A conversation with Patricia A. Woertz
Chairman, CEO and president, Archer Daniels Midland Company
Which of ADM’s corporate responsibility achievements during the year were most significant, in your view?
The year 2011 was one of acceleration and integration for us. As we focused on fulfilling our purpose of serving vital needs, we continued to advance our sustainability priority in several ways.
Most notably, we committed to achieving, by 2020, 15 percent reductions on a per-unit-of-production basis in energy, emissions, water and waste. We expanded the reach and scope of our cocoa, soy and palm sustainability programs. And, we invested to build stronger communities in the cities and towns where we operate, and to support the sustainable development of global agriculture. At the same time, we worked to improve our overall environmental profile, and to strengthen our environmental compliance training. Sustainability is one of four ADM corporate priorities, and it’s becoming more tightly interwoven into the fabric of our business each year.
What was behind the decision to designate sustainability as a corporate priority, alongside focus areas such as safety and cost management?
We play a vitally important role in the agricultural value chain that links the harvest to the home. We source farmers’ crops; deliver them to customers or transport them to our plants around the world; process them into a diverse slate of food ingredients, animal feeds and renewable fuels and chemicals; and distribute them to customers, primarily large food and energy companies. Our work connects us to a vast number of people and places, and to a range of global issues. So we have a vested interest in being good stewards of the environment, in sourcing crops that are responsibly grown and harvested, and in helping our communities around the world thrive economically and socially.
Why did ADM choose to focus on energy and emissions, water, waste and supply chain?
A global agribusiness as large and geographically expansive as ours touches a broad range of issues and interests. So in 2007, we conducted a materiality assessment that examined the range of issues that impact — or are impacted by — our business. We sought input from various stakeholders, and we worked to determine the areas in which we could make the greatest difference through active engagement. Water, energy and emissions, and the integrity of our supply chain emerged at the top of the list. And this past year, we added waste management. Each of these areas is of considerable interest to our customers, shareholders and communities.
Have you been pleased with the company’s progress in each of these areas to date?
We’ve accomplished a lot, and we have more to do. We’ve reduced emissions at our corn and oilseeds plants and improved the energy efficiency of many operations. We’ve been able to strengthen the integrity of our supply chain while having a positive impact on the lives and livelihoods of cocoa and soy growers and their communities. And we made some very innovative and important social investments ― including a $10 million grant to establish the ADM Institute for the Prevention of Postharvest Loss at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
I want to see us make further progress in gathering and reporting data from our global operations. With more than 265 processing plants and nearly 400 procurement facilities around the world, collecting and centralizing this information has been challenging. But we do have teams working diligently to create the systems and processes needed to bring greater precision to our reporting.
Any additional thoughts about ADM’s progress in 2011?
Our Sustainability Steering Committee realigned its various workgroups during the year with a view to supporting our new “15 by 20” goals, and the members of that committee, which includes leaders from each of our business units, have done a good job of helping ADM advance its sustainability objectives. I’m proud of what they’ve accomplished in partnership with individuals at every level of our organization. This year, we asked the people driving that progress to tell the story of their work, and I think they paint a compelling picture of our achievements. I invite readers of this report to share their input and comments with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.