Carbon Footprint Analysis Leads to Concrete Savings: Walkers Crisps

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I’ll confess upfront that I’ve always been slightly dubious about the assertion that “sustainability is about making money”. After all, if it’s about making money, it’s something that companies should be doing anyway – it’s only when there’s a tradeoff between sustainability and money that there’s room for interesting debate about to what extent it should be one of the goals of the organization.

However, as Diversey’s CEO Curt Johnson points out:

“CO2 is waste, so if you minimize CO2, you minimize waste and you maximize efficiency and increase profits”

It turns out that putting in the effort to calculate the carbon footprint of the entire supply chain, from raw products to final consumption, is a great opportunity to identify savings that might previously have been missed by more step-by-step, siloed efficiency efforts.

Walkers Crisps is a great example of this. The company sells potato chips, or “the UK’s favorite crisps” as they are known locally, and is part of Frito-Lay, which is in turn a division of PepsiCo. In 2007, Walkers became the first company in the world to display a carbon reduction logo on their product, and discovered considerable savings in the process. From The Economist:

“The process of calculating the carbon footprint for Walkers crisps revealed an unexpected opportunity to save energy. It turned out that because Walkers was buying its potatoes by gross weight, farmers were keeping their potatoes in humidified sheds to increase the water content. Walkers then had to fry the sliced potatoes for longer to drive out the extra moisture. By switching to buying potatoes by dry weight, Walkers could reduce frying time by 10% and farmers could avoid the cost of humidification. Both measures saved money and energy and reduced the carbon footprint of the final product.”

The report doesn’t mention what products and procedures were used to do the carbon footprint analysis, but “Business Objects is the key database for Walkers” for reporting, according to the PepsiCo UK web site. You can read more about the carbon footprint of a packet of cheese & onion crisps on their web site.

Viewed in this way, calculating the carbon footprint of your products is “just” another form of efficiency analytics. If you’re interested in doing this for your organization, you can read more about the business case for sustainability, SAP products that can help you calculate your carbon footprint and view SAP’s own Sustainability Report.

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2 Comments
  1. Pingback: SMB Research – "Large-firm" technology advisory for the small-to-medium business (SMB) and midmarket sectors » Sustainability Strategies for the SMB / SME

  2. Timo – great post. I like this, and I like this because you have highlighted how the quest to calculate the carbon footprint led to the almost accidental discovery that there were cost savings to be had. At least one good lesson, and a few terrific insights, here. Consequently, I have included a link to this article in a piece just posted to the SMB Research Blog, “Sustainability Strategies for the SMB / SME”, http://smbresearch.net/blog/sustainabilityforsmbs/.

    Robert Eastman
    Managing Director
    SMB Research
    reastman@smbresearch.net
    ph (781) 904-0408 x734

    P.O. Box 51285
    Boston, MA 02205
    http://www.smbresearch.net
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