Sustainability Resource Guide
for U.S. Dairy Processors
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The Plan
Making the Business Case

Companies have long recognized that sustainable practices positively impact a company’s bottom line through resource recovery and improving efficient use of environmental resources. Today, consumers, customers and government organizations are all demanding more from companies when it comes to social and environmental responsibility. In addition, the investor community is putting immense pressure on companies to define and integrate ESG principles into their decision-making, and this will likely become a requirement in the near future. Learn more about making a business case for ESG.

People and Planning

Many companies begin their sustainability journey by identifying a champion/executive sponsor to ensure that the company’s leadership supports sustainability and understands the operational and financial implications of developing and implementing a rigorous sustainability program. Depending on the size of your organization, you should identify a cross-functional team and/or a dedicated sustainability professional. If an in-house solution is not feasible there are many expert consultants and advisors available to support you.

The following resources can help get you started:

Setting Goals and Measuring Progress

After completing a materiality assessment and identifying sustainability impact areas that are most relevant for your organization (see What Matters Most), the next step is to prioritize where to make improvements; set goals for those areas and implement mechanisms to measure and report progress towards those goals. This helps manage business risks and provides opportunities for cost reduction and income generation.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions

Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions are likely the first place to start. GHG emissions are a material sustainability topic for all industries including U.S. dairy at the national level and are very likely a material topic for dairy cooperatives and processors at a company level too. As a result, stakeholders increasingly expect companies to address and manage their GHG footprint.

Resources for setting and reporting on credible GHG reduction goals for both direct and indirect emissions, including an explanation of the types of emissions (Scope 1, 2, and 3) can be accessed here.

Other Environmental Sustainability Impact Areas for Processors

Other material environmental sustainability topics in dairy include energy use, water quantity and quality, and resource recovery. Determining a baseline for these topics can generally be done through facility audits, which usually requires working with third-party consultants.

A simple and streamlined way to establish a baseline for all these topics is through the Processor Stewardship Reporting Tool. The Tool is built directly on the processor metrics outlined in the U.S. Dairy Stewardship Commitment. It provides a credible and cost-effective way to calculate and report on sustainability metrics on a facility-by-facility basis, while simultaneously supporting U.S. dairy’s efforts around industry aggregate reporting.

The tool enables companies to monitor and manage sustainability performance at a location level, collect the data necessary to measure and make progress towards company goals. It also provides cooperatives and processors with a Scope 1 and 2 GHG emissions baseline.

Dairy Processor Handbook

The Dairy Processor Handbook is a comprehensive guide for dairy manufacturers and processors who utilize the Processor Stewardship Reporting Tool. The Handbook was built in direct alignment with the Tool and the Stewardship Commitment, and provides step-by-step guidance on how to measure and report information on these material sustainability metrics at the processing facility:

  • Energy use to improve efficiency
  • Greenhouse gas emissions to reduce the processing facility’s carbon footprint
  • Water management to responsibly manage water use
  • Resource recovery through optimal recovery, recycling and reuse
  • Workforce development to maintain employee satisfaction and a safe working environment
  • Community contributions supporting local communities
  • Product safety and quality to ensure a safe and reliable dairy product supply
On-Farm Considerations

Sustainability begins with caring for the dairy herds that produce our milk and extends through the supply chain. Dairy farmers have a proud history of providing environmental stewardship with a focus on continuous improvement.

Every dairy farm is different, requiring tailored sustainability goals and practices that make sense for their unique situation. Learn more about On-Farm Sustainability Goals and Practices here.

Continuous Improvement

Sustainability is a daily, purposeful commitment that touches all aspects of operations and manifests in sound, responsible business practices. Like all business strategies, it requires an eye to the future and a mindset of continuous improvement.

Learn about continuous improvement and innovation across the supply chain from the winners of the annual U.S. Dairy Sustainability Awards. Industrywide progress is reported in the 2020 U.S. Dairy Sustainability Report.

Furthermore, there are several freely available resources — developed by the Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy’s Processor Working Group — that dairy processors can use to continuously improve their company environmental footprint, while simultaneously supporting the industry’s 2050 Environmental Stewardship Goals.

The Processor Working Group hopes to develop and release additional industry guidance documents focused on other relevant topics to support dairy processors on their sustainability journeys.

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