June 5th is the United Nations World Environment Day, which the organization created to focus attention and spur action on tackling environmental issues.

This year, the theme is “Connecting People to Nature,” and for a growing number of consumers, choosing food and beverage products from companies that have more sustainable practices is becoming increasingly important.

“As consumers are trying to live more sustainable lives, they’ll look to (food and beverage) companies to show them how their products can help them in their efforts,” says Jason Pelz, vice president of environment for Tetra Pak US & Canada.

So, in honor of the day, we talked with Pelz about how food and beverage processors can approach environmentally friendly operations as not just a corporate social responsibility, but as a business driver.

FE: What are some of the ways food and beverage processors can become more sustainable in their operations?

Pelz: Food processors need to take a holistic view of their operations and understand where there’s opportunity to reduce consumption of natural resources, such as water and energy, product loss and waste such as packaging.

Another crucial way they can be more sustainable is by sourcing their materials sustainably and reduce pollution.

FE: Why is it important for food and beverage to start doing these things now if they haven’t already?

Pelz: The reality is resource scarcity and the impacts of climate change can be a threat to business growth now and in the future, as the availability of raw material and resources needed for food production continues to diminish.

For example, water scarcity in California and floods and droughts in other parts of the world impact crops, raw material availability and price, and are becoming more rampant. These events will only continue to worsen as our global population grows.

On the other hand, environmental excellence creates value for businesses in terms of revenue generation by creating product preference and brand loyalty; cost reduction through lower consumption of resources and more efficient operations; and brand equity by creating a connection with the growing number of consumers who prefer buying sustainable brands.

FE: How can environmental excellence also help further operational/processing excellence?

Pelz: We like to say that environmental excellence is good for the planet and good for business. By reducing resource consumption, product loss and waste, operations become more efficient. In turn, companies not only reduce their environmental footprint but also lower operational costs. Resource scarcity is a reality and we all need to pay attention and take action. Change requires commitment and investment, and in many cases, that ROI needs to be analyzed in a non-traditional way, including looking at the future negative impacts of resource scarcity.

FE: How can food and beverage companies communicate their sustainability efforts to consumers more effectively?

Pelz: Food and beverage companies’ sustainability efforts should be clearly communicated on package as well as in other ways such as the product's website and social media. The store shelf is the perfect opportunity to tell consumers your story.