Case Study: Addressing Opportunities and Risks – Smithfield Foods

At Smithfield Foods, an integral part of the business strategy is to operate as a vertically integrated company.  As a pork processor, that means managing the raw material supply by raising the hogs for processing. This provides opportunities in terms of the quality and quantity of hogs for processing but also provides risks in terms of proper care for the several million animals in hundreds of farm locations.

Smithfield built its sustainability program around the environment, employee health and wellness, food safety and quality, and community outreach.  It also became apparent that animal care was important from both a resource and reputational perspective. Programs for animal health, diet, and bio-security that would help ensure supply were well documented and managed. However, even though animal care and handling practices were generally in place, a fully documented program with specific procedures, requirements, accountability and training was not yet at a sufficient level to address all reputational risks.

The company developed programs based on a ‘plan, do, check, adjust’ process. Additionally, sustainability leaders created a policy with specific procedures and processes implemented to address the policy. Management and employees were trained where they had responsibilities and/or potential impact. Internal and external audits were integrated into the process. Stakeholders and subject matter experts participated to be sure that concerns and latest concepts were included. In addition, the effort included a response plan.

When a mistreatment, based on undercover video, was alleged, Smithfield was able to implement the response plan that was already in place and address the matter quickly and efficiently. Communication with customers and stakeholders took place in a timely and transparent fashion. Afterwards, the program was reviewed for potential improvement and recommendations implemented.

A situation that could have resulted in a significant negative impact on the company’s reputation resulted in a positive impact. The transparency, timeliness and completeness of the response and use of a sustainability program model in addressing opportunities and risks showed employees, customers and stakeholders that the company took sustainability seriously.

[This case study originally appeared in the GEMI Quick Guide on Cultivating Sustainability within an Organization]. 


Image source: Smithfield Foods


Case Study: Oyster Recovery Partnership – Perdue

Case Study: Oyster Recovery Partnership – Perdue

Perdue initiated its associate-level support for the Oyster Recovery Partnership (ORP) in 2009. The Oyster Recovery Partnership aligned with Perdue’s values especially its value of stewardship. ORP was making a concrete contribution to cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay by restoring the oyster populations that are the bay’s natural filters and the company’s chairman, Jim Perdue, was on their board. The company provides financial support to the partnership through the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, the company’s charitable giving arm. Most importantly, partnership created volunteer opportunities for associates to personally impact the oyster recovery efforts.

Jim Perdue, who has a Doctorate in Fisheries, is a personal champion of oyster recovery as a key to restoring the Chesapeake Bay. He has instilled in many associates an understanding of the importance of oyster recovery. His enthusiasm has encouraged associates to take ownership of recruiting volunteers, making it a true grassroots effort. These inspired associates sponsored and promoted family-friendly shell-bagging events, creating hands-on engagement opportunities. Internal promotion of the events, including photographs and video, helped drive additional employee awareness. Associates also appreciated that their efforts were going to a support a natural resource – the Chesapeake Bay – that they, as residents of the Bay region, value.

Since 2009, over 350 Perdue volunteers on Delmarva have filled more than 5,400 shell bags, which were, in turn, used by the Oyster Recovery Partnership to nurture spat (oyster larvae attached to shells), which were raised by community volunteers.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]

Case Study: Project Clean Stream – Perdue

Case Study: Project Clean Stream

Perdue has long supported the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay though corporate sponsorship and board involvement. Perdue pursued the partnership with the organization due to the Alliance’s experience in bringing together broad spectrums of stakeholders into collaborative efforts. In 2008, Perdue provided financial support for the Alliance’s Project Clean Stream, through a grant from the Arthur W. Perdue Foundation, and put out a call for associate volunteers on Delmarva (the Delmarva peninsula encompasses portions of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia).

The partnership’s first event was modest:  30 volunteers at a single site not far from Perdue’s corporate office in Salisbury, Maryland. The volunteers included the company’s Chairman and other senior leaders, who waded into the mucky shoreline of two local waterways collecting everything from cans and bottles to rusted bicycles and used car tires. Organizers shared photos of the event through company-wide communication channels.

Following the inaugural event, an effort led by associates expanded the program across Perdue facilities in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. When associates saw the opportunity to do something in their own communities, and of their own choosing, interest spread.

Project Clean Stream is now a company-wide event. Environmental managers at each location work with their local management teams to recruit volunteers. The Corporate Communication department identifies an individual on each team to report on the local results and provide photographs of the team. The communications team publishes the information on the company Intranet and Facebook page. As a result, there is now a friendly rivalry between locations to outdo each other and the volume and pounds of trash and debris collected from their local waterways continues to increase.

In 2014, more than 890 Perdue associates and family members harvested more than 74,000 pounds of trash and debris from 52 sites across nine states. Since 2008, more than 4,100 Perdue employees have collected more than a quarter million pounds of trash.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]

Case Study: FedEx Fuel Sense

Case Study: FedEx Fuel Sense

Fuel efficiency is a priority at FedEx. The FedEx Express aviation fuel management team strives to reduce fuel use and emissions while maintaining company standards regarding quality, customer service and safety.  Team members who work with FedEx aircraft adopt a fuel-efficient mindset and search out innovative ways to help the company save fuel. Over 40 different programs fall under the company’s Fuel Sense initiative.

The program’s mantra is straightforward: be the drop. This mindset and call to action reminds team members that one person, one action and one drop does make a difference. As a result, the company has saved 334 million gallons of jet fuel since launching the Fuel Sense initiative in 2007. This mindset also gives team members permission to believe that no idea is too small. Ideas can appear simple and logical, such as shutting down one engine while taxiing an aircraft between the ramp and the runway, or highly complex, such as developing new computer technology to optimize aircraft speed during travel.

FedEx relies on the insight and expertise of flight crews, dispatchers, aircraft mechanics, ramp personnel, engineers and analysts to identify opportunities on the ground and in the air. Teams evaluate the ideas, then planning and deployment across the network begins.

FedEx has learned several lessons as a result of undertaking this initiative, including:

  • Set common cross-divisional goals and language. This approach helped the Fuel Sense team enlist a large number of team members with various backgrounds and experience. This led to fuel-saving efforts that reached far deeper into the organization than if only a few managers had tried to solve the problem on their own.
  • Incremental wins open minds. The Fuel Sense initiative faced early resistance because the program challenged time-honored practices, such as always carrying de-icing fuel – even in good weather. A process was put in place, through a collaborative effort, to carry de-icing fuel only when ice was forecast. These early wins encouraged more team members to be a part of the solution.
  • Measure, monitor and promote savings. The team developed a simple report to monitor all initiatives. Key performance indicators help the team set goals, stay focused and maintain support from upper management. The Fuel Sense initiative now has champions at every level of the company.

[This case study was featured in the GEMI Quick Guide for Engaging Employees in Sustainability.]