Imagine going through law school while working full-time and raising three sons. That’s exactly what Tom Raymond did to “balance his background and create more opportunities for growth.” These days, he’s doing a balancing act of a different nature: keeping Hormel Foods on the path to environmental excellence.
As director of environmental sustainability, Tom stands at the helm of the company’s concerted effort to do no harm and even leave the planet better than before, though he is loath to take credit.
“It’s not a Tom thing, it’s a Hormel Foods thing,” he says, deflecting words of praise for so many accomplishments of late. Everything from improving air quality in the company’s hometown of Austin, Minnesota, to setting and achieving rigorous sustainability goals, to helping to garner national recognition in the form of a top spot on Corporate Responsibility Magazine’s annual list of the 100 best corporate citizens in America has been achieved on his watch.
Manager of External Communications Kelly Braaten believes it is, in fact, “a Tom thing.” As the chair of the company’s Corporate Responsibility Council, she has worked closely with him for a number of years.
“Tom is extremely passionate about his role and protecting the environment,” she says. “His leadership, enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise in environmental sustainability are extraordinary. They go a long way toward keeping us on target.”
Tom came to Hormel Foods more than a decade ago, already holding multiple degrees. Years earlier, he began his college career as a chemistry major, adding environmental studies as a result of a brief conversation with someone he met at his job.
“Back in college, I was a security guard at a pulp-and-paper mill,” Tom recalls. “I happened to walk out with the environmental guy, who told me about paid internships in his area.”
Tom was intrigued enough to add a compendium of environmental courses to his schedule, a move that would lead to a master’s degree in environmental management and a starting point for a rewarding career.
After 10 years in heavy industry, he entered law school, not with the idea of earning the right to practice environmental law, but to expand upon what he was already doing at AlliedSignal, an aerospace, automotive and engineering company headquartered in Morristown, New Jersey. In 1999, the company acquired Honeywell and took the name. That brought about some changes in the organization’s structure.
That was right about the time Tom was in law school. He was a father of two sons when he started and three by the time he finished. His sister-in-law split child-care duties with the Raymonds. Tom’s wife, Lisa, worked as a surgical nurse and his sister-in-law was a part-time teacher while her husband was a medical resident. Together, the two families had five children.
How did they manage? “You have to find time to balance your priorities,” Tom says, adding that he would have never made it through law school if it weren’t for the support of his family.
He remained at Honeywell until 2005, the year he joined Hormel Foods as a senior environmental engineer. A native of central Minnesota, Tom’s relocation was a homecoming of sorts, though there was one drawback.
“I didn’t come back for the weather,” he laughs.
Perhaps, but harsh winters have done little to hold Tom back. He quickly emerged at Hormel Foods as a capable professional and an inspired leader, advancing to principal, manager and finally, director.
I’m here to be the primary cheerleader for the group. Environmental sustainability at Hormel Foods does not exist because of my job title.Tom Raymond, Director of Environmental Sustainability
“Under Tom’s leadership, the company has achieved outstanding results, such as meeting two of our 2020 environmental goals early,” Kelly says. “It will be exciting to see what we accomplish next.”
Tom is hard-pressed to pinpoint his proudest accomplishment, however.
“We’ve had so many as a company,” he says. “Our staff of professionals has done a lot of work to make sure our goals are met.” That said, Tom notes progress made in air quality, sustainability goals and sold-waste reduction.
“It is definitely a team effort,” he says, and one that must continue.
“There are going to be additional changes in the way that we use water, particularly in the food industry. We’re going to have to work through those issues,” he says. “Energy is another evolving frontier, with more renewable sources on the forefront.”
All of which means Tom won’t be slowing down anytime soon. Nor does he want to. “We’re going to look for more efficient ways to do things. Look for more efficient technology as a better way to run the business.”
While he and the team work on solutions, one thing is certain: Tom’s awareness of his role.
“I’m here to be the primary cheerleader for the group. Environmental sustainability at Hormel Foods does not exist because of my job title,” he says.