Smeal MBAs establish carbon footprint toolkit for supermarket industry

May 01, 2009

University Park, Pa. -- The leading national trade organization representing food retailers and wholesalers solicited a group of MBA students from Penn State's Smeal College of Business to develop a toolkit to help its 1,500 member companies calculate their carbon footprints.

The Food Marketing Institute's "Carbon Footprint 101" educational program arose from a discussion between Jeanne von Zastrow, senior director of FMI, and second-year Smeal MBA student Matthew Holtry, who was then working as an environmental sustainability consultant for supermarket chain Giant Eagle's carbon emissions inventory project. FMI's Sustainability Task Force had identified carbon emissions as an area in which its members were seeking better information, and asked Holtry to assemble a group of Smeal MBA students to develop the project.

Holtry is president of Penn State Net Impact, an MBA student organization committed to socially and environmentally responsible business practices. He recruited fellow Net Impact members Christopher Anderson, Brian Conry, Jared Freer, Andrew Helfst, and Ryan Sheetz to research and create the carbon footprint toolkit.

The result of their months of research and development is expected to launch on the FMI Sustainability Web site soon, and Holtry will present the toolkit at FMI's second Sustainability Summit in August in San Francisco.

The toolkit will provide food retailers and wholesalers all they need to know to understand the basics of carbon and greenhouse gas issues as well as how emerging public policy may impact their regulation.

"It was very exciting to work with this group of MBA students," von Zastrow said. "Matthew was able to put together an excellent and diverse group, and the result is a very valuable tool for our industry that will help us make this world a better place while also helping add to our bottom line. We were so impressed with the professionalism, commitment, and expertise of this group that we've decided to do more of this type of project in the future."

The package delivered by Holtry's team includes a 30-page whitepaper that provides an interpretation of potential carbon emissions legislation, outlines the process for calculating emissions and setting a reduction goal, and illustrates the financial and marketing benefits of taking early action. The team also developed a 30-minute PowerPoint primer on carbon emissions.

The final piece of the toolkit is a simplified greenhouse gas emissions calculator that FMI member companies can use to get a snapshot of their emissions at the store level. The calculator, which was provided by Verisae, a leading software provider in energy management and refrigerant tracking, also helps to identify opportunities for emission reductions and compares results to industry averages by size and region.

The full toolkit will be available online at

This is just the latest sustainability project undertaken by Penn State Net Impact. In February, the group presented a plan to Penn State's Office of Physical Plant to develop a method for identifying more sustainable janitorial paper products. For more information on Penn State Net Impact, visit

About the Food Marketing Institute
The Food Marketing Institute conducts programs in public affairs, food safety, research, education, and industry relations on behalf of its 1,500 member companies -- food retailers and wholesalers -- in the United States and around the world. FMI's U.S. members operate approximately 26,000 retail food stores and 14,000 pharmacies. Their combined annual sales volume of $680 billion represents three-quarters of all retail food store sales in the United States. FMI's retail membership is composed of large multi-store chains, regional firms, and independent supermarkets. Its international membership includes 200 companies from more than 50 countries. FMI's associate members include the supplier partners of its retail and wholesale members.

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Last Updated June 17, 2009