Unwrapping sustainability at Nestlé

10th February 2014


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Mary-Magdelene Young Ntamark

the environmentalist learns more about Nestlé UK and Ireland's sustainability targets and how it is using its 'lighthouse' factory at Fawdon to drive innovation

Nestlé UK and Ireland - targets

To achieve its overall sustainability goals, Nestlé UK and Ireland has set ambitious targets in the areas captured in its six pillars of sustainability - energy; water; waste; biodiversity; the value chain; and community and people. These targets are subject to continuous improvement and when the company reaches an objective in advance of its due date, it sets a more stretching target. Examples of such targets include:

Water consumption

  • The original target was to reduce water consumption by 30% by 2020 against a 2006 baseline. Nestlé has already achieved this target and has now set a new goal to halve total water consumption by 2020.

Climate change - energy and emissions

  • Develop climate change adaptation plans for all sites.
  • Cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 30% and achieve 10% renewable energy use by 2015 - both against a 2006 baseline.
  • Pilot micro-renewables at Fawdon factory (complete trial in 2014).

Climate change - transport and distribution

  • Switch 15% of road transportation to and from UK and Ireland sites to rail by 2015 against a 2010 baseline.
  • Support the Freight Transport Association's target of reducing CO2 emissions by 8% by 2015.

Natural capital

Packaging and waste

  • Help identify and promote appropriate methods for the collection, sorting and recycling of mixed plastics.
  • Achieve 95% recyclability packaging rate by 2015.
  • Send zero waste from Nestlé UK factories to landfill by 2015 (excluding a minimum amount of hazardous waste).

Fawdon - the 'lighthouse' factory

Nestlé Fawdon is home to Rowntree's fruit pastilles and fruit gums, and a range of chocolate confectionery, including Munchies and Toffee Crisp. It is also Nestlé's "lighthouse" factory for sustainability initiatives, where the company is pioneering ways to improve its environmental performance above and beyond its corporate goals. The corporate target for greenhouse-gas (GHG) emissions is a 30% cut by 2015, while a company-wide goal of halving water use is set for 2020. At Fawdon, however, the company aimed to achieve a 20% reduction in GHGs and to halve water consumption by the end of 2013.

Based near Newcastle and employing around 550 people, the Fawdon factory was chosen as the site to pilot groundbreaking sustainability projects because of its complex day-to-day operations. "Production at the Fawdon plant involves some of our more challenging manufacturing processes for confectionery, so we can learn more from the sustainability initiatives we trial there before rolling them out in other parts of the business," explains Inder Poonaji, head of sustainability at Nestlé UK and Ireland.

A blueprint for future action

Nestlé's sustainability plan for Fawdon aims to establish a blueprint for other sites to follow. Based on the firm's six pillars of sustainability - energy; water; waste; biodiversity; the value chain; and community and people - the site plan involves piloting a wide range of initiatives to support Fawdon to become a low-carbon manufacturing site. Nestlé has made a substantial investment in an anaerobic digestion system, which turns liquid and solid food waste into energy and meets up to 15% of the site's energy requirements. The initiative also helps the factory to make better use of waste and reduce the amount it discharges to the sewage system.

Nestlé has replaced one of the diesel vans at the Fawdon site with a low-emission electric van to measure the amount of carbon it would save by switching more of its fleet. It is also piloting micro-renewable technologies, which use resources such as solar radiation to generate energy. If the technologies on trial at Fawdon are successful, Nestlé plans to implement similar systems at its other UK sites, and has already done so in some cases.

Biodiversity and butterflies

In 2011, Fawdon factory employees joined members of the local community, Natural England, the Northumberland Wildlife Trust and Northumberland Butterfly Conservation to plant a wildflower meadow (pictured, above). The initiative - straddling at least two of the firm's six sustainability pillars (biodiversity and community) - is now part of Nestlé's national programme to plant 75 acres of butterfly meadows. By 2015, all of its UK sites will have a wildflower meadow within the factory grounds. Seven dairy farmers from Nestlé's "first milk sustainability" partnership group have also joined the initiative.

"Butterflies are vital for our ecosystem but they are facing particularly tough conditions," says Poonaji. "Their numbers indicate the environmental health of an area and by restoring natural habits we will see an increase in fauna and flora, thereby improving local biodiversity and helping local indigenous species, including butterflies."

In 2012, Nestlé launched a global commitment on natural capital and as part of this has adopted a strategy to identify its reliance and potential impact on the nature around production sites. "Operating factories across the UK and using agricultural raw materials, Nestlé understands its responsibility to develop the business in a way that promotes natural capital and, in particular, biodiversity," explains Poonaji.

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