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The Magic Number

In Focus
NAME:Howard Field
COMPANY:Greenfield Global
LOCATION:Toronto, Canada
To ensure the future of our planet, we must return our atmospheric carbon dioxide levels to 350 parts per million. This is the rallying cry of Howard Field, CEO of Greenfield Global.

Howard Field, CEO of Greenfield Global, leads a unique company, which defies description. “Greenfield is a bit of a polka-dotted zebra,” Field says with a laugh. “We don’t look like other companies.”

Field passionately explains the various components of Greenfield, a business that is pioneering the production of net zero carbon-emission ethanol, a versatile raw material crucial for the production of everyday items such as fuel, hand sanitizers, deodorants and alcoholic beverages.

“There is no other ethanol company on the planet that manages the whole process, from grain to glass, with multiple distilleries,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “We are a producer, manufacturer and packager. We can track that original grain of corn we purchase down to the final product.”

350 Parts per Million

Sustainability and a commitment to combating climate change are at the core of Greenfield. “I’m completely motivated by our sustainability pledge,” Field says.

“Our mission statement is to unlock the potential of people, partnerships and nature to accelerate sustainable solutions for the health of the planet.”

The Toronto-based company has facilities in North America and Europe and works tirelessly to lower the carbon footprint associated with its ethanol, contributing to a more sustainable and environmentally friendly supply chain for a wide array of end products.

“Our mission statement is to unlock the potential of people, partnerships and nature to accelerate sustainable solutions for the health of the planet.”

“Ethanol goes into tens of thousands of products that people use every day, so imagine the impact that you can have by lowering the carbon intensity further and further of that raw material,” he explains.

The Greenfield vision is ‘<350’, short-form for its commitment to doing everything it can to help Earth return to C02 levels below 350 parts per million in the atmosphere – the level widely acknowledged as necessary to preserve life as humans have known it.

“It’s the rallying cry at Greenfield and what drives me and the entire Greenfield team,” he says. “We really want to do our part and we punch above our weight in how we are doing it and the impact we are having to help the planet return to less than 350.”

From Tech to Specialty Chemicals

Field says a “rich vein of entrepreneurship” runs through the company. “So many people within Greenfield have that spirit of ‘what else can we do and how can we do it?’” he says, adding that its people are its number one asset. “They help us identify opportunities to be more sustainable as a company,” he says.

For Field, entrepreneurship was also part of his upbringing. His father, serial entrepreneur Kenneth Field, founded Greenfield in 1989.

After completing a degree in entrepreneurial studies and economics at Babson College, Massachusetts, Field struck out on his own by founding two tech companies, bamboo.com and Picaboo, before going on to sell both of them. In 2014, as he was considering new opportunities, his father, who was approaching retirement, offered him the opportunity to lead Greenfield.

“I didn’t know my way around a distillery, and so I initially thought that was just crazy,” he says. “But it was a phenomenal opportunity for me to contribute more to the health of the planet, through a business that was taking corn and turning it into biochemical ethanol.”


Field moved back to Toronto to assume the reins of Greenfield. The company was already successful, but he has put his stamp on it by targeting key customer markets and global expansion, including the inauguration of a 3,700 square-meter pharmaceutical manufacturing center of excellence in Ireland to supply high-purity solvents and alcohols for the life science market in Europe, India and the Middle East.

At the time of completion, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the center was the first net zero emissions building in Ireland.

The pandemic also revealed the challenges of supply chains. In response, Greenfield pulled more processes in-house. “If we are going to look at this business from a 10, 20 or 30-year horizon, we’ve got to take control of our supply chains to mitigate disruptions and offer security and reliability of supply to our customers,” Field says.

Circular Economy

Greenfield’s commitment to lowering both carbon emissions and intensity shines through in its strategic partnerships.

In the ethanol production process, CO2 from corn is typically vented into the atmosphere. The question at Greenfield has always been, “how can we improve this process for the health of the planet?”. The company has fostered relationships with partners such as Linde, who use carbon dioxide captured from Greenfield’s ethanol production process to produce dry ice and carbonated beverages.

Another example of what Field calls a “perfect circular economy” is its partnership with 27 local municipalities in Quebec. Instead of going to landfill, 120,000 metric tons of organic waste is fed into the SEMECS anaerobic digestion plant, operated by Biogaz EG, a subsidiary of Greenfield Global.

“The industry needs to come together with the same goal, as our collective efforts are what will make an impact on the health of the planet.”

The resulting biogas is upgraded into renewable natural gas, Field explains. “Twenty-five percent of it gets routed into our ethanol plant to displace our fossil natural gas use,” he says. “The rest goes into the natural gas pipeline run by Énergir, which is a local utility, and reduces the carbon scores of the natural gas being used by all of its customers.”

Such partnerships are key to cutting carbon emissions, according to Field, and the company constantly seeks long-term partners to grow together with them and in alignment with its sustainability objectives. He cites its transport company T.D. Smith Transport as a longstanding partner who is looking into alternative fuel options to achieve trucks that are dual-fuel.

“It’s all about alignment and working with each other to solve some pretty big problems,” he says. “And the industry needs to come together with the same goal, as our collective efforts are what will make an impact on the health of the planet.”

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