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Embracing Climate Stewardship: Announcing New Targets

J.K. Rose | December 7, 2023


The company joins international organizations and other leading businesses to set major climate goals.

Throughout the company’s history, Hormel Foods has continually looked for ways to reduce consumption of fuel, energy, water and materials. These efforts have not only generated a positive impact on the local environment and ecosystems surrounding the company’s facilities, but have also resulted in significant cost reductions, enhancing business value. In the last few decades, the motivation to reduce inputs and invest in renewable energy and energy efficiency has taken on new meaning as the growing threat of climate change has moved to the forefront of the global agenda.

To demonstrate leadership in the battle against climate change, Hormel Foods has joined more than 5,000 businesses taking action and is now releasing its first Science-Based Target, an ambitious set of goals for the company to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions across the value chain. The Science-Based Target initiative (SBTi) is a collaboration among the United Nations Global Compact (UNGC), the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the World Resources Institute (WRI) and the CDP joining efforts on a mission to mobilize the private sector to take urgent climate action.

With more than 20,000 employees, 40 manufacturing facilities and a presence in over 80 countries, Hormel Foods understands the influence the company has on planetary health, and acknowledges its responsibility to protect it.

The challenge requires a long-term perspective. Fortunately, long-term thinking is a core value of the 132-year-old company. The sustainability projects the company is pursuing today will not only improve the environment but create a stronger and more resilient company.

The Hormel Foods 20 By 30 Challenge is a set of ambitious goals in the areas of animal welfare, waste reduction, renewable energy, packaging innovation, community support and food security, among others. While the company has been championing carbon reduction and renewable energy goals for years, these new commitments require collaboration and innovation to identify efficiencies and solutions.

“There’s no doubt about it, the bar is raised in every sense,” says Tom Raymond, director of environmental sustainability at Hormel Foods.

The Global Challenge

On its face, a temperature rise of 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) seems like an inconsequential number. Going about your day, you’d never notice such a tiny upward shift. But climate scientists have warned that a 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature is a tipping point for our planet.

The earth has already warmed at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since the Industrial Revolution and the reliance on fossil fuels as an energy source. If our planet warms by just another 0.4 degrees Celsius, climatologists warn, the extreme weather we’ve seen in recent years, including record-setting floods, droughts, fires and hurricanes, will become increasingly common.

Under the SBTi framework, Hormel Foods is pledging to reduce absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50% from operations and 27.5% across its supply chain by 2030. The work by the Hormel Foods team leading up to the announcement of the goals has helped to identify efficiency opportunities, stay ahead of future environmental regulations and inspire confidence in increasingly eco-conscious customers and investors. “Science-based targets are quickly becoming the industry expectation and not the exceptional practice,” Raymond says.

Reduction in absolute GHG
from all operations by 2030
Reduction in GHG emissions
across the Hormel Foods supply chain by 2030

GHG Emission Scopes

The Greenhouse Gas Protocol categorizes emissions into three scopes:

  • Scope 1 emissions are direct emissions from company-owned or company-controlled resources, such as manufacturing and live production facilities.
  • Scope 2 emissions are indirect emissions from electricity purchased from power facilities.
  • Scope 3 emissions are indirect emissions from a wide variety of sources including suppliers, employee travel and customer use of products. For many companies, Scope 3 emissions make up the bulk of their carbon footprint and are the most challenging to address.

“There are a lot of roads on this part of the journey that are not clearly paved out and marked,” Raymond says. “We’re going to have to be very creative about how we guide the organization through this.” Usually fierce competitors across the food and protein industry have joined together to share information on best practices as they fight climate change.

Powered by Renewables

Hormel Foods has already made great strides in reaching its environmental targets. One of the company’s 20 By 30 Challenge goals is to match 100% of its electricity use with renewable sourcing. In 2022, the company achieved 100% renewable sourcing for its domestic electricity use. Hormel Foods has solar energy projects at multiple locations, including a 1.75-megawatt solar array at the Jennie-O turkey plant in Montevideo, Minn., a 1-megawatt solar array at the Corn Nuts plant in Fresno, Calif., and a 1.2-megawatt solar array at its Swiss American Sausage factory in Lathrop, Calif. And it is investing in large-scale wind farms in Texas and Nebraska to provide clean energy to its operations.

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The company was recently recognized for its clean-energy initiatives by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as a recipient of the 2023 Green Power Leadership Award as well as the market development award from CRS, the Center for Resource Solutions, for building and growing the voluntary market for green power. In 2023, Hormel Foods ranked No. 26 on EPA’s National Top 100 List of the largest green power users from the Green Power Partnership (GPP) for the first time, as well as No. 20 on EPA’s list of Green Power Partners that are part of the Fortune 500®.

Toward Regenerative Agriculture

Regenerative agriculture is also a focal point for the company as it plays an important role in mitigating climate change and building resilience in agricultural ecosystems. “One of our primary strategies is to continue supporting regenerative farming and ranching practices,” Raymond says. The company is the lead sponsor of a 50,000-acre project in Minnesota that is helping farmers accelerate adoption of regenerative agricultural practices such as cover cropping, reduced tillage and nutrient management designed to improve soil health and biodiversity and reduce agricultural runoff. The ultimate goal is to store massive amounts of carbon in healthy earth. The Hormel Foods brand Applegate continues to expand its programs to scale regenerative agriculture in partnership with farmers, and through cross-sector collaborations.

As we face the daunting challenges of feeding a growing global population while protecting the planet, we believe advancing regenerative agriculture practices is a smart and responsible choice.

Mark Coffey, Group Vice President of Supply Chain

Sustainable Packaging Solutions

Packaging is another focus. In 2022 alone, Hormel Foods reduced packaging by more than 1.5 million pounds by using less plastic, lighter cardboard and by incorporating recycled materials. This improvement builds on the company’s previous goal to reduce product packaging by 25 million pounds by 2020, which it surpassed in 2019. The company is also making more sustainability efforts through customer outreach. New product labels contain prominent information on how to properly recycle containers, under the industry initiative How2Recycle.

The Hormel Foods commitment to climate stewardship is a multi-faceted approach, from investing in renewables to reducing packaging material and scaling regenerative agriculture, among many other initiatives. These efforts all converge toward a singular objective: to decouple the company’s growth from environmental impact and build a resilient and sustainable legacy for generations to come.