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Administrator Johnson, Grocery Manufacturing Association Sustainability Summit, Washington, D.C.

01/17/2008
Thank you, Elliott (Penner, President, Food Products, Reckitt Benckiser Inc.), for that introduction.

It’s a pleasure and an honor to be at GMA’s first-ever Environmental Sustainability Summit. I don’t think most Americans appreciate how much the members of the Grocery Manufacturing Association impact their daily activities. From the soap they use to shower in the morning, to the food they place on the dinner table at night, you are providing consumers with products that not only make their lives easier, but also healthier and more comfortable.

Over the years, your industry has been responsible for improving our quality of life. And I believe by working together, you can also be responsible for improving the quality of our environment.

As Elliott mentioned, I’ve been at EPA for nearly three decades. Over my years as a public servant, I’ve witnessed what can be achieved when passionate people unite to face environmental challenges. Today we see the fruits of collaboration all around us. Our air is cleaner, our water is purer, and our land is better protected than just a generation ago.

However, we aren’t ready to just rest on these successes. EPA believes that working together with our partners from the food, beverage and consumer products industry, may be just the recipe for accelerating our environmental progress.

And it’s not just your sector that is embracing the ethic of corporate environmental stewardship. From newspaper headlines to the covers of Fortune 500 reports, we are reading about more and more companies – and even communities and individuals – working to outdo each other in “going green.”

One effort in which businesses are leading the way in “going green” is through the Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. Through this innovative private-public initiative, we are preserving, protecting and enhancing America’s aquatic resources. To date, more than 300 corporate partners have contributed time and money to this effort – including Gillette, who is one of the National Leaders in this program. I want to thank them, as well as the other members here in this room, who have aided in the restoration of more that 20,000 acres of wetlands across the country.

The Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership embodies the fact that today, we have over 300 million Americans working as protectors of the environment – not just the 17,000 employees at EPA. From Wall Street to Main Street, people are beginning to recognize the fact that environmental responsibility is everyone’s responsibility … not just the responsibility of EPA. And we are starting to fully appreciate that waste – in whatever form – means squandering resources for future generations.

I’m pleased the food, beverage and consumer products industry is working to be a leader in the race to go green. And it’s a good thing, because for many Americans, grocery shopping means more than a weekly trek to the supermarket – it’s an opportunity for environmentally-conscious consumers to support environmentally-responsible businesses.

During this summit, you’ll have an opportunity to learn about sustainability practices that are raising the bar for your industry and your supply chains. I applaud the impressive environmental gains many of you have made in areas like energy and water use or packaging reduction.

I’d like to share one example. Last spring, I toured Coca-Cola’s Innovation Lab in Atlanta. I had a chance to see some of the world-class innovations that are enabling Coca-Cola to save water, energy and money.

In just one year – Coca-Cola improved water efficiency by 4 percent. And in doing so, saved $61 million. They found a way to literally make every drop count.

This success with Coca-Cola, as well as the successes EPA has seen collaborating with our other environmental partners, indicates that working together just may be the recipe for accelerating our environmental progress. And today, I’d like to explain how together, we can produce solutions that are good for our environment and good for your bottom-lines.

As many of you know, expanding the availability and use of clean energy is at the forefront of this Administration’s environmental agenda. But did you realize your industry is in a position to make a huge difference in this effort?

A recent EPA report on energy use by major manufacturing sectors shows the food processing industry ranks fifth in total energy use. This energy footprint is primarily the result of process heating and cooling – responsible for 75 percent of your sector’s energy use.

Energy ranks third among input costs for the food processing industry, behind raw materials and labor. And, according to Department of Transportation data, the food and beverage industry was responsible for more than 20 percent of the manufactured commodity shipping.

Reducing your energy consumption will not only improve corporate environmental stewardship, but also cut operational costs in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. I urge you to examine opportunities – whether it’s within your processing facilities, or up and down your supply chains - to improve your environmental and energy performance, and encourage others you work with to do the same.

