Challenges, opportunity & collaboration: Dr Emma Keller of Nestlé UK&I

Just over a year on, after moving from the WWF to become Head of Sustainability for Nestlé UK&I, Dr Emma Keller talks about the challenges she’s faced, the opportunity to make an impact, and how industry collaboration and employee buy-in will be critical over the coming years if the sector is to achieve impact at scale.

From a young age, I’ve been passionate about nature and curious about the world we live in. This curiosity has grown into the purpose I bring to work every day – to inspire others to work collectively so we can have a positive impact on people and the planet. 

My role at WWF focused on engaging with businesses and policy makers to advocate for a more sustainable and equitable food system. I spent a lot of time talking to different business leaders to try and get them to make different decisions to drive change. Fortunately, by making the move to Nestlé, I now have the opportunity to play a key role, driving change from the inside.

The scale and reach of Nestlé is huge, and as a consequence, so is the impact we can have. But no one organisation can do it alone. Collaboration and partnerships are key if we are to realise this impact at both the scale and pace needed. I’m fortunate to work with a diverse range of stakeholders at Nestlé. Internally I work with colleagues in different product categories and business functions. Externally, I collaborate with NGOs, policy makers and peers in the business community. It’s not an easy job, it involves trying to win hearts and minds, asking people to think and act differently and to challenge the norm. But it’s incredibly rewarding, seeing all the small steps add up to make a big difference.

One of the biggest challenges working within a large complex organisation is reaching, engaging and coordinating across the organisation. I’ve only been at Nestlé for just over a year, but I’m still learning about new and exciting activities happening in different areas across the business. When we come together, the magic really starts to happen: sharing insights and learning, and working through the big sticky challenges together.

Building a sustainability mindset into the business is a key focus of my job. Luckily, I work in an organisation full of passionate, driven colleagues who all want to play their part, so the first step of getting them engaged is pretty much taken care of. Channelling this into implementation is the next big hurdle, but we’re doing this in a number of ways. We’re actively engaging and training colleagues through immersive deep dives on sustainability to help build capability and provide a safe space for all the tricky questions. We’re working to provide an environment which encourages colleagues to exchange ideas and innovate. And we’re taking steps to build sustainability into the personal development plans of employees - from the top down, to ensure it becomes part of how we do business.

To help other organisations make this transition and effectively adopt a sustainability mindset, we’ve gathered sector-specific insight and examples, plus advice from industry experts to create our recent, Empowering Sustainability Heroes report. Demonstrating how sustainability can and must be part of everyone’s job; from HR to finance, I.T to operations, this provides actionable tips and ideas from across the foodservice industry. The goal? To inspire and inform a new breed of sustainability heroes, so they can take action and go on to create a positive impact for people and the planet. 

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