Nestlé targets product design to boost sustainable performance

Nestlé is looking to build faster and better lifecycle thinking into the product design stage of its operations to raise environmental standards across its entire brand portfolio.

The company has developed a web-based tool called Ecodex which it is now rolling out across its business worldwide.

The tool uses information specific to the food and beverage industry to provide rapid and accurate data that allows Nestlé product development teams to assess sustainability performance across multiple product lines.

Significantly it presents complex results in a simple, user-friendly format, enabling those who have little knowledge of life cycle assessment to use it and interpret the findings accordingly.

According to Nestlé’s head of sustainability for R&D Anne Roulin, the way a product or service is designed determines its use of resource and can help to minimise waste.

“A sizeable part of our contribution to environmental sustainability depends on our ability to evaluate the impacts of our products from the moment we begin to design or redevelop them,” she said.

“This means going far beyond simply looking at a product’s packaging and how it is disposed of. It’s about examining everything from agricultural production to ingredient sourcing, processing, manufacture, and the product’s use by consumers.”

The tool was created by in-house life cycle assessment experts in partnership with Selerant, an information technology company. Nestlé is now helping Selerant to make it commercially available to other companies.

“We think it can add considerable value to our industry as a whole,” explained Roulin. “We’ve also reinforced the way we train our product developers to encourage them to take a holistic approach across all the different stages of the value chain.”

Over the past two years the company has established and trained up a global community of sustainability champions within its R&D network.

Looking ahead, Roulin said that Nestlé would continue to educate its teams involved in different stages of product development. This will include holding ‘design for sustainability’ sessions to encourage thinking around identifying opportunities across the value chain to reduce environmental impacts.

“These sessions will allow our designers to help solve problems in areas that their work would traditionally not touch,” she added.

Maxine Perella

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