Company/organization and country: The Wonderful Company, USA
Type of project: Business implementation
SDG(s) relevant to the project: 2, 12, 13
Topic(s): Net zero and Scope 3 emissions
Product(s): Almonds, pistachios
Project end date and duration: March 2023 (2 years)
Abstract: Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds is a proud, longstanding member of INC, part of The Wonderful Company —recently recognized by the Los Angeles Business Journal for its work culture and commitment to sustainability.
One of the world’s largest single processors of nuts, the vertical integration of our business has enabled us to implement a wide range of significant sustainability practices across our operations. This includes water-efficient irrigation systems, eco-friendly pest control, research and development and more.
For this award submission, we have chosen to highlight one of our most impactful projects —our Energy Transformation achieving cleaner, renewable energy sources for our farming and processing operations. The vision of our Energy Transformation efforts is to decarbonize our business by sourcing renewable energy, which enhances one of our core business missions to deliver healthy products harvested by healthy people, for a healthy planet. Additionally, our Energy Transformation efforts in solar, renewable diesel, and electrification create sustainable long-term growth for our business —and doing the right thing for our environment.
Wonderful joined the global renewable energy initiative RE100 in 2019 and committed to transitioning our US operations to 100% renewable electricity by 2025. We are making significant progress. To date, we have invested more than $130 million to install major solar projects across our operations in California’s Central Valley, including at the Wonderful Pistachios and Almonds plant in Lost Hills. The solar projects built at our processing facilities total over 35 Megawatts (MW) of capacity, more than five times the size of previous installations. Together, these solar facilities provide over 73,000 MWh of electricity annually, roughly the same amount of power as 7,000 homes use in a year. Our solar projects are among the largest in California’s Central Valley, with our biggest project spanning over 100 acres.
What further sets us apart is that we own and operate on-site solar instead of sourcing third-party renewable energy or purchasing renewable energy credits. We directly generate solar electricity, achieving additionality and accountability for our resource usage. The solar power generation facilities now deliver 75% of our electricity needs for pistachio and almond processing, significantly decarbonizing our operations. Combined with additional off-site renewable energy projects that will maximize emissions savings, and continued investments in energy efficiency, Wonderful is on track to reach 100% renewable electricity in the US by 2025, and globally by 2040.
In addition to solar electricity, Wonderful’s Energy Transformation includes our fuel decarbonization efforts. In 2022, we converted our diesel-powered orchard vehicle fleet to run on 100% renewable diesel—the first major agricultural company in California to make renewable diesel the standard for its operations.
Renewable diesel, unlike biodiesel, is chemically identical to fossil diesel but produces 60% less emissions without causing any performance degradation. Renewable diesel is refined from waste agricultural products like vegetable oil and animal fat instead of crude oil, and therefore releases less emissions over the lifecycle of processing, refining, and burning the fuel. In 2022, over 1.3 million gallons of renewable diesel were used in place of fossil diesel for our farming vehicles.
Beyond renewable diesel, we are supporting the shift towards vehicle electrification, investing in developing EV charging infrastructure to facilitate the transition to electric commuter vehicles for our employees. We have already installed 56 EV charging ports across eight of our nut farming and processing facility locations and purchased three electric yard trucks to further decarbonize our nut processing activities.
The Energy Transformation initiative is part of our larger sustainability roadmap to reduce our carbon footprint and build a more sustainable future through responsible agriculture, clean energy, waste reduction, and sustainable packaging.
Outcomes: We know that agriculture must be part of the solution to addressing greenhouse gas emissions globally —and Wonderful is committed to being part of that solution. Representing more than 50% of California’s pistachio market, our Energy Transformation project is critical to significantly reducing production emissions that contribute to global warming. Wonderful’s solar investments and transition to 100% renewable diesel drives the larger nut industry towards a net-zero future and is a model for INC and nut growers worldwide.
By producing our own solar electricity, rather than pulling from the surrounding electrical grid, we eliminate 18,000 metric tons of carbon emissions from our operations and reduce the energy load on the increasingly burdened grid, contributing to increased resiliency for the grid, the communities it serves, and our operations. These emissions reductions are equivalent to eliminating emissions from 4,000 passenger vehicles every year.
Furthermore, by operating our own solar plants rather than buying generic renewable electricity credits, we are demonstrating how we and the broader nut industry can and are directly contributing to a renewable energy future. While companies have the option to purchase RECs to claim renewable electricity generation to use in their operations, we have gone further by installing and expanding our renewable energy sources so we can be confident in our sustainability best practices and rely on ourselves, rather than on other industries, to supply it for us.
Beyond greenhouse gas emissions reductions, Wonderful’s solar projects also contribute to reduced air pollution. In California, many fossil fuel power plants that feed the electric grid are located in disadvantaged communities disproportionately affected by the resulting air pollution. Thanks to the solar power we create, we avoid using grid power that would otherwise have released 37,000 pounds of NOx, a pollutant harmful to human health and the environment. Reducing air pollution elevates the nut processing industry to lead a just and equitable energy transition towards renewables.
Our transition to 100% renewable diesel further contributed to our shift towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. When Wonderful began conversations with fuel suppliers at the beginning of our journey, it was not a standard fuel offering. As one of the first large agricultural companies in California’s Central Valley to use renewable diesel at scale, our efforts in the space created the potential for widespread adoption among agricultural companies, including other nut and dried fruit producers, to make the switch and reduce their emissions. The 1.3 million gallons of renewable diesel used for our farming operations in 2022 resulted in a reduction of 9,800 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.
Agricultural operations as large as ours require many vehicles, which is one of the many reasons we are transitioning to low-emission transportation technologies and supporting our workforce who have electric commuter vehicles. Purchasing electric yard trucks and installing electric vehicle charging infrastructure decarbonizes our operations and represents how Wonderful, as one of the world’s largest nut processors and sellers, is facilitating vehicle electrification for our employees and the communities where we operate. As leaders in environmental sustainability, our work extends into also ensuring the communities where our employees live and work are increasingly sustainable—from improving education and health care to economic mobility. This is core to our company’s values. Energy Transformation improves business performance, enabling Wonderful to continue providing the highest quality product at a fair price for the global nut and fruit industry. Our investments secure a sustainable, long-term energy supply to deliver fresh, nutritious, and sustainable snacks to food service, retailers, and consumers worldwide.