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We All Want to Make a Difference — This Little Changes Day, You Can

Joe McMahan

Vice-President, Sustainability & Shared Value, Maple Leaf Foods

Maple Leaf Foods’ Disconnected Dinner Challenge encourages Canadians to disconnect from technology on Little Changes Day — benefiting both the environment and themselves.

Sometimes it’s the little things in life that make the biggest difference.

This November 7th is Maple Leaf Foods’ second annual Little Changes Day — a time for collective action where Canadians can come together to make little changes that can help to protect the planet for future generations.


“November 7th also marks four years of maintaining carbon neutrality for Maple Leaf Foods, which was a first for any major food company,” says Joe McMahan, Vice-President of Sustainability and Shared Value at Maple Leaf Foods, one of Canada’s largest prepared meats and poultry producers. “We want to use this time and beyond to inspire all Canadians with ways that can help fight climate change. Research shows that 76 per cent of Canadians recognize that climate change is a critical issue and they want to have an impact. But it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by where to start.”

The Disconnected Dinner Challenge

Little Changes Day encourages Canadians to help make a difference with a clear, action-oriented challenge that everyone can participate in. 

“This Little Changes Day, we’re issuing a Disconnected Dinner Challenge to Canadians,” says McMahan. “It’s just one small example of how small steps add up. The Disconnected Dinner Challenge promotes a dinnertime removed from screens, which will reduce carbon emissions while also helping friends and family reconnect with one another.”

Maple Leaf Foods’ research reveals that 48 per cent of Canadians often watch TV while eating dinner, while 86 per cent of Canadian parents say they’d like to spend more quality time away from screens. “This common practice taking place in approximately five million Canadian households is just one example of electricity generation that seems minimal, but collectively creates carbon emissions that contribute to climate change,” says McMahan. 

Reducing carbon emissions while reconnecting with loved ones

And while disconnecting benefits the environment, it also benefits families and individuals. “Research suggests that using this time to connect in conversation or to embrace nature can improve creativity, focus, and memory,” says McMahan.

Participating in the Disconnected Dinner Challenge on Little Changes Day is easy — all Canadians need to do is to turn off their TV and enjoy a dinnertime disconnected from technology. Participants are invited to share their plans to disconnect by tagging
@MapleLeafFoods on social media and using the hashtag #DisconnectedDinner.

Maple Leaf Foods also offers other tips to help shape a productive conversation during dinner and to engage the family in meal-making. “Giving everybody a role, from fridge finder to produce washer to table setter, can give kids a chance to have a more participatory approach to dinner and also to learn a valuable skill,” says McMahan.

We all have a role to play    

There’s no Planet B. Maple Leaf Foods is on a journey to become the most sustainable protein company on earth and wants to inspire and engage Canadians to follow suit. 

Little Changes Day is part of the company’s Step Up for Sustainability program, a multi-year campaign that encourages consumers to step up for sustainability and provides Canadian families with fun resources, sustainability tips, and challenges. 

“If we step up for sustainability together, we can fight climate change,” says McMahan. “Businesses have a key and critical role to play, as do governments. But there’s a lot that consumers can do, too. If an everyday Canadian does something small, and then you multiply that across millions of people, that small change can have a profound impact.” 

Leading by example    

Maple Leaf Foods certainly walks the walk. The company is proud of its sustainability successes and undertakes ambitious corporate actions that help tackle the climate crisis. Its initiatives extend well beyond its carbon neutral anniversary and Little Changes Day. 

If we step up for sustainability together,
we can fight climate change.

“Our Hamilton plant recently achieved LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification, demonstrating our dedication to eco-friendly operations,” says McMahan. “And our central lab, which does a lot of the research, development, and testing of our products, earned a green status from My Green Lab Certification, which is the first such certification awarded to any laboratory in Canada.”

Maple Leaf Foods’ ongoing commitment to a more sustainable future is also evident in its science-based targets to reduce the environmental impact of its operations and supply chain raising the bar for a better food industry and beyond. McMahan notes recent improvements in the company’s packaging, for example, as well as supporting regenerative agriculture practices on the farms it sources grains and crops from.

Prioritizing sustainability   

“Our sustainability goals stem from the acknowledgement that climate change is an existential crisis,” says McMahan. “It’s a profound and multidimensional threat to our planet’s ecological, social, and economic stability. It accelerates global warming. It leads to more frequent and severe weather events, rising sea levels, and disruptions to ecosystems. It affects food security, water resources, human health, poverty, you name it. Addressing climate change is not only a matter of environmental concern, but a moral and practical imperative to protect future generations.”

There’s also a business benefit. Prioritizing sustainability enhances the organization’s long-term profitability and resilience, reduces operational costs, attracts environmentally conscious consumers, and helps to attract top talent. “There’s a triple bottom line — social, economic, and environmental — that drives the cause,” says McMahan.

We all win when companies like Maple Leaf Foods prioritize sustainability. And we all have a role to play.

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