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Maple Leaf Foods says it's now carbon neutral

North American producer of meat and plant proteins says it will reduce emissions and invest in environmental projects

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has reduced its emissions and invested in environmental projects to become carbon neutral in an effort to be the world's most sustainable protein company and meet consumer demand for corporate responsibility on climate change.

"If you hear some excitement and pride in my voice, you're not mistaken. This is an enormous milestone on our sustainability journey," said Michael McCain, CEO, during a conference call Thursday.

The company announced earlier in the day that it believes it is the first major food company in the world to be carbon neutral.

"I have no doubt that there are some smaller food companies in some corners of the world that have taken this position as well," said McCain. But Maple Leaf believes it's the first of large-scale food enterprises that are publicly traded to achieve this milestone.

Maple Leaf also invested in environmental projects in Canada and the United States to help offset the emissions that are beyond its control and it cannot cut.

The projects will support wind energy, forest protection and re-forestry, as well as the reduction and recovery of methane gas emissions.

These emissions targets and investments come at a cost.

"Taking care of the planetary needs of the future is not free," said McCain, but the company is banking on it paying off.

"The investments that we're making are going to drive returns--not just to our business, but to the planet."

McCain said he's "optimistic" that a significant portion of the public will want to buy food products made by a carbon-neutral company.

Increasingly, consumers align themselves with brands behaving responsibly, he said.

In 2015, Maple Leaf Foods committed to eliminating waste by reducing Maple Leaf’s environmental footprint by 50% in 10 years. The company says it has made significant strides in this area, having reduced more than 86 million kilowatt hours of electricity--equal to 12,912 passenger vehicles driven for one year.

Maple Leaf, best known for its fresh and prepared meats, has been growing its plant-based protein business in recent years.

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