Several years ago, Kraft Foods, Northfield, Ill., realized that waste from its production facilities and distribution centers was going to landfills, affecting nearby communities and costing money to manage, especially in terms of waste hauling costs. “In short, we saw a need to find ways to create less waste and find better uses for the waste that was being produced,” according to Richard Buino, spokesperson, corporate external communications.

Buino adds that while Kraft has been engaged in various sustainability projects for some time, these were more often thought of as efficiency projects. “In the past few years, though, we have become more focused by figuring out what matters most to our business and where we can have a significant impact,” he says.

The company has started to map out the social, economic and environmental impacts of its business. Where everything overlaps at the center has become the key sustainability sweet spot, explains Buino. “This is where we’re finding new ideas and unique opportunities for positive change.” Kraft Foods has set aggressive goals, and expects to y build sustainability into its business strategy. Sustainability will be part of every business decision, and is part of how the company does business, he adds. “It’s a priority across our organization, including, but not limited to, general management, marketing, operations and R&D.”

Solid waste generated from manufacturing accounts for more than 99% of the company's total waste. So Kraft has focused its efforts on its plants. Now, each plant has waste, water and energy-reduction goals, as well as environmental improvement plans. “Our strategy is simple,” adds Buino. “Generate less waste and find new uses for the waste that we do generate.”

Five years ago, Kraft launched a program to substantially reduce waste in the plants, with the ultimate objective of sending zero waste to landfills. Today, Kraft is recycling and reusing about 90% of its manufacturing waste. In some cases, it is using manufacturing byproducts as energy sources. Now, nine Kraft Foods plants in North America have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status. “By 2015, our goal is to reduce waste an additional 15%,” Buino says. Much of the improvement efforts are ongoing, and successful projects are replicated in additional locations, he says. Innovative ideas discovered in one plant are shared with other plants to see if they, too, can implement them.