Magazine article Management Today

Green Business Awards 2008: Best Consumer Goods or Retail Company - Winner McCain Foods

Magazine article Management Today

Green Business Awards 2008: Best Consumer Goods or Retail Company - Winner McCain Foods

Article excerpt

As the UK's largest producer of frozen chips, McCain Foods is one of the most recognisable consumer brands on the market.

The family-owned firm aims to put sustainability at the heart of its business and has engaged in long-term efforts to support British agriculture and to continually focus on its impact on society and on the environment. In 2007, McCain launched major investments in renewable energy at one of its manufacturing plants, resulting in a reduction of 7,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide in six months. The company is continuing to explore further opportunities for eco-innovation and aims to demonstrate that manufacturing and the environment can co-exist.

Operating under the premise that 'good ethics is good business', McCain has long recognised the value of forging relationships with local farmers and suppliers. Today, it is British potato farmers' single largest customer, purchasing 12% of the country's annual crop.

In 2007, the company enhanced this commitment by taking steps to improve manufacturing processes and the transport of its goods. In particular, McCain launched two major renewable-energy projects. First, it invested pounds 10m to construct three large wind turbines at its Whittlesey factory, near Peterborough, each rated at 3MW capacity. They now provide 60% of the plant's power consumption.

The company also put pounds 5m into building a sealed lagoon to anaerobically digest the factory's wastewater, which is loaded with potato starch. The lagoon produces methane biogas, which is burned, generating electricity to meet another 10% of the plant's needs. At times of low demand, Whittlesey exports power to the national grid.

An important side benefit of the lagoon is that it eliminates most of the pollution potential of the wastewater before it is discharged. This kind of pollution is one of the food industry's environmental Achilles' heels. According to an EU study in 2006, the food sector is responsible for half of all eutrophication (nutrient pollution) of surface waters across Europe. …

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