Three leaders reveal how food and drink companies are planning for the future

Sensemaking / Three leaders reveal how food and drink companies are planning for the future

Experts from Mondelēz, Nestlé and Macsween of Edinburgh share their approach and top tips for managing sustainability risks and opportunities.

By Futures Centre / 06 Oct 2014

We hear from senior decision makers ahead of the UK Food and Drink Federation’s event ‘Managing Sustainability Opportunities & Risks in the Food & Drink Industry’, to be held on 21st October at the British Museum.

Engage your company: Inder Poonaji, Head of Sustainability, Nestlé UK & Ireland

How do you trigger more sustainable behaviours inside organisations?

Planning a calendar of events is a great way to get employees engaged in sustainability. For example, employees can join in with national or international campaigns such as World Water Day, or a company can organise its own events.

At Nestlé we hold regular days dedicated to sustainability such as our KISS (Keep it Safe and Sustainable) employee engagement events, or our recent Butterly Meadow Day which saw employees and their families and friends planting meadows to help halt the decline of the UK's butterfly population. Use your existing internal communications channels to promote your efforts, including targets and results to ensure engagement and participation.

What are the biggest barriers to change within companies?

A lack of understanding and knowledge about sustainbility is a big challenge and requires a lot of long-term work. You need to put it into context for your colleagues so they can relate to the issue - recycling is a good example as most people understand recycling and it's something they already do at home so it easily translates into action in the work-place. It's important to explain how your company's sustainability targets and actions help address global environmental impacts and what employees can do as individuals to help.

How do you engage senior business leaders on sustainability?

At Nestlé we have a Sustainability Forum, which is a cross-functional team and we meet every three months to establish priorities, track progress and share best-practice and case studies. This group then feeds back into the Sustainability Steering Committee which is chaired by the CEO. We have also set clear environmental targets for each of our sites so managers are clear on priorities and where to focus their sustainability efforts.

Implement a global supply chain strategy: Jonathan Horrell, Director Sustainability, Mondelēz International

What does a global supply chain strategy mean to Mondelēz?

Empowered farmers, thriving communities, protected environments and secure supplies.

How do you drive change across a supply chain?

By working in partnership with farmers, communities, origin governments, the non-profit sector and suppliers.

What are the biggest supply chain risks currently facing food & drink companies?

It’s a long list that includes: short-term weather, long-term climate change; water availability and quality; soil, biodiversity, smallholder livelihoods, low productivity; and gender, land and labor rights. To tackle it, we need to focus on the biggest impacts with solutions that align to our business goals.

Focus where you can make the biggest difference: James Macsween, Managing Director, Macsween of Edinburgh

What is the first step a food business can take on sustainability?

Firstly, find out if you are applicable for any free environmental audits, such as the Energy Saving Trust or Carbon Trust. Having an audit carried out will help you identify areas where you can improve and how to implement change.  Another useful exercise you can do initially is to measure the inputs and outputs of your business, such as your electricity, water and waste to landfill. Compare these against what your business makes: in my case, that’s per tonnes of haggis produced! This will help you recognise which inputs and outputs could be reduced or improved. Once you have implemented these changes, take new measurements and review your improved performance.  

What are the priority areas to focus on for smaller businesses?

I would suggest focusing on the areas that are going to make the biggest difference. For example, diverting all of your waste from landfill or making significant steps towards using less lag, electricity and water. It is important to record what you are doing before and after making any changes so you can review what is working.  Our goal was to become 100% landfill free and we achieved it this year, which was a fantastic milestone to reach.

What are the benefits of reporting performance?

The benefits are amazing. If you don’t report the good work you are carrying out, you can only pat your own back. Get a report written and distribute it to your suppliers, customers and key players in your sector or industry. It can only catapult your business further while attracting new potential customers and suppliers that want to work with other like-minded businesses. Furthermore, it is an important way to review the efforts that you have made and helps with future planning.

Jonathan Horrell, Inder Poonaji and James Macsween will speak at the Food and Drink Federation’s event ‘Managing Sustainability Opportunities & Risks in the Food & Drink Industry’ on 21st October at the British Museum, sponsored by DNV-GL, Safer, Smarter, Greener:

Photo credits: photo-phinish/istock; Food and Drink Federation

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