It's only natural that consumers and environmental advocates are curious about Kraft and the environment.

After all, Kraft Foods is the second-largest food and beverage company in the world, with over 80 brands sold in 155 countries.

The corporation that gave us pasteurized processed cheese products has farms and processing facilities located around the globe, so it has plenty of opportunities to make a difference, and that's exactly what it has set out to do with an environmental policy focusing on six areas: agricultural commodities, packaging, energy, water, waste, and transportation/distribution.

In these six focus areas, Kraft has committed to reducing the environmental impact of its activities, preventing pollution and promoting the sustainability of natural resources.

Approach to a Better World

Good food isn't possible without a healthy earth, and with climate change and other threats to the planet, Kraft believes it's more important than ever to conduct business in a responsible way that's mindful of the future. While the corporation concedes that it can't do everything, it set some aggressive goals to be achieved by 2011.

Kraft plans to reduce energy usage by 25 percent, reduce water consumption by 15 percent, reduce plant energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by 25 percent, eliminate 150 million pounds of packaging material and reduce processing plant waste by 15 percent (all based on 2005 levels).

Focusing on a Framework of Sustainability

How does Kraft intend to make all of these changes happen? The corporation has identified opportunities across its supply chain, collaborating and partnering with others to meet its goals.

Of course, the farm is where it all starts, and every aspect of planting and growing food represents possibilities for positive change – from seed selection to labor practices. Kraft supports sustainable agriculture programs for its key commodities, which include cocoa, wheat, cashews and coffee. Teaming up with the Rainforest Alliance, Kraft has identified sustainable sources for coffee and cocoa and is now the largest buyer of coffee beans from Rainforest Alliance Certified farms.

To meet their packaging goals, Kraft has designed more efficient packaging and reduced the amount of packaging material needed for its products by developing and using the Packaging Eco Calculator, a tool that helps packaging developers determine the environmental impact of the packaging they create. Through technology and partnering with third parties, Kraft also aims to cut back on fuel usage and reduce CO2 emissions.

The corporation is also taking a hard look at energy, water and waste. New lighting, heating, refrigeration and processing technologies are enabling Kraft to cut its power consumption, and the company has also turned to cutting-edge renewable energy technology – like using coffee grounds to power some of its facilities and turning whey into biogas – in order to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. Water is reused and consumption slashed wherever possible. In addition, Kraft set out to make several of its plants “zero waste to landfill” by subverting the waste to alternative uses.

Sharing Progress on Environmental Goals

With less than a year left before its target of 2011, how is Kraft doing on all of these ambitious sustainability goals? A wide array of changes – big and small – have led to the company exceeding many of these targets well ahead of schedule.

In its 2009 Annual Responsibility Report, Kraft announced its progress in “working to build a better world”, providing detailed information on its achievements thus far in all six of its areas of focus. Between 2005 and 2009, Kraft cut packaging by over 174 million pounds, reduced greenhouse gases by 17 percent and energy usage by 15 percent, slashed water consumption by 32 percent and reduced waste 30 percent. Kraft also cut 50 million miles from its global transportation network and increased its purchase of Rainforest Alliance Certified coffee beans from 7,100 metric tons in 2005 to 34,055 metric tons in 2009.

Kraft also has proven that seemingly small changes in its offices around the world can achieve some big results. For example, simply shutting down some elevators in the evening and using “team cleaning” schedules at night in its Curitiba, Brazil office led to an energy consumption reduction of 10 percent in 2009.

Motion-activated lighting, efficient plumbing fixtures, graywater recycling and other initiatives have been implemented in Kraft offices from the Philippines to Germany. Such changes have resulted in the company's headquarters in Northfield, Illinois earning a place among the top 8 percent of commercial buildings in America for energy efficiency, among other recognitions for green buildings.

For more on Kraft and the environment, check out the sustainability section of the company website.