Campbell Heats Up Green Energy Plans

Campbell Heats Up Green Energy Plans

2014-06-05 09:13:24.917 GMT

 By Siobhan Wagner

     June 5 (Bloomberg New Energy Finance) -- Campbell Soup Co.

hopes about a third of the electricity powering the machines that cook signature products like its chicken noodle soup will be sourced from renewable energy within two years.

     Currently, about 8 to 12 percent of the power consumed by Campbell comes from renewables, depending on whether projects like its biogas digester and solar arrays are running at full capacity, Dave Stangis, vice president of corporate sustainability, said.

     Renewables’ share of the company’s electricity use will increase to more than 30 percent by end of July 2016, assuming several more projects come online, he said. Camden, New Jersey- based Campbell has a working agreement with a development company to install solar panels at five locations, wind turbines at three sites and two new digester/generator projects.

     Stangis said the company’s “sustainability super star” is its Napoleon, Ohio soup plant. Campbell partnered with CH4 Biogas LLC to build, across the street from the facility, Ohio’s first commercial biogas power plant, which went live at the end of last year.

     “The biogas digester is a win-win-win across the board,”

Stangis told Clean Energy & Carbon Brief.

     “Not only is that going to help our renewable [goals], it runs 24 hours a day, unlike solar. It accepts waste from us, so our waste recycling rate at that plant will go up to 95 percent.

It also accepts waste from local farmers and other food producers.”

     The biogas power plant is adjacent to a 60-acre, 9.8- megawatt solar system constructed by BNB Renewable Energy Holdings for Campbell in 2011. This already provides 15 percent of power for Campbell’s Napoleon facility.

Q: You are thinking a lot about onsite renewable energy. Yet, some food manufacturers I have spoken with have said that their operations represent just a small part of their overall carbon footprint, suggesting that investing in renewable energy isn’t a top priority for their sustainability agenda. Your response?

 A: We take a look at [emission reductions] across our whole value chain, from sustainable agriculture all the way to production, packaging and to the consumer. Even though our manufacturing footprint may be smaller than our agricultural footprint, there are opportunities everywhere.

Q: What’s Campbell’s business case for investing in onsite renewable energy?

 A: One of the things I try to do for Campbell is look at [sustainability and corporate responsibility] as business strategies. What is the right thing for our business from the perspective of a license to operate, the cost of operations, the time to market, innovation, even employee engagement? The business case for renewables cuts across a lot of those, but these projects save the company money. They take out fluctuations of price changes in energy. We know [the cost of] energy is going to increase over time. We can lock in a rate over an extended period. These are projects that make business sense on their own. We don’t have to do too much in terms of making the business case anymore.

Q: Do you install your own onsite renewable energy projects or is this handled through power purchase agreements?

A: All of the projects that we have today including the 60-acre solar field and 24,000 panels in Napoleon, Ohio have power purchase agreements. We’ve committed to buy 100 percent of the energy from these projects. Even the brand new waste-to-energy biogas digester in Ohio is set up in the same way. It’s a 20- year commitment.

Q: You seem really proud about the Napoleon, Ohio plant…

 A:Napoleon is turning out to be our sustainability super star.

It’s probably the largest soup plant in the world and it’s where we’re able to make some of the greatest impacts in our business through some of these projects.

 Q: You have a goal to cut greenhouse gas emissions per metric ton of product by 50 percent by 2020. How much have you cut so far?

 A: What we wanted to do at Campbell is to really prove the point that we could grow the company and not automatically grow our environmental footprint. We reported this commitment in 2010 and we used 2008 as our baseline year. We have made so far a little over a 16 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions per ton of product produced. Last year we had a 4.4 percent year-over- year reduction. We’re going to have to continue to drive a lot of the great thinking and creativity and innovation that has been going on [to meet the 2020 goal]. Nothing is off the table:

this could range from refrigeration upgrades, re-using the heat and the energy that we put in the water in the cooking, HVAC [heating, ventilation, and air conditioning] systems, lighting upgrades, everything is on the table. The other thing we’ve done is asked ourselves: What can we do in sustainable agriculture?

We have recently taken new commitments around reducing greenhouse gases in our key five vegetable ingredients: celery, potatoes, jalapenos, tomatoes and carrots.

Q: Do you think investors in your company care about your sustainability efforts?

A: I can tell you first hand many do. I manage our relationships with sustainable investors and social investors. They really do see this as a proxy for good management and more. When companies are paying attention to things we’re talking about, they view it as a company that is looking to the future and making smart business decisions for the long term. I think the mainstream investors, the ones that are just paying attention to the bottom line, are even starting to think about some of these issues:

whether it’s from a materiality standpoint, in how the companies are being prepared, or from a how agile, how fast, how quick and how creative are these companies in their thinking.


 Siobhan Wagner is an editor with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.