The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Sustainability Series: McCormick & Co.

Sustainability Series: McCormick & Co.


December 30, 2013

McCormick & Company, Inc. is a global leader in flavor with more than $4 billion in annual sales. McCormick manufactures, markets and distributes spices, seasoning mixes, condiments and other flavorful products to the entire food industry – retail outlets, food manufacturers and foodservice businesses – in more than 110 countries. We talked to Jim Radin, Vice President, Global Supply Chain for McCormick about the importance of growing your business while driving positive change to the environment.

How does your business define sustainability?  

At McCormick & Co., sustainability is defined broadly to include corporate social responsibility and environmental stewardship and is tied directly to our long-term business growth strategy. Since much of McCormick’s business literally grows out of the ground in countries around the globe, the success of our company depends on preserving and protecting the earth and its resources. We must find efficiencies in operations and ensure a source of sustainable raw materials for our wide variety of flavor products.

As a global flavor company, we must contend with a number of issues. While some are global in nature, other sustainability challenges only impact a specific community where our employees or suppliers live and work. To meet and overcome these challenges over the long term, it is imperative that we act as good environmental stewards. But, we cannot achieve any real success alone. We will continue to leverage the expertise of our more than 10,000 employees and work with business partners, suppliers, customers, government agencies and non-governmental organizations to truly make a difference. 

How are you incorporating sustainable practices into your business? 

We have nearly 125 years of experience operating as a good corporate citizen, dating back to the philanthropic efforts of our founder Willoughby McCormick. We recently shifted our corporate responsibility focus to go beyond philanthropy, and have formalized and aligned our sustainable efforts directly with our business objectives and strategies.

Through strategic alliances, we work to apply sustainable growing practices and stringent food safety protocols to ensure a reliable supply chain. On the manufacturing and logistical side, we reduce waste and manage energy use and emissions by installing more eco-friendly lighting fixtures, upgrading to high-efficiency air conditioning systems and utilizing lower-temperature adhesives for gluing boxes. We operate a net-zero energy distribution center in Belcamp, Md., and have instituted a weight reduction program for plastic bottles that has cut plastic use by more than 300 tons, saving enough plastic bottles to stretch the length of 14,000 football fields.

What are your short term and long term goals?

From a long-term perspective, we want to be around for another 125 years and more, so we will need to continue to grow our business globally through responsible and sustainable business practices. We know that what gets measured gets done, so we have outlined goals for 2018 in the areas of employee inclusion, community involvement, product safety and quality, health and wellness and operational efficiency. 

Some specific goals include:

Where do you think you’ll have the biggest impact?

We believe our greatest opportunity to effect change is within our supply chain. As I mentioned before, the need for reliable, sustainable, high-quality sources for our raw materials is a business imperative for McCormick.  

One way in which we are addressing that need is by working with farming communities in a number of countries around the world. For example, in Madagascar, a key source for our iconic vanilla products, we partner with a nonprofit organization, Help Madagascar, to support local growers by replanting deforested areas. With this program we not only help improve the local environment, but also advance the agricultural harvest. Beyond our program in Madagascar, McCormick has committed to a 50 percent increase in funding of farming communities in regions of the world where we source our products.

Additionally, to help a broader section of farming communities, we are working with the Dutch Government-sponsored Sustainable Spices Initiative and the Rainforest Alliance to establish one of the first sustainable sourcing spice standards. Through this partnership we hope to conserve biodiversity, reduce the use of pesticides and chemicals, increase yields and train farmers in developing countries on food safety – all of which are keys to the long-term success of our business. 

How do you measure your progress?

Internally, we review our progress toward our sustainability goals on a quarterly basis. For our customers, employees, investors and other stakeholders, we recently published a CSR Review that outlines our long-term strategy and highlights many of our initiatives around the world. 

How do retailers factor into your efforts?

As the category leader in spices and herbs, our retail partners always are top-of-mind with McCormick. And, for all of us, consumers are our No. 1 priority. We work closely with our retail partners to deliver high-quality flavor products that are manufactured and merchandised in a responsible way. 

A key focus for us is finding ways to reduce material usage in all packaging components such as corrugated cardboard, folding cartons and plastic and glass bottles. Our packaging reduction initiative aligns with consumer demand for sustainable products and also saves our retailer partners shelf and storage space and leads to fewer truck loads overall. 

To put that into more specific terms, McCormick has targeted a 25 percent reduction in packaging weight by 2018. Additionally, we are investing resources in researching alternative materials, such as post-consumer and non-oil-based resins for use in our plastic components.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the food industry?

Today, the food industry faces the age-old challenge of doing more with less. To address the food needs of a world population on track to hit 9 billion by 2050, manufacturers and their suppliers must find efficiencies in operations and sustainability in their sourcing. Stakeholders demand it and business success depends on it.

For McCormick, our raw materials are grown on thousands of different farms around the world, so we must be conscious of our impact on the environment as well as on local communities in developing countries. We are committed to creating a more sustainable supply chain and acknowledge it will take ingenuity and time. Joint ventures and strategic alliances in raw material sourcing will allow us to leverage superior technology and overcome challenges along our sustainability journey.

Why are sustainable business practices important to the consumer?

Consumers want to know the company behind the brands they purchase and increasingly have shown a willingness to support businesses that align with their values. They expect companies to sustainably and responsibly manufacture products and to provide healthy options that enrich their lives.