At the UN Climate Summit in September 2014, Nestlé S.A. made a series of six pledges on climate change as part of a broad industry collation orchestrated by the CDP.
Post COP21, we continue to be actively involved in a number of platforms in order to inform and align our action and actively participate in the international discourse on climate change. In fact, the outcome of COP21 only serves to strengthen this engagement and our commitments to reducing environmental impacts for the long term. This includes initiatives such as the World Economic Forum (WEF) CEO Leadership Group on Climate Change and the WBCSD-led industry collaboration to identify solutions on low carbon freight.
Nestlé has already made major strides in its efforts to tackle climate change. For instance, in 2013, we made a Europe-wide business commitment to guarantee that by 2020, all of our 150 factories will achieve zero waste in our operations. In 2013, we met our target two years early to achieve zero waste for disposal (landfill and incineration) across all our UK & Ireland operations.
All of these initiatives form part of a company-wide drive by Nestlé UK & Ireland to keep environmental impact to a minimum, whilst continuing to make investments in projects, which drive wider operational efficiency across the business. In the past 5 years alone, we have invested £511m in total capital investment across our operations.
CHALLENGES MOVING FORWARD
Nestlé’s journey to achieving these commitments is one element within a much broader universe in which multiple actors with multiple interests operate. In order to leverage continued progress across different platforms, there must be an enabling domestic policy environment, which supports our collective journey to decarbonisation. There are a number of key focus areas that warrant further attention in order to ensure that the UK stays on course:
1. Paving a clear trajectory for clean energy investment - There is an inherent challenge linked to investment in renewable energy projects, namely that the likes of wind farms and generators take years to develop (10+ years for a large wind farm), which is at odds with political timelines. The existing approach leads to short-term, fragmented projects which ultimately fail to drive energy costs down across the piece, longer term. Government must translate the 2050 targets into meaningful requirements for immediate decision making by business, such as an extension of the Levy Control Framework to 2025 at a minimum.
2. Building a skilled workforce that drives innovation - In the UK, the food and drinks manufacturing (FDM) sector suffers from a significant skills gap, particularly in STEM roles, and this is compounded by an ageing technical workforce. Nestlé UK & Ireland and the FDM sector is therefore seeking to improve the talent pipeline for FDM businesses in order to improve productivity. Building a pipeline of employees with STEM skills and embedding sustainability thinking throughout the learning and apprenticeship process will power new product and technology development and design and implement new processes, enabling British firms to tap into new markets and improve efficiency.
3. Forging an attractive domestic standard for foreign investment - The UK government has played a vital role in leading the charge with the Climate Change Act, and this is something to be proud of. However, the UK needs to maintain its position as a market within which business can invest in and grow renewable energy technologies. This means creating a stable, long-term policy and regulatory framework sooner than later and developing a robust 5th carbon budget in addition to policies.
4. Improving public engagement - It should be the equal responsibility of government, business and society to engage the public on the ‘how’ and ‘why’ of transitioning to a decarbonized economy. From Nestlé’s perspective, and the industry more broadly, much work still needs to be done to translate the climate change commitments we make as a business, and initiatives we undertake at an operational level, into a language that the consumers of our products can understand.
Nestlé remains committed to taking a leadership position on climate change, in line with our key focus areas of water, rural development and nutrition within the context of our own operations as well as those of our value chain.
Business across the piece can and must get better at working with the government to help it to understand and realize the full potential of smart technologies, and build confidence amongst industry players to encourage greater investment into the low carbon economy. This holds the key to meeting the ambitious, long-term commitments that we have set ourselves both here in the UK and globally through the Paris Agreement.
Anna Turrell is the Senior Public Affairs Manager – Sustainability at Nestlé UK & Ireland.