Article from Comercial Banking

BLUFFTON, SC — The final Workforce Wednesday session of BEMA Convention 2023, held June 20-24 in Bluffton, SC, focused on the sustainability hotspots of bakery products and equipment.

The Key Sustainability Issues for Bakery Products and Equipment session was led by Dr. Kevin J. Dooley, professor of supply chain management at the Arizona State University (ASU) W.P. Carey School of Business. This session also touched on THESIS, a performance assessment by The Sustainability Consortium designed to help companies benchmark, quantify and act on key sustainability challenges in their consumer product supply chain.

“Sustainability is often talked about in business as the triple bottom line,” Dooley said, referencing people, planet and profit. “The triple bottom line was developed with the notion of ‘How can we continue to grow a society and economy that sustains our natural environment and community?’”

With sustainability as a hot topic in the industry, Dooley highlighted some stages companies go through in the process of adopting sustainable practices which can be categorized into one of three maturity models: late majority, early majority and leaders.

“Corporate sustainability has been a hot topic for at least a decade now, so companies who chose to take a leadership position have made movement and have distinguished themselves from other companies that started the journey later,” Dooley said.

Late-majority companies, which make up about half of companies engaged in corporate sustainability, view sustainability as an additional overhead cost and something that is not directly linked to the bottom line. In this stage, sustainability efforts are often opportunistic and unfocused, with potential for greenwashing. Though often left in the charge of one person, Dooley shared that THESIS assessments revealed the hiring of one sustainability professional is one of the biggest variables that makes a difference in suppliers’ sustainability scores.

Early majority, where about 40% of companies are today, view sustainability as a risk-avoidance issue.

“They begin to see sustainability as an opportunity for collective action, which is why trade associations such as BEMA and others are viable to the sustainability issue,” Dooley said. “There’s so much good work that can come from collective action, and that’s where The Sustainability Consortium has made our bread and butter, is working with competitors and their suppliers to work on common problems that, honestly, a single company or supply chain can’t push alone.”

The last 10% are leaders, who view sustainability as a cost and revenue driver. For example, they can drive out cost from inefficiency in water, waste and energy. Companies that are identified as sustainability leaders have the potential to draw in young talent.

“Leaders recognize that even if a young professional is not interested in sustainability, per se, they see sustainable leadership as a signal for companies that are more progressive and that they would be more interested in joining,” Dooley said.

When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, a majority of carbon emissions stem from energy in the use phase of baker equipment vs. equipment manufacturing. According to Dooley, minimizing the manufacturing impact on emissions comes down to high-quality machinery that’s durable repairable, maintainable and upgradable.

“We can look for equipment that has recycled content,” he said. “There’s not a ton of interest there, but I do see it emerging in B2B discussions where people are asking customers if there are any recycled content in the materials that they are purchasing.”

To increase energy efficiency in bakery equipment, manufacturers should look into best practices such as burner optimization and maintenance, temperature profiling, combustion exhaust controls and reflective coating.

There are also several options for efficiency in electricity such as installing solar panels or purchasing renewable energy credits from power providers.

For bakeries, there’s an array of opportunities to reduce energy, which helps bakeries save money, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, improve quality of products and meet air compliance rules.