In each issue of Food, Nutrition and Science, we feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. In the upcoming issue, feature Felix Musco, President of the Musco Family Olive Co., about the importance of fully integrating sustainability into both a company’s corporate culture and their relationship with consumers.
Musco Family Olive Co. (www.olives.com) is a privately held family business and the leading branded retail supplier of table olives in America. The company procures nearly half of the domestic ripe olive acreage, and their Pearls® and Early California® brands command the leading market share of national branded olives. Recently, the company has attracted attention with its ground breaking waste program. We talked to Felix Musco, President of the Musco Family Olive Co., about the importance of fully integrating sustainability into both a company’s corporate culture and their relationship with consumers.
How does your business define sustainability?
For us, sustainability is about stewardship, which has been an important part of our mission of producing delicious olives since we began in 1942. We define environmental stewardship as the responsible use and careful protection of our natural resources. We define social stewardship as caring for our community and providing an unmatched work environment to our employees. We believe that success on these two fronts directly impacts the long-term success, and ultimately, the true sustainability of our third-generation family owned business.
How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business?
Innovative, sustainable practices define our entire olive production process. We supported the development of an award-winning closed-loop system called RENEWS™ (Renewable Energy and Wastewater System) by inventor Frank Schubert, founder and owner of Combined Solar Technologies. Simply put, in producing canned olives, we amass millions of olive pits – each containing stored solar energy. Our on-site RENEWS biomass plant cleanly burns 15 tons of pit waste daily, using the heat to evaporate used processing water and create steam. That steam drives the largest production steam engine in the U.S., which then generates renewable electricity that can be used in the processing facilities. Every year the system keeps 8 billion olive pits out of landfill and helps us to recycle the majority of our water.
In addition, we use any remaining water that has retained some salinity to grow a field full of a remarkable patented forage grass called NyPa. It actually thrives upon and pulls salt from the soil right into its leaves. NyPa grass makes a supplemental food for livestock, with salt naturally built in, and we harvest it for local farmers.
Also, Musco employees meet on a regular basis to discuss ways to improve water, natural gas, and electricity usage. This simple practice, which we’ve been doing for six years, has resulted in huge cost savings and resource reduction across all levels of the company.
What are your short term and long term goals?
Our short-term goal is to complete a rigorous energy audit. We recently completed our first Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) report and anticipate participating in the CDP’s water initiative in the coming year. The CDP is the leading cooperative, independent, not-for-profit organization working to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support sustainable water use by businesses and cities throughout the world. (Visit www.cdproject.net to learn more.)
Long term, we are looking to reduce our waste production and dependence on natural resources at every level. Our RENEWS is expected to reduce our fossil fuel emissions as well as our dependence on the electrical grid. Our ultimate goal is to get off the grid entirely.
Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?
Sustainability and stewardship are more about evolution than about revolution. Over the years we have gradually reduced water use in production and salt discharge to the environment. Our facilities are updated with features such as energy-efficient lighting, pumps, and motors. With a forward-looking distribution and logistics program, we can optimize intermodal transportation to make sure that our product is shipped by the most energy- and cost-effective means. Perhaps most importantly, through our employee awareness training programs and continuous improvement teams, we believe our efforts are multiplied as our employees apply principles of conservation, energy efficiency, recycling, and proper universal waste disposal to their daily lives at work and at home.
How do you measure your progress?
We measure everything and review all of our resource usage, each week in our meetings and we score ourselves constantly. In the future, we plan to participate in ethical sourcing certification programs that will take us to the next level of documentation for our supply chain procedures.
How do retailers factor into your efforts?
We think there is tremendous opportunity for processors to work with retailers toward common goals of sustainability. The processing side of the food industry is getting out in front with sustainability efforts. And, we think retailers and consumers care deeply about these issues. Recent research by brand consulting firm BBMG suggests that a growing number of consumers now choose products based on a manufacturer’s environmental and sustainable practices, and are willing to pay more for them.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?
The job of bringing food to millions of consumers’ tables requires a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources. If we, as a global industry, are not able to walk this path in a sustainable manner, we simply will not be able to do business in the future. The United Nations defines sustainability as “the ability to meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” We must keep future generations in mind as we use the world’s natural, social, and economic resources.
Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?
Though we know that consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable and green choices at the grocery shelf, and we’re glad they are paying attention, this commitment of ours is not a response to consumer demand; it is a core principle of our company.
We believe that we must all be fully conscious of our role as stewards of the planet. We hope to lead by example in the food industry and we are confident that consumers will take notice, and we hope, join us in this mission.
A brief video about Musco’s remarkable efforts can be see at http://www.olives.com/environment.asp.
In upcoming issues, we will feature interviews with food companies that are making strides in their sustainability efforts. If you are interested in telling us more about what your company is doing to get involved please contact Allison Bloom at email@example.com.