Restoring Ecosystems On World Environment Day, and Every Day
In early June, OSI employees from Ukraine to the United States participated in activities designed to raise awareness about the planet's critical yet vulnerable ecosystems. They cycled to work, planted gardens, hiked, cleaned up trash and attended workshops and demonstrations on everything from reducing food waste at home to the importance of tracking environmental metrics at OSI.
The activities were tied to World Environment Day, an annual United Nations-designated holiday that encourages global awareness and action to protect our environment. This year's theme, ecosystem restoration, was one that resonates deeply at OSI, where we are working across regions and facilities to be responsible stewards of the planet's finite resources.
Statistics compiled by World Environment Day organizers highlight the urgency of this year's theme, which pertains to the world's shrinking biodiversity: Over 4.7 million hectares (more than 181 square miles) of forests — an area larger than Denmark — are lost every year; more than half of the world’s wetlands have disappeared in the last century; and global greenhouse gas emissions have grown for three consecutive years.
It's a grim picture, yet this year's World Environment Day message encourages all of us to "get active, not anxious."
Organizers wrote that while we cannot turn back time, we can all take steps to “make peace with nature."
At OSI, we share this outlook. We cannot turn back time, but we can — and are — working with farmers around the world to accelerate grazing practices that allow native species to flourish, and to measure and reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the food value chain. We can, and are, working to use water, electricity, packaging and other resources more efficiently within our own facilities. We can, and are, challenging ourselves to constantly improve through ambitious sustainability goals, shepherded by a dedicated team of sustainability professionals who ensure that they are integrated into every aspect of OSI's business. Importantly, we are also always striving to educate ourselves and our team members about the role they each play — as both individuals and employees of a globe-spanning business — in restoring the planet's ecosystems.
EVENTS AND ACTIVITIES ACROSS THE GLOBE
To that end, our offices and facilities used World Environment Day as a moment to call attention to the ways, big and small, that every individual at our company can contribute to this larger goal. At OSI's global headquarters in Aurora, Illinois, employees entering the building were offered information about ecological restoration and invited to educational activities. They learned that two native species gardens will soon appear in the company's parking lot, which will beautify the space, but also offer native species a comfortable home. To encourage them to plant native gardens in their own homes, they were also offered information about the benefits of using native species for landscaping — from saving money and reducing carbon emissions to boosting biodiversity and stewardship of our natural heritage.
Our Culinary Department hosted a cooking demonstration, too, for employees interested in learning how to reduce food waste at home, which we similarly strive to do at OSI.
About an hour east, our Ashland plant in the densely populated city of Chicago used the day to announce an initiative to “restore” a few thousand square feet of on-site land with native plants over the next year. "The only way we can succeed in securing a healthier environment for us and future generations is if we all do our part today," Adam Toerner, Ashland's EHS Specialist, wrote in an email to colleagues. "The first step is being aware of the issues and then part of the solution. One of the most effective things we can do as city dwellers is create additional green space."
Thousands of miles further east in Europe, OSI facilities similarly provided employees with educational materials, initiated environmental projects and hosted a range of activities. In the U.K., OSI employees installed birdhouses and insect hotels and cleaned up litter, all in the spirit of ecological restoration. In our plants in Germany, employees planted a colorful flower meadow, cycled to work, enjoyed regional fruit and received, in our Gelderland plant, a new water dispenser that will reduce reliance on plastic bottles. In Spain, employees planted tomato seedlings, built birdhouses and took an expedition through the mountains of Toledo to remind them of the biodiversity that surrounds them. In our facilities in Poland, Hungary and Ukraine, workers participated in quizzes, games, planting activities, litter clean-up and cycling to draw their attention to the World Environment Day theme.
Vista Processed Foods, an OSI Group company in India, creatively found alternatives to in-person activities, which were limited due to COVID restrictions. Instead, the team offered employees and key stakeholders a series of online sessions that dove deep into sustainability topics including everything from the water footprint of fresh produce to the importance of measuring carbon emissions. The India team also unveiled a number of environmental initiatives (including a digitization project that will reduce paper use across Vista locations and the installation of more energy-efficient fueling systems at two plants) and new efforts to explore how Vista can increase renewable energy usage and reduce transportation emissions.
All OSI employees around the world received information about the importance of healthy ecosystems — the natural and human-made environments in which living organisms interact with their surroundings — and the impact we all have on these life-sustaining systems.
As a company that has been around for more than 100 years, and that aims to be around for 100 more, we know both our business and the communities in which we operate depend on our responsible stewardship of the Earth's resources. So we embrace this year's World Environment Day theme and take it as a challenge to focus more intently on the role we can all play in restoring ecosystems, every day.