Community and Environment
Our commitment to sustainability is inseparable from our global culture and is applied locally in each of the countries where we operate. We invest in livelihoods, welfare and local economies in America’s rural agricultural communities, to create lasting positive change.
Land use and water conservation are fundamental contemporary issues and as part of our corporate purpose to ‘Re-imagine Global Agriculture’, Olam USA is committed to developing new technologies and partnerships that will drive sustainable practices and improve the lives of our agricultural partners. Through our purpose we are working towards three outcomes:
Prosperous farmers and farming systems
Olam’s relationships with its growers are the foundation for successful partnerships that drive our product lines. Large-scale growers can face cash flow and crop challenges, so we strive to support and be a good counter party to these farmers, many of whom are of 3rd or 4th generations family farms, which they have grown through hard work, perseverance and sacrifice.
Improving farmer livelihoods
The Spices and Vegetable Ingredients (SVI) Research and Development team have been working to maximise yields and quality for our contract tomato and onion farmers. Research into growing dehydrator onions as a rotational crop on 152 cm beds has taken three years in the making and today benefits 15% of SVI’s onion programme, meaning our growers are now able to easily alternate onions with tomatoes. The increase in yields is improving farmer livelihoods from higher incomes as well as reduced costs of additional soil nutrients.
We also support many tomato, garlic and onion growers with improved varieties that our teams have developed. While, for our peanut growers during the harvest season, we ensure that each of them are treated equally when it comes to receiving their volumes, irrespective of the quantity they are supplying.
Promoting farming as a viable and rewarding career
Through our series ‘Faces in the Field’, Olam SVI seeks to amplify growers’ voices, providing critical linkages in our supply chain, as growers share growers share their insight on the challenges and opportunities in sustainability across the Olam SVI business.
A sub-series ‘Women in Ag’ has also been developed to showcase Olam’s dedication to developing the next generation of women leaders in the food and ag industry. Although women have always played a critical role in agriculture, we are beginning to see a larger percentage of women step into non-traditional roles throughout the supply chain. The first episodes feature three women speaking about their various roles in nutrient management planning, variety development and improving agronomic quality, and farmer- corporation liaison.
Olam seeks to support communities in America that depend on agriculture, particularly in terms of research and encouraging the next generation of agricultural experts. For example, Olam SVI donated US$200,000 to the Fresno State Jordan School of Agriculture through a 10-year research grant and also trains, mentors, and provides internships to more than 100 Central Valley high school and college students annually.
In 2017, SVI participated in The Wonderful Company’s education programme in California which provides a 4-year curriculum to students in Agri Business, Agri Mechanics, and Agri Science Tracks, enabling them to receive an Associate’s Degree when they graduate high school. As part of this programme, SVI provided training to more than 75 students in a career workshop in December 2017 and will provide students job shadowing and internship opportunities.
As part of our commitment to supporting food security, Olam SVI supports the Fresno Community Food Bank which serves 160,000 people every month to distribute over 11.5 tonnes of food to local families. To date, Olam has provided over 10,000 meals.
Helping women to GROW
Launched by Olam employees and active from the USA to Africa, GROW (Globally Reaching Olam Women) provides the tools and resources needed to support women in the workplace and boost the number of women in leadership, both within and outside the organisation.
To address issues relevant to working women today, GROW offers mentoring programmes and education symposiums on topics ranging from professional growth to work-life balance – issues with clear goals for professional development. A keynote speaker series brings in notable female leaders to share their experiences about what has worked for them. The network also holds sport activities as well as social events to raise awareness for local women’s non-profit and charity organisations.
Re-generating the living world
Within our landscape, soil health and its connection to water stress has become a priority. There is therefore a strong focus on new productivity innovations that sustain US agriculture while re-generating eco-systems, soils and water.
Innovating to reduce food waste
In our peanut processing facilities, Olam is finding new uses for peanut waste. The shells are used as biomass in renewable energy, and we are currently participating in a study to evaluate the use of peanut skins as fertiliser.
In our Californian tomato business, our award-winning compost project with General Mills creates a cyclical system for tomato growing and processing. The 2.7% of remaining volume after processing – comprising mainly seeds and skin – is valorised as a nitrogen source to create organic compost.
Lowering our carbon footprint
Olam’s long-standing dried onion and garlic breeding programme produces the world’s highest solid onion content. This generates numerous supply chain efficiencies and quantifiable sustainability impacts that together, produce a lower carbon footprint – with less water used for irrigation and less diesel for farm machinery. This reduces GHG emissions, lowers labour costs and increases incomes for growers.
Olam SVI’s plant in Fernley, Nevada is the only geothermal based vegetable drying facility in the world. The entire plant is powered 100% onsite by naturally occurring underground hot springs (270°F). The geothermal power provides approximately 216,982 MBTU (one million British thermal units) of carbon-free hot water annually and means that we’re saving the environment the equivalent of approximately 11,500 metric tonnes of CO2.
Our Firebaugh plant, California, is part powered by a solar conversion system and is able to generate 3.06 MW of power. This offsets 40% of the site’s electrical usage in renewable solar energy, saving the equivalent of approximately 1,750 MT of carbon. The system runs alongside a 1.3MW existing co-generation unit, where heat recovery is used in the dehydration process. Between these two systems, the plant is 100% energy independent and even generates an energy surplus for the grid.
Restoring natural capital in California
Through our ‘More crop per drop’ initiative, we are promoting drip irrigation. Water application is applied automatically based on probe sensors determining moisture levels within the soil. In 2015- 2017, 1,300 acres were converted to drip irrigation saving approximately 808 million gallons of water.
Olam SVI is among the first food processors in California to work with World Wildlife Foundation and Alliance for Water Stewardship to develop a safe and sustainable water stewardship commitment and management plan. As part of our commitment to the California Water Action Collaborative (CWAC), SVI is helping to develop a framework to measure the impacts of projects such as meadow and wetland restoration, groundwater recharge and infrastructure improvements.
In 2018, SVI will look to further support Sierra Nevada headwaters and meadow restoration projects through CWAC and, in partnership with the US Forest Foundation and others, to increase awareness of the importance of California’s water resources.
Collaborating to help bee populations to thrive
We rely on bees to help produce a third of the food we eat. But their habitat is under threat due to the likes of climate change and the impact of farming. Olam requires bees to pollinate our extensive almond orchards of more than 6,800 farmers, so it’s important they are productive and therefore healthy. That’s why in 2014 Olam, General Mills and the Xerces Society collaborated to create almost 10 kilometres of flowering hedgerows so that bees and other pollinators can get the varied diet they need, as well as attracting bees naturally. Watch how we’re creating a well-stocked home for our pollinator friends on Olam’s almond orchard in California.
Other measures adopted to improve biodiversity include avoiding the use of any insecticides during the pollination period and applying tree fungicide only at night when bees are not active. More widely, Olam promotes Integrated Pest management (IPM) techniques.