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Darden Restaurants Publishes 2012 Sustainability Report; Notes Strong Progress With 'People, Planet, Plate' Initiatives

ORLANDO, Fla., Aug. 1, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- Darden Restaurants today issued its second sustainability report noting it has made progress in all areas of sustainability across its more than 1,900 restaurants, 180,000 employees and global supply chain. Most notably, the company has exceeded its 2015 goal of reducing water consumption in each of its restaurants by 15 percent on aggregate and is more than half way toward meeting the same goal for reducing energy consumption in its restaurants.  

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"Water scarcity, declining fish stocks, health and wellness and developing future talent – these are just some of the issues shaping our operating environment, our communities and our business," said Clarence Otis, chairman and CEO of Darden. "We recognize we have the responsibility to make a positive difference around a host of sustainability issues to drive the growth of our company while also creating social value."

The report, organized around three core platforms – People, Planet, Plate – includes accomplishments such as:

  • Becoming the first full-service restaurant company named to the FORTUNE "100 Best Companies to Work For" list in 2011 and 2012. FORTUNE further recognized Darden as a "Diversity Champion," ranking it among the top 20 employers on the list for diverse workforces.
  • Investing $130 million annually in employee training, professional development and diversity initiatives.
  • Distributing more than 56 million pounds of high-quality food to hunger-relief organizations through the Darden Harvest program that began in 2004.
  • Exceeding $60 million in charitable donations since 1995.
  • Launching the Darden Restaurants Community Grants program, awarding more than $1.7 million to nearly 900 nonprofit organizations across North America focused on access to postsecondary education, preservation of natural resources and hunger.

  • Reducing restaurant water usage by 17 percent on an aggregate basis between FY08-FY11, exceeding its 2015 goal of 15 percent reduction and conserving more than 1 billion gallons of water.
  • Reducing restaurant energy use between FY08-FY11, reaching more than half of its 2015 goal of 15 percent reduction.
  • Completing new green building prototypes for Red Lobster, Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse, enabling all new restaurants to align with Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification standards.
  • Achieving 100 percent recycling rate for discarded fry oil, which totaled 20 million gallons in FY11.
  • Tripling the number of Darden restaurants that take part in single-stream recycling of glass, plastics and aluminum.
  • Increasing Darden's landfill diversion rate by 14 percent.
  • Receiving the Environmental Protection Agency's ENERGY STAR certification at its Restaurant Support Center facility in Orlando, which is now generating 20% or more of its power from the 1.1-megawatt solar installation completed in December.

  • Pledging to reduce its restaurants' overall calorie and sodium footprints by 10 percent over the next five years and 20 percent over the next 10 years, the most comprehensive health-and-wellness commitment of any restaurant company to date.
  • Announcing a "Seafood Stewardship Policy," advancing Darden's commitment to support wild fisheries and aquaculture in order to help meet the growing demand for healthy, safe, secure and sustainable food supply while preserving and enhancing ecosystems.
  • Continuing Darden's leadership approach to seafood stewardship with a commitment to Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA) Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) standards; 100 percent of shrimp and 75 percent of tilapia meet GAA standards.
  • Reducing nearly 39 million miles of driving per year with continued use of Darden Direct, its best-in-class food-distribution system that reduces energy use in distribution by more efficiently routing trucks and increasing use of rail shipments.
  • Launching a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP) with Publix Super Markets and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership to rebuild grouper and snapper fisheries in the Gulf of Mexico.

The release of the 2012 sustainability report is one milestone in Darden's sustainability journey. For example, at the recent Rio+20 conference, Darden was among a select group of companies that announced a four-step framework methodology to assign value to the world's forests, freshwater and marine systems and ways to reduce risks caused by scarcities of natural resources.

"Effectively minimizing the impact we have within our operations and on the environment enables us to better serve our communities and our guests," said Drew Madsen, Darden president and chief operating officer. "Just as importantly, we know our employees care about a number of social and environmental issues that we are uniquely positioned to address. We will continue to invest in integrating sustainable best practices across our operations."

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