Sustainability efforts pay off for Sunny Delight's business
Report charts goals, gains on environment
BLUE ASH — An $85 million investment in new production equipment to improve efficiency, and a significant reduction in the calorie count for its beverages are two of the highlights of Sunny Delight Beverage Co.’s efforts to improve the health of the environment over the past year.
The company’s fifth annual sustainability report features the beverage maker’s ambitious goals and its significant progress in attaining previous years’ goals as it announced achievements such as a 3 percent reduction in water use per unit, a 17 percent reduction in energy use, and a 10 percent reduction in carbon footprint per unit. In addition, the new investment in production efficiency helped boost company revenue 3 percent, says Ellen Iobst, Sunny Delight’s senior vice president of manufacturing and technology and its chief sustainability officer.
Iobst says the production improvements completed in 2012 are the most comprehensive the company has ever undertaken and helped to update technology that was as much as 60 years old.
She says the company is also pleased to have reduced the calorie count in its beverages from an average of 92 in 2007 to 48 today.
“Socially, we need to be taking care of the communities where we do business and our employees,” she says. “This is a way to help alleviate the obesity epidemic.”
Sunny Delight has set goals in three sustainability areas: environmental, economic and social. The company has achieved measurable results in all three, Iobst says.
The environmental attainments include reducing packaging material by 24 million pounds, improving shipping efficiency by shipping loads on trucks more than 90 percent full and using fuel-efficient and natural gas-burning carriers. A redesign of its gallon-sized bottles to a more square shape also improved shipping efficiency by packing more tightly and eliminating wasted space. The company achieved zero-waste manufacturing three years ago and has a goal of a zero-waste headquarters by 2015.
Also as part of its environmental efforts, the company has teamed with its bottle makers to bring the bottle manufacturing process to its juice manufacturing plants or within a short distance to help eliminate the need to transport the bottles to its plants.
Its economic achievements include maintaining its position as one of the fastest-growing beverage companies in the world and introducing drinks that are nearly 50 percent lower in calories. This initiative has also lowered sugar in 99 percent of the company’s beverages and includes smaller portion sizes with fortified nutrition for school children. In its efforts to help consumers understand calories and nutrition, the company was one of the first to list calorie and nutrition information on the front of packaging.
Socially, the company has partnered with groups such as Keep Cincinnati Beautiful to help launch recycling programs in local schools; has started health and fitness initiatives with employees; and has worked with professional organizations such as the Alliance for Innovation and Operational Excellence to help set sustainability standards for companies in its industry.
“They’re unselfish in their commitment to this goal,” says Steve Schlegal, managing director of the Alliance for Innovation and Operational Excellence in Washington, D.C. “They really provide the talent and the time to raise all boats. This (sustainability) is not a buzz word for them. It’s become culturally ingrained in who they are.”
Barb Wriston-Ruddy, program manager of education at Keep Cincinnati Beautiful, says Sunny Delight has been involved not only in funding recycling programs within about a half-dozen area schools, its employees have also personally gotten involved in the project.
“They’ve worked side by side with us,” she says. “They are willing to get in there and get their hands dirty. I think that makes them unique.”
Sunny Delight still has some lofty goals on its list for the future, including reducing water and energy use and its overall carbon footprint by 25 percent by the year 2015, according to its report.
Iobst often refers to this anonymous Native American quote when talking about the reasons behind Sunny Delight’s sustainability program: “We do not inherit the earth from our ancestors. We borrow it from our children.”
“That pretty much sums it up,” she says.