This is important because with some of the most widely recognized brands on the planet, you have the potential to positively influence planet-friendly thinking and action around the world.

EPA stands ready to work with you in this effort. We have several partnership programs to help your industry reduce your environmental footprint in cost-effective ways.

Take for example the Green Suppliers Network. Through this voluntary program, large manufacturers engage their small and medium-sized suppliers in low-cost technical reviews. The result is process improvement and waste minimization.

Let me give you one instance. In 2006, a Johnson & Johnson facility in Pennsylvania underwent a Green Suppliers review. Johnson & Johnson discovered the potential to save more than 200,000 gallons of wasted product and nearly 40,000 gallons of water, per year. Not to mention, $250,000 dollars. And that was just one facility. For those of you with ten, 50 or 100 plants, imagine what the Green Suppliers Network could do for you.

Another opportunity for EPA to work with your industry is through Climate Leaders – an EPA program that works with companies to develop long-term comprehensive climate change strategies. Partners set corporate-wide greenhouse gas reduction goals and inventory their emissions to measure progress.

Since its inception in 2002, Climate Leaders has grown to include more than 150 partners - 11 of whom have already achieved their goals. And just as with other conservation efforts, companies across the country are finding that addressing climate change makes business sense. Our partner IBM is one such success story. Since 1998, the corporation has saved more than $100 million and reduced their greenhouse gas emissions by 48 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent simply by conserving energy. As corporate leaders committed to sustainability, you too are in a position to see similar sizeable results.

We have another program that you may be more familiar with which encourages businesses to make energy choices that are good for the environment and good for their bottom lines. It’s called ENERGY STAR.

By taking a few common-sense steps to conserve their energy use – whether it’s upgrading lighting system or installing a more efficient air conditioning unit – companies can get the most out of their energy dollars.

For instance, EPA recently worked with the corn wet milling industry to develop a sophisticated energy performance benchmarking tool. Since many consumers today are interested in purchasing the “greenest” products, this tool enables individual companies to rate their corn refineries’ energy performance against that of the entire industry – giving high-ranking companies a leg-up on the competition.

There are also opportunities for environmental stewardship on the way to the store. At EPA, we recognize that the freight industry drives America’s economy – not to mention how integral it is to your particular sector’s business model. So, in 2003, we took our efficiency message on the road – literally.

With our SmartWay Transport Partnership, EPA began encouraging industries to implement fuel-efficient strategies and reduce greenhouse gas emissions through simple actions like reducing the amount of diesel they waste by idling. The Partnership, whose membership ranges from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 33 to 66 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by the year 2012. SmartWay is an easy way for you to keep more money in your pockets while helping us all breathe a little easier.

At the end of the production line are the supermarkets themselves. And just like the rest of the supply chain, supermarkets are able to protect the environment and boost their bottom lines by cutting refrigeration costs.

Through the GreenChill Advanced Refrigeration Partnership, EPA promotes technologies and practices that increase the energy efficiency of refrigeration systems and reduce emissions of ozone-depleting substances … not to mention save supermarkets over $12 million a year.

These are just a few examples of how working together with our partners from the food, beverage and consumer products industry just may be the recipe for accelerating our environmental progress.

I look forward to hearing what your industry thinks constitutes meaningful and achievable performance targets … helping you define the right tools and regulatory programs to pursue sustainability opportunities … and working together to measure – and recognize – your progress.

It looks like my time is up, but I hope this discussion gave you a better idea of how EPA can help you continue to improve America’s quality of life and the quality of our environment.

This cooperation is vital. During my time at EPA, I’ve seen that when the Agency acts alone, environmental progress can be incremental. However, when we work in collaboration with our eager partners all across this great nation, our environmental successes can accelerate at a remarkable pace.

Just some food for thought. Thank you, and now I’d be happy to take questions.