MISSISSAUGA, Ontario — Maple Leaf Foods, which claims to be the world's first major carbon neutral food company, released its 2021 Sustainability Report highlighting the company's key initiatives, milestones and accomplishments in 2021 on its journey to become the most sustainable protein company on earth.
Despite continuing global challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic, in 2021, Maple Leaf Foods advanced its sustainability goals and made progress to create better food, better care, better communities and a better planet, it said.
Celebrating its second year as the first major carbon neutral food company in the world, according to Maple Leaf Foods, the company said it continued to advance on its sustainability journey by making progress against its 50% reduction by 2025 environmental goals, supporting regenerative agriculture practices on 20,000 acres of farmland, completed 100% conversion of company sow spaces to the Maple Leaf Advanced Open Sow Housing system and exceeded its annual internal food safety and quality targets.
In 2021, the company also unveiled a multi-year people strategy to strengthen and leverage the talents of its people by focusing on areas that will help deliver against its purpose and vision. The plan identifies four pillars and multiple initiatives aimed at strengthening company culture, enabling the development of its people and creating an environment where all can thrive.
"Our efforts to combat climate change continue as part of the soul of our company and our sense of urgency is growing," said Michael McCain, president and CEO, Maple Leaf Foods. "We are proud of our 2021 accomplishments, but know we must do even more. Our unwavering sustainability vision guides us to deliver the shared value we've promised all our stakeholders, including the planet."
Maple Leaf Foods' sustainability program is built on four guiding pillars — Better Food, Better Care, Better Communities and Better Planet. Highlights from the 2021 Sustainability Report include:
In 2021, Maple Leaf Foods continued delivering great tasting food with natural ingredients and better nutrition by introducing sugar free to Maple Leaf Natural Bacon. The company continued to accelerate research and development efforts against a pipeline of product innovation, with several new product lines currently in development under Maple Leaf Foods' brands and complementary work underway to advance its on-pack claim progression for the Maple Leaf brand.
In 2021, the company's plant-based protein brands, Lightlife and Field Roast, underwent significant product design and packaging renovations reflecting the revised brand mandates. As a result, all of Lightlife and Field Roast products are 100% vegan certified and are in the process of being 100% Non-GMO Project verified.
Last year was a momentous year for Maple Leaf Foods' Animal Care program, the company said, as it fulfilled its promise to convert all company-owned sow barns to the Maple Leaf Advanced Open Sow Housing system. The company's optimized open housing is designed purposefully to support sows in choosing when to eat, play, socialize and rest. These freedoms greatly enhance their well-being and enable Maple Leaf to engage in good animal stewardship in a low-stress environment, offering greater job satisfaction.
In 2021, Maple Leaf Foods continued implementing enrichments in its chicken barns that support chickens' natural behaviors, including pecking, perching and hiding. These enrichments will continue to be deployed throughout company's chicken barns.
Building better communities is a priority for Maple Leaf Foods, the company said, whether they exist beyond the company walls or within them. In 2021, the Maple Leaf Centre for Food Security celebrated its fifth anniversary as it continues its work to identify and champion systemic solutions to reduce food insecurity. The center ran a national campaign in 2021 to raise awareness about the choices that people are forced to make when they live with food insecurity — like choosing between food for their families or heat for their homes. It also launched a letter-writing campaign to urge the federal government to set a target to reduce food insecurity by 50% by 2030.
For the community within Maple Leaf, the company continued to provide virtual mental health support for its people throughout 2021 by offering digital therapy, bringing in experts to discuss and provide tools for mental health and well-being and facilitating fitness classes with professional instructors.
In 2021, Maple Leaf Foods continued its relentless commitment to creating the safest possible workplaces — it achieved an industry-leading Total Recordable Incident Rate (TRIR) of .48 and had 34 sites with zero injuries.
As a carbon-neutral company committed to science-based targets, Maple Leaf Foods said in 2021 it focused on regenerative agriculture's potential in capturing carbon from the atmosphere and storing it back in the soil. Maple Leaf teamed up with a Canadian fertilizer company, Nutrien, to expand on a project that incentivizes and educates farmers in regions where Maple Leaf sources grains to adopt regenerative agriculture practices. In 2021, the project encompassed approximately 20,000 acres of farmland in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and the company plans to scale that to 100,000 acres in 2022. Similarly, Maple Leaf Foods continued to work with Indigo Ag where it intends to purchase certified carbon credits through its Carbon Program that rewards individual farmers for adopting regenerative agriculture practices that improve biodiversity, soil health and carbon sequestration.
As Maple Leaf Foods progressed toward its 50% reduction by 2025 environmental goals, it has reduced the intensity of its electricity by 21.8%, natural gas by 18.7% and water by 21.4% since 2014, food waste by 33.3% since 2016, and achieved a company-wide landfill diversion rate of 92.7%