Q&A with Tim Venverloh
Director, sustainability, Office of Compliance and Ethics
How did ADM arrive at the emissions, water, waste and energy targets it established in 2011? How did the process work?
We looked at the impact of the internal improvement efforts in our corn processing business since 2000 and noted the favorable trend toward using much less energy per bushel. Since corn processing is our most intensive process as far as energy, emissions, water use, and waste are concerned, our progress in these operations became the cornerstone of our improvement plan.
Using 2010 as our baseline, we conducted an analysis which showed that an additional companywide efficiency improvement of 15 percent by 2020 was ambitious, but achievable. Since emissions are tied largely to energy use, when energy efficiency improves, we should expect emissions to drop on a per-unit-of-production basis as well. Because water use is related to our processing throughput, many of the efficiencies we implement will translate to less water usage per production unit. And, since waste intensity represents a form of inefficiency, we wanted to include the goal of lessening our waste intensity over time, also.
How will our business units reach these goals? Process improvements? Capital upgrades? Technological tools? All of the above?
This past year, we revamped our cross-functional sustainability workgroups, which are composed largely of ADM operations colleagues from around the world. These groups are prioritizing all the various opportunities before us, including capital expenditures, process changes and behavior-based changes. In the near term, workgroups will focus on data collection and data quality. From this data, a list of recommended projects will be communicated to operations leaders and to our Sustainability Steering Committee for evaluation. Projects will be considered based upon their potential to produce environmental improvements as we work to continue creating value for customers and shareholders.
How long will it be before you’ll be able to begin providing year-over-year comparisons of progress made in the areas of emissions, energy use, water and waste?
Once we have our data collection systems in place, we will be able to provide our stakeholders with more technical content and a graphical summary of our efficiency trends worldwide.
You’ve focused considerable effort on examining various sustainability certification schemes for crops handled by ADM. How is the company participating in these efforts?
As our customers become increasingly interested in the procurement of sustainable products, we consider it our responsibility to remain informed of — and, wherever possible, to assist in the establishment of — certification systems being developed in various parts of the world. Our role is often to help ensure that certification schemes incorporate criteria that can reasonably be expected to achieve their stated environmental and social aims. And because our operations encompass so much of the agricultural value chain, we can help inform and shape sustainability standards that may be implemented on a global scale.
This past year, you traveled to Indonesia and Malaysia with Mike Baroni, ADM’s vice president, economic policy, and the chairman of the company’s Sustainability Steering Committee, to view palm plantations and examine some of the sustainable practices being implemented in those nations. What were some of the major takeaways from those visits?
When growers adopted socially and environmentally sustainable practices, the benefits — economic and otherwise —extended well past their own operations to the community-at-large, and to the ecosystems beyond the plantations. What’s more, sustainable practices could enable high yields to continue indefinitely on existing cultivated land so that agricultural pressure on ecologically diverse areas can be lessened or eliminated.
During our visit, we heard repeatedly that the enforcement of land ownership and land-use rights remain critical to the successful implementation of sustainable agriculture. This is an important part of why we are working to advance effective certification schemes through our participation in the RSPO.
Learn more about ADM's 15x20 plan
Tim Venverloh joined ADM in 2010 and is responsible for the continued development and implementation of ADM’s global sustainability programs.
Since joining ADM, Venverloh has worked closely with heads of the company’s various processing operations and with its Sustainability Steering Committee to formulate an overarching plan to improve environmental and social performance as the company continues growing its global footprint, increasing production volumes, and meeting global demand for food and energy. He holds a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from University of Missouri-Rolla and is a registered professional engineer.