Nestle on regenerative agriculture and the climate crisis
Andy Griffiths, Head of Value Chain Sustainability, writes on the importance of Nestlé's focus on climate change including regenerative agriculture and protection of water.
In my role at Nestlé as Head of Value Chain Sustainability, I’m responsible for the development and delivery of our strategy to deliver positive environmental outcomes, both within our operations and across our supply chain.
I am focusing on bringing together the engineering expertise, operational experience and environmental insights of the organisation, alongside the collaborative partnerships with academia and key delivery partners to develop and implement robust and effective sustainability programmes.
Two of the biggest focus areas of my role and ones that I’m particularly passionate about are climate change and the restoration of nature, for the benefit of society and the environment, but in a way that activates business support and transition.
Our quality of life is dependent on the health of our planet’s natural resources. We are dependent on clean and abundant water to drink, fresh air to breathe and fertile soils to produce our food. These systems that nature provides are essential for humanity to thrive.
But they hang in the balance. Human activity has long altered these systems in the way that we produce and consume food, and we have all seen some of the devastating impacts that can arise when the scales are tipped too far. From major droughts, floods, extreme fires and changing global temperatures – what’s clearer now more than ever is that urgent changes are needed if we are to halt and reverse climate change and create a sustainable future for us all.
As the world’s largest food manufacturer, we have a role to play in reducing our impact on the environment while helping to feed a growing global population with nutritious and delicious food to enhance their quality of life.
The world’s leading climate scientists have warned there is only a decade left if we are to limit global warming to a maximum of 1.5C. Even half a degree beyond this will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people. Therefore, taking action on climate change can’t wait and neither can we.
That’s why Nestlé has made a commitment to reach net-zero emissions across the whole of our operations by 2050, and to half our emissions by 2030. To achieve this will require radical action across our whole value chain, from switching to renewable energy in our factories and offices, to looking for new innovative packaging solutions for our products, to working with our suppliers and farmers on future-proofing our food system.
In fact, the majority of our impact, our carbon footprint, comes from agriculture – the ways we grow and produce the ingredients that make up our products. This is why we’re focusing on more regenerative agricultural practices.
What is Regenerative Agriculture?
Regenerative agriculture is a set of nature-friendly farming practices, that help to enhance farm biodiversity, increase fertility and carbon storage of soils and work harmoniously with nature.
A regenerative farming system is centred around universal principles that protect and restore natural resources such as soil, water and biodiversity, with practices applied as appropriate, relevant to the location and farming system.
These can include planting crops to provide permanent soil cover and enhance the fertility of the soil; limiting the amount of soil disturbance during planting; moving cattle between lands to fertilise the soil; and planting hedgerows to promote biodiversity and support flood resistance.
If we implement regenerative farming practices across all of the ingredients we at Nestlé depend on to make our products, we can produce food with less impact on the environment.
How is Nestlé Playing a Part?
Almost two-thirds of Nestlé’s emissions come from agriculture and that is why we are investing in regenerative agriculture.
Nature-based solutions are fundamental to regenerative farming. By supporting our farmers to implement these practices across their farms for all of the ingredients which go to make our products, we can produce food in a way that leverages nature-based solutions.
In other words, food can be produced with less impact on the environment, not only halting the decline in nature and climate change, but also regenerating the landscapes on which we rely to live on, feed from and enjoy.
Focus on Water
Our agricultural supply chains form the biggest part of our water footprint. We know that improving our water usage within our factory is only the first part of the journey and that it is crucial we take action across the wider water systems.
A single water user cannot solve shared water challenges alone. We must work with other organisations, including our suppliers and partners in the wider community to make a real difference. This is known as water stewardship.
We have improved our water use efficiency across our sites by more than 65% since 2007 and continue to focus on actions that deliver not only better outcomes for our business, but also for the wider community, other water users and the water-rich environment, with its unique ecosystems.
The Nestlé factory in Askeaton, Co. Limerick, is the first factory in Ireland to achieve the prestigious Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Standard Platinum Certification, in recognition of its water stewardship initiatives.
The certification is awarded when it is proven that responsible water policies and initiatives, which lead to water preservation and reduction, are in place throughout a factory are at a highest standard possible, and there is demonstrable engagement with stakeholders in the local catchment area.