By Alex Macdonald, Foremost Farms USA

Foremost Farms USA SmartWayAs a dairy cooperative owned by nearly 2,000 dairy producers in the Upper Midwest, Foremost Farms USA understands that great partnerships make great cheese along with other wholesome, value-added dairy products.

Like successful companies everywhere, Foremost Farms is focused on delivering top quality goods while operating lean and mean. So we look for opportunities to improve efficiency, profitability, market share and performance. What might be less apparent is that being “green” can result in not just more sustainable practices, but a more sustainable bank account.

At Foremost Farms, we’ve extended our partnership model to collaborate with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), through its SmartWay Transport Partnership. This partnership helps us identify ways to be socially responsible and sustainable while benefitting our bottom line.

Together, our dairy producers pool their resources to make investments in the cooperative’s manufacturing and marketing capabilities that will pay off in better products, satisfied customers and solid returns through the equity they build through their membership.

We operate 14 processing plants that take in milk to produce cheese and further process the whey, which is a by-product of cheesemaking. We also deliver milk to bottling facilities to create other dairy products. In addition, we ship from farm to plant 300 loads of milk a day or about 360 million pounds every month from our producer farms to our manufacturing facilities.

With the amount of shipping our company does, minimizing fuel usage became a priority. It became clear that we needed to make some changes.

We began researching innovative ways to use less fuel. What practices could we implement that might help us save? What fuel saving technologies would be most beneficial? How could we become more sustainable without it adversely impacting our bottom line?

We began reviewing our overall energy usage and fuel consumption and quickly noticed how much our freight costs were affected by the rising cost of fuel.

Clearly we needed to curtail our diesel usage, which would not only help us cut costs, but also provide a bonus of being more sustainable. But then came the million-dollar question—how could we do that?

Why Partner with SmartWay?
In our research, we discovered EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership. SmartWay offers smart strategies that help companies reduce and benchmark fuel consumption. With this program, EPA collaborates with the transportation supply chain industry to voluntarily improve fuel efficiency and also reduce the environmental impacts from freight transport.

SmartWay offers partners such as Foremost Farms easy tools to benchmark, monitor, and track performance on freight, and in particular, the miles and therefore the carbon footprint that results from fuel usage in our transportation network. The tools we have access to as a SmartWay partner also help us review how well our cost-cutting and sustainability efforts are working. As a benefit of the partnership, EPA offers reports that we can generate as part of our social responsibility metrics we report out to the industry.