diverted away from landfills, above the interim goal for 2016 of 60% waste diversion.
In 2015, carbon intensity increased 2.4% and water intensity increased 17% vs. 2014 compared to the goal of a 3% decrease in 2015 vs. 2014.

Sustainable Materials Management

In 2015, SunOpta partnered with Sonoco Recycling to develop and launch a sustainable materials management (SMM) program to improve its waste management practices. Through this partnership, SunOpta enhanced resource efficiency, identified new recycling streams and increased recycling of materials that were previously sent to landfill.

Diverting Waste from Landfill

To assess progress towards its 2020 goal of 90% waste diversion across all facilities, SunOpta set an interim goal of 60% waste diversion away from landfills by end of 2015. Working with Sonoco, SunOpta realized a waste diversion rate of 78% across facilities in North America. International facilities achieved a waste diversion rate of 96%, making the overall waste diversion rate across the company 79%.

Case Study: Recycling at Allentown, Penn.

In 2015, Sonoco conducted an audit of SunOpta's facility in Allentown, Pennsylvania to assess waste management practices and identify opportunities for further recycling as part of SunOpta's expansion at the facility.

In late 2015, Allentown installed a new aseptic line that created 240 tons of new waste streams. Sonoco Recycling installed a baler at the beginning of the aseptic production line that allows Allentown to recycle milk cartons, resulting in a cost avoidance of $14,000 compared to traditional means of handling such waste streams.

Since July 2015, Sonoco has recycled 326 tons of material including 313 tons of cardboard and 13 tons of plastic. Sonoco also identified initiatives to increase the value of cardboard recycling and divert trash from landfill using waste to energy resources, which may help Allentown further reduce landfill use.

Driving water and energy conservation

SunOpta believes that managing energy usage conserves natural resources, benefits the environment and enhances business performance. Over the past five years, SunOpta has reported separate intensity performance for its dry goods and fluid manufacturing operations. Going forward, SunOpta has decided to report combined carbon and water intensity performances for its operations in total. These results and 2008 baseline do not include divested businesses (including SunOpta's fiber and starch businesses which were sold in 2014) or newly acquired businesses in 2015. The number does include newly built or expanded facilities including SunOpta's new aseptic capabilities at its Allentown, Pennsylvania facility.

2015 Carbon Intensity Performance

SunOpta's carbon intensity for manufacturing operations increased by 2.4% in 2015 compared to 2014. This increase can be mostly attributed to the expansion at SunOpta's Allentown facility, which required significant energy inputs during start-up before the facility began producing commercial products at full scale. The company anticipates that once production increases in Allentown, it will realize an overall improvement in its carbon intensity performance. SunOpta's product mix has also changed dramatically since the 2008 base year, as the company shifts its business focus from raw materials to finished consumer packaged goods.

2015 Water Intensity Performance

SunOpta's water intensity increased by 17% in 2015 vs. 2014. This increase in intensity was mainly due increased usage of reverse osmosis water in aseptic production facilities (which is significantly more water intensive) and more frequent cleaning of equipment to further enhance product quality. These factors negated the benefits of water conservation projects implemented during the year at many of SunOpta's facilities.

Case Study: Conservation in action at Alexandria, Minn. ingredients facility

SunOpta recognizes the importance of resource conservation in its operations, especially as the company shifts its focus towards producing finished consumer goods. The operations team at SunOpta's ingredients facility in Alexandria, Minnesota implemented projects that helped save natural gas and water in 2015. These projects include:

  • Reinsulating a dryer to enhance heat retention capacity, reducing the amount of natural gas used during the heating process.
  • Chemically treating condensate return water from cleaning and drying equipment in non-food manufacturing operations, reducing water drawn from the well system by over five million gallons.

Carbon and Water Intensities in 2016

Despite SunOpta's efforts, carbon and water intensities increased vs. the 2008 baseline. This is mostly due to changes in product offerings over recent years, as part of a shift away from raw materials and towards consumer packaged products that require more processing and, as a result, consume more resources.

Given the changes to SunOpta's business portfolio and the transformative acquisition of Sunrise Growers in the latter half of 2015, SunOpta will reassess its baseline measures to ensure future reductions in water and carbon intensity are measured against a reasonable standard. At the same time, SunOpta will continue to work to identify and prioritize opportunities to reduce water and carbon intensity in all of its operations.