FOOTPRINT AWARDS make a genuine difference. The legacy is one of the most important aspects of the initiative. As well as involving students throughout the process, Category Sponsors have the opportunity to take on a Post Graduate Environmental Sustainability Student, selected from top universities, to accomplish a specific environmental sustainability research project.
Nestlé in the UK has set itself a target to achieve zero waste to landfill from its factories by 2015. Yao-Ting Huang, an MSc student from the University of Glasgow, has come on board to help out.
The Footprint Awards are an opportunity to attract academic environmental sustainability talent into the foodservice sector and to raise awareness of the career possibilities within it. The Footprint Internship Legacy Scheme was launched alongside the inaugural Footprint Awards in 2011.
Sponsors were offered the opportunity to commit to providing a specific internship project to the most able and enthusiastic students. Research is conducted on behalf of the sponsor on a topic that can bring benefit to the industry as a whole. Progress reports on the internship and the sponsors experience will be reported in Foodservice Footprint.
Our aim is to broaden this part of the awards mission to include more internships and research projects as an ongoing legacy of the awards programme says Christophe Stourton, Footprint Media Group communications director. The first of those students is now working with Nestlé...
Yao-Ting Huang is studying for an MSc in Applied Carbon Management at Glasgow University. The course was the first of its kind in the world when it started in 2007. The programme is unusual in that it includes a placement in lieu of a dissertation hence the link with Nestlé. Its a placement he is delighted to have secured given the competition from his peers.
It was a popular choice, he explains. The project interested me from the start as I carried out a carbon audit of waste at a local primary school as part of my core course Carbon Auditing and Management. This made me realise how serious waste problems can be and the placement was the ideal opportunity to study waste management at a corporate level.
When it comes to environmental issues, waste is top of the pile in terms of recognition: the UK public has been sorting its waste for some time now, while few other issues stir the public more than packaging, plastic bags and the like. Zero waste, in turn, has become the ultimate goal for many corporates wanting to satisfy consumers, reduce environmental impacts and save money. Nestlé in the UK has a target in place to send no waste to landfill from factories by 2015.
Zero waste is a tough challenge, says Neil Stephens, Managing Director of Nestlé Professional, but were already making progress towards that goal. Two Nestlé UK factories have already achieved zero waste to landfill [Girvan and Dalston], and others will follow that lead.
Yaos role is to help Nestlé identify how and support work that is already underway via the companys technical experts. Hes already been digging into the waste records from the past couple of years. Nestlé wants to reach its target efficiently, so the first step was for me to review their current waste practices, such as the waste streams they have, the destinations of that waste, and what costs are involved. After comparing this data, a best practice report will be produced.
Whats he discovered so far? Its hard to help a company like Nestlé to achieve more on their waste target. Nevertheless, I have identified that one of the key factors affecting waste management is sales volume. For example, if customers want more coffee, Nestlé has to produce more coffee products, which results in increased coffee grounds being produced. This in turn increases ash production, which is another form of waste. With more intelligence like this its a win-win project. Yao gets first-hand experience of the challenges faced by one of the worlds largest food companies: Its a wonderful experience and Im learning so much. Nestlé, in return, has access to a fresh, young mind with, perhaps, new ideas on how to meet these challenges head on. If we are going to make progress in the years and decades to come, we need to be operating more sustainably we therefore need access to new thinking on everything from waste to biodiversity, says Stephens.
Indeed, the students can act as a kind of short-term consultant, says Bethan Wood, programme director for the MSc in Applied Carbon Management and the BSc (Hons) in Environmental Stewardship. The student selected is carefully matched to the placement to ensure a best fit in terms of interests and career path. They will also be up to date in all things carbon.
A nine week placement it may be, but in that short time students can get a real insight into how businesses work. Its vital that companies like Nestlé are involved. It benefits the whole foodservice sector, says Nestlés Stephens, when the likes of Yao go back to their courses and tell them what a vibrant, challenging and rewarding sector this can be to work in.