Nestlé has reached the heady heights of the top-ranking food company in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. So, where does it go from here, asks Inder Poonaji
S&P Dow Jones Indices, one of the world’s largest providers of financial market indices, and RobecoSAM, the investment specialist focused exclusively on sustainability investing, recently announced the results of the annual Dow Jones Sustainability Indices (DJSI) review. Launched in 1999, the DJSI were the first global indices to track the financial performance of the leading sustainability-driven companies worldwide.
The leading food product companies usually fare reasonably well in the index, because of the steps already taken in the foodservice industry to ensure best practice is the norm, not the exception. Look at the incredible progress made in terms of zero food and packaging waste-to-landfill initiatives for example – although some companies let the side down somewhat last month. There has also been a focus on emissions, with the recent launch of the National Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains (CSEF) at Brunel University in London, a new research centre to help the food industry use less energy throughout the entire supply chain (as reported in last month’s issue of Footprint).
The sustainability approach that has resounded within Nestlé is called Creating Shared Value, working across a broad range of activities but focusing on areas of impact and where we can truly add value. In prioritising the areas of nutrition, water and rural development, the global commitments in these areas work both at a strategic and ground level to make things happen.
For example, on the ground level in Ethiopia we have reduced water usage through post-harvest coffee processing with new technology which now uses just six litres of water per kilo of coffee – a 96% reduction in water use compared with the previous process.
Sharing nutritional knowledge with partners is also another example, in some countries helping overcome malnutrition issues. In 2005 we created the Nestlé Nutrition Institute and in just seven years this not for profit organisation has become one of the largest providers of nutrition information in the world
Having been recognised as making great strides in terms of delivering sustainable results in the Dow Jones Indices, the only way a large company or organisation can operate on this scale and continue to make a positive impact is to remain focused on those areas where there is knowledge and insight. An organisation can build on knowledge and, for example, at Nestlé we are collating and implementing the actions throughout our supply chain. The “Oxfam Behind the Brands” report shows that independent organisations are beginning to recognise how wide and transparent a company such as ours can be and, in turn, we learn from them in areas we can improve.
Nestlé Professional is part of the wider Nestlé group, so most initiatives are driven from the broader context where we take a holistic approach. Where we can, we do specific initiatives including sharing lorries with Brakes, reducing the packaging weight of Nestlé Professional specific lines and sharing knowledge online, for example the water and waste management courses that are free to download from our website.
Inder Ponnaji is corporate head of safety, health and environment sustainability for Nestlé UK & Ireland.