Sustainable Agriculture

To ensure consistent, exceptional food service products for our customers we thoroughly inspect and evaluate our products and processes from field to table. As a major purchaser of fruits and vegetables, Sysco plays a significant role in improving agricultural standards among our many growers, processors and distributors of Sysco Brand canned and frozen fruits, vegetables and potatoes. We promote economically viable practices to protect sensitive areas, improve air, water, soil and wildlife resources and conserve non-renewable mineral resources. Sysco's Sustainable/Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program encourages waste reduction through recycling, conservation of energy and water, and limitations on use of pesticide and nutrient inputs to only those needed for a successful crop.

Suppliers and growers typically apply IPM practices throughout their operations, not just on acres devoted to Sysco product. This elevates standards and practices across the industry, yielding valuable data about suppliers' agricultural inputs and conservation efforts.

PESTICIDES AND FERTILIZERS

Sysco's IPM program has helped participating farmers protect environmentally sensitive growing areas, soils and water resources since 2004; encouraging the responsible use of fertilizers and pesticides as well as cover crop, crop rotation and natural pest control practices.

The program covers the full range of basic and specialty crops we purchase. By the end of the 2015 growing season, this included 59 crops for 68 Sysco Brand suppliers of canned and frozen fruit, vegetables and potatoes. The results are exponentially effective, involving 181 processing locations, nearly 10,000 growers and nearly 1.4 million acres under cultivation.

Participating suppliers must track their pesticide use, with the goal of limiting the quantity applied or using lower toxicity level products when possible. However, pesticide use can fluctuate considerably from year to year, driven by weather, pest populations and other factors.

In the 2015 growing season, our suppliers reported avoiding 4.9 million pounds of pesticides by utilizing IPM principles. This included avoidance of 35 thousand pounds of pesticides by utilizing practices that disrupt pheromone mating of non-beneficial organisms; and avoidance of 113 thousand pounds of pesticides that affect beneficial organisms in general.

They also reported that they avoided using more than 30.0 million pounds of chemical fertilizer, decreasing risks of nutrient loss, surface water and ground water impact. The IPM practices serve to improve water quality by reducing negative impacts on the health of local water sources.

Our IPM program includes standards that encourage suppliers to protect the bee pollination process. Specifically, in 2014, we created new standards under our IPM program that encourage Sysco Brand suppliers to protect and create habitat and forage sources on the farm for pollinators.

WATER CONSERVATION

We ask growers and processors to measure all water used in irrigating and processing fruit and vegetables.

Suppliers reported conserving nearly 682 million gallons of water in manufacturing facilities in the 2015 growing season mainly by changing processing strategies and practicing water reuse and recycling.

Suppliers also reported conserving water in field production in the 2015 growing season by:

  • Installing drip nozzles on overhead irrigation
  • Replacing furrow/flood irrigation with drips
  • Laser leveling flood-irrigated fields
  • Using shutoff devices triggered by rainfall
  • Improving irrigation water use efficiency
  • Employing soil and plant moisture technologies such as soil probes and evapotranspiration monitoring

AGRICULTURAL WASTE

We encourage participants in the IPM program to report how much vegetative waste they reuse, whether they're returning it to fields, composting it, feeding cattle with it or have other methods of removing it from the waste stream of landfills and wastewater treatment plants. In the 2015 growing season, participants reported reusing more than 1.4 million tons of vegetative resources.

​Participating suppliers and growers have also reported significant reductions in other waste, as well as improvement in measurement and reporting. In the 2015 growing season they reported recycling more than 269 million tons of metal, glass, paper, plastics and oils.

ENERGY

Our participating suppliers also report fuel conservation from in-field and processing operations. For the 2015 growing year, they reported estimated savings of almost 372,000 gallons of fuel.

FUELING SUPPLIER SUCCESS

Participants in Sysco's IPM plan reported a wide range of success stories from the 2015 growing year. Among their methods:

  • Implementing a heated water defrost system, which reduced water consumption by 70 percent
  • Extracting oil from over ripe or sorted out avocados prior to processing; produced avocado oil for human consumption, cosmetics and soap
  • Installed retention pond to capture condensate water from the evaporators, reducing water usage up to 60 percent
  • Soil moisture monitoring and use of drip irrigation reduced need for water and electricity to run pumps
  • Implemented a recycling program for metal, fiber, aluminum cans, plastic water bottles, etc. which reduced waste to landfill by over 4 percent
  • Composting organic by-products reduced downstream GHG emissions by approximately 1,900 metric tons/month

SOURCING SUSTAINABILE PALM OIL

As the world's largest foodservice marketer and distributor, Sysco has a vision to become our customers' most valued and trusted business partner. Achieving our vision requires an unwavering commitment to conduct business responsibly and sustainably.

We recognize the importance of contributing to the promotion of a sustainable supply of palm oil and are committed to partnering with our suppliers to increase over time the use of responsibly-sourced palm oil in the Sysco Brand supply chain.

Sysco had previously committed that, by the end of 2020, 100 percent of the palm oil in Sysco Brand products would be certified by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO).

Acknowledging, however, that RSPO certification does not currently address certain other unsustainable practices, we developed a palm oil sourcing policy to reflect our concern about current palm oil industry practices and our commitment to engage in an appropriate manner to influence meaningful, long-term change in this area. Accordingly, this current policy supersedes our previous RSPO-based commitment.