Blue is the eco-friendliest color: Cargill values earn Costa Rica's highest environmental honors
February 02, 2021
Early in 2020, Christian Corrales was walking through the grounds of Evolución 5.0, an expansion of one of Cargill’s protein sites in Costa Rica, when an idea came to him. What if the construction crew could turn the debris from the project into new materials?
“We’re neighbors with a couple of local recycling plants, so I thought it would be a great way to reach out to our community and generate a positive impact,” said Christian, a project manager in charge of supervising the construction of Evolución 5.0.
Christian’s idea was not a one-off. Since the early stages of the project, his team had sought not only to fulfill the Cargill’s values of putting people first and doing the right thing, but to commit to reaching higher.
Evolución 5.0 is not done yet, but the team’s hard work is paying off. Over the last few months, the government of Costa Rica, along with other private organizations, awarded Cargill two Blue Flags — the country’s highest honor for sustainability efforts.
“The flags confirm the team’s outstanding job, as well as Cargill’s commitment to sustainability and the protection of the planet, that go beyond legal requirements,” said Ivana Chavarría, environmental lead for Central America and Mexico.
The team designated Alejandro Sanabria, Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) lead, to maintain the environmental protection standards and Cargill’s best practices among the contractors.
In fact, it was one of the contractors working with Christian who suggested the team should apply to the Blue Flags program. “We weren’t thinking about awards, we were just living our corporate values,” Christian says.
So much so that Christian cannot think of a single requirement that forced his team to work harder than they already were. “We weren’t trying to comply with the Blue Flag. We were trying to comply with our own standards, which were way higher.”
“We’re proud to have our work recognized not only by our government, but by experts in the field,” Ivana added.
Initially, the team applied to the Blue Flag for Sustainable Construction category. A team of the Federated College of Engineers and Architects (CFIA, in Spanish) inspected every facet of the project — design process, construction, waste management, water treatment, energy consumption, environmental impact — both on paper and in person.
Cargill had already passed with flying colors. For instance, before construction began, it was determined that dust from the project could hurt the local environment and the community. An initial solution was to just use water to mitigate the dust. Javier Batalla, the build project manager, had an alternative: treat and reuse water already in use at Cargill’s protein plants close by.
The CFIA was so impressed with Cargill’s efforts, they recommended the team apply to a new category: Sanitary Promotion, created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Once again, Cargill Costa Rica aced the requirements. From building dining areas that allow for safe social distancing to mandating masks at all time, the team avoided any spread of the virus within the construction crew.
“Across the company, hygiene standards have been at a historic high since the beginning of the pandemic. We made sure we complied and excelled at that as well,” said Susan Campos, a project manager who worked closely with Christian.
Once again, hard work payed off: Cargill is the first company in the country to receive the Sanitary Promotion award.
“I think this is evidence that when we live our values, there’s very little we can’t accomplish,” Susan reflected. “It takes resilience to do the right thing; it takes hard work and adaptability to rich higher and put people first. But in the end, it’s always worth it.”