Sustainability programs and eco-friendly initiatives are gaining traction at many major food ingredient companies. The reason for the growing attention can be traced to the success of high-profile programs like Wal-Mart’s “Sustainability 360” program that reduced packaging and shipping costs $2.4 million last year; or Nestle Waters Arrowhead and Poland Springs bottled-water brands that reduced plastic use by 15%, while reducing manufacturing and shipping costs.

Several food ingredient companies have told me that they have started cross-functional, multidisciplinary teams to develop sustainability initiatives. Marketing communication managers at Monsanto, and at sister company Solae, were recently assigned senior roles on their company’s sustainability teams and were tasked with communicating new programs to various stakeholder and customer audiences.

ADM recently published its first corporate responsibility report including an overview of the “Doing It Right” sustainability initiative. A press release on the report got coverage in the food ingredient trade magazines and offered a direct link to the complete report on-line.

I fully expect that the food ingredient channel will see a sharp increase over the first half of 2010 in communications campaigns supporting new sustainability programs. Industry marcom execs will be challenged to expand their communications to a wider variety of internal and external audiences including stakeholders, customers and consumers. Food ingredient companies will need to consider more comprehensive communications plans that integrate multiple tactics including trade news coverage, advertising, social networks, e-mail marketing, partnerships and more.

For additional information on corporate sustainability initiatives, check out the white paper from Korn/Ferry International.