Head of Environmental Sustainability at JBS Greeley, CO
One year after launching the initiative, JBS and Pilgrim’s have approved $110 million – and counting – to fund hundreds of projects proposed by team members to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
It’s part of the company’s $1 billion commitment toward achieving net-zero GHG emissions by 2040. “We made the pledge, and we're leading the charge,” says Mark Ritsema, JBS Head of Environmental Sustainability.
Mark says team members were first asked to come forward with investment proposals for their facilities in August 2021. In just a year, more than 300 have been budgeted and approved. Projects range in type, scope, and scale. All are assessed based on their contribution to actual GHG reduction.
“Every project is judged off the same score sheet,” says Mark. “We're looking at the dollars that we're spending per ton of greenhouse gas removed and what the payback to the business is,” which is usually the product of reduced cost or improved operational efficiency over time.
While a global JBS initiative, it’s at the facility level where change happens. “The fact is, our team members are actually the ones making the change,” Mark says.
Team member Melissa Molaison’s project to improve a wastewater treatment lagoon will reduce total GHG emissions at the Pilgrim’s plant in Enterprise, Alabama, by 40%.
Abe Anderson and Damon Depew’s project to generate heat and power from captured biogas will yield a 15% GHG reduction at the JBS beef plant in Plainwell, Michigan, and create further offsets by reducing the amount of natural gas and electricity the facility would otherwise buy.
“This is our opportunity to step forward [to achieve net zero], and we are on that path and striving to achieve it,” says Mark.
“JBS is ahead of the curve with this kind of investment,” says Melissa about her lagoon project. “The culture here is all about getting it done.”
Even with 300-plus approved projects, Mark says there is no sign of the initiative slowing down.
“I got a phone call from the facility manager in DeQueen, Arkansas, asking ‘How do we make progress faster?’” says Mark. “He’s responsible for running everything at a multi-million-dollar facility and what’s on his mind is greenhouse gas reduction.”
Most of the projects proposed so far have come from facility environmental managers and others concerned with plant operational efficiency.
“As the GHG reduction team becomes more than just the environmental and maintenance managers at the plant to include our production team, our suppliers, and our equipment vendors, that’s when big new ideas are going to come out and how momentum will continue to roll,” Mark says.
“There’s no question about it, people are inspired by our mission to reduce GHGs,” he says.