Greening Sysco

Before last summer, I probably wouldn’t have put the words Sysco and sustainability in the same sentence. Sysco, the sprawling food-service distributor with trucks criss-crossing the country, seemed the antithesis of a business managed with an environmental consciousness. But I began to question my assumptions a bit when I attended a conference on food waste and heard how Sysco was taking the excess out of its food-service operation at Montclair State University. I can’t find my notes on the talk now, but I remember being appalled at the waste and impressed by how much Sysco had cut out after its revamp.

Now an article in the April issue of Saveur is making me think even more about Sysco and sustainability. The writer looks at the company’s efforts to add local suppliers and implement a truck routing system that cut 10 million miles off its trips last year. And when she tells CEO Richard Schnieders he sounds a lot like Michael Pollan, he responds, “I think Michael is 90% right.”

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to give up cooking local food at home any time soon. But given the size of Sysco’s presence in American food, I’d much rather have it cutting its carbon footprint than not. And I hope it will continue after Schnieders retires later this year.

The Saveur article, alas, is not online. But Sysco has produced a report on its sustainability efforts, and you can read it here.

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