Advancing Organizational Sustainability One Small Bite at a Time

By: Teresa Schoonings (c) 2021

For Bimbo Canada and our parent company, Grupo Bimbo, sustainability isn’t just a cause. It’s central to our mission. We sum it up in our motto “To Nourish a Better World.”

We’re in the business of delivering nutritious, delicious food to our customers and their families. We do that by running a company that understands and believes, from top to bottom, that we need to work in ways that support and sustain our environment.

Advancing organizational sustainability starts with leadership. The tone gets set from the top but, where change happens is across an organization. It begins with small changes, in attitudes and behaviours. And, in our experience, the place for it to start is at home.

Our journey started with our first step of raising awareness and educating associates to conserve resources because it’s the right thing to do and it would benefit their pocketbooks directly. One element of the campaign was focused on electricity use that carried the message, “Not only will you save this much electricity that would power this many homes, but you’re going to save this much money every year for yourselves.” 

Our second step was to run associate contests to support the behaviour changes. For example, annually we have a waste awareness month where each week is focused on a different theme: electricity, water, food waste and electronics. We not only provided associates with educational resources, we also asked them to them share what they’re doing at home to impact change. They brought their ideas and innovations back to work with them, and together, we built on them to change behaviours within our facilities!

This did a lot of really positive things. It makes us smarter as a company, and a stronger team. But more importantly, it made sustainability deeply meaningful to all of us; which changes how we work and live.  It also changes how we operate as a company.  

Here are a few examples of the impact that that embedding sustainability into our culture has had:

  • We’ve taken 174 MT tonnes of plastic out of packaging;
  • We’ve signed two Virtual Power Purchase Agreements to offset 100% of our electricity use once it goes fully online;
  • We’ve earned Energy Star certification at our Hamilton bakery, a first for Bimbo Canada;
  • We’ve diverted 2.34 million units of product from landfill through donations and avoided an additional 4 million units of product from becoming waste through a reduction on returns.  

100% commitment and engagement from all our associates at each of our bakeries to conduct sustainability assessments with third-party experts to identify opportunities to reduce our electricity, gas, and water usage as well as opportunities to improve food loss and waste. The results? 

  • Once fully executed, the potential of saving 2,200 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions reducing our operating costs by $2,800,000 per year, reducing thermal energy use by 12% and saving the equivalent of 5.5 million meals from going in the landfill!  
  • 100% participation in our bakeries and distribution centres across Canada to plan and execute Good Neighbour projects in their local community, to give back to the communities that we live and work in.

Building a sustainability culture is a lot like building a safety culture. Companies that have succeeded in achieving it, like DuPont, have done it by instilling in their people a belief that safety isn’t “mine,” it’s “ours.” This is true for sustainability as well.

Sometimes there can be resistance to that – I’ve seen it firsthand; but, what I’ve also seen firsthand is that we overcome resistance to change by coming together to understand what is driving it. Often, people just don’t understand what their role is, what it required to take active steps (even small ones) and how it fits into the bigger picture for them specifically, or how the sustainability fits into the business plan they are on the hook for. By working through it together, you can overcome the hurdles and celebrate the positive results.  

Bimbo Canada and Enviro Stewards’ Kick-Off Meeting

And, that’s the third step: Celebrate the wins – each and every one of them, no matter how small!  

The first assessment that we completed at our Calgary plant told us that the facility uses ~60,000 m3 of water every year. It also told us that the second-highest use of water in the bakery was the wastewater sump pit water spray – it accounted for 40% of total water consumption! We decided to change our operating procedures to use less water. It was easy to implement and required no investment, just a change in behaviours.

Snippet of Enviro Steward’s Water Conservation Case Study at Bimbo Canada’s Calgary Facility

The outcome? It saved money (a lot). It saved water (more than 20,000 m3/year). It made us more sustainable. And, it sent a message to everyone on our team: we can do this. Together. We’ve already succeeded, as the recognition that we’ve so gratefully (and humbly) received from Clean50 tells us. But I can tell you, from the enthusiasm of the people I talk with every day across our great company, we’re just getting started.

One of the key things I’ve learned through building our company’s sustainability culture is that it’s not about building a new business model. It’s about embedding sustainability into the existing business model. It starts at home- then you take it to work, and finally, it becomes an essential part of every single thing you do, every single day. It’s just one small bite at a time.