December 2014’s NWSBQ: Reimagine, redesign – future thinking

firstmilkThe last event of 2014 was off to a flying start when the day remained hurricane-free (unlike this time last year…). Many thanks to Bruntwood for our wonderful venue yet again, as well as Axion Consulting for sponsoring the wonderful GoodMoodFood buffet, which provided delicious sustenance after a hard day’s work.

The evening began with a departure from the norm when our speaker, Inder Poonaji, joined us via Skype to give his presentation on how Nestlé are “creating shared value” around the globe. The technology functioned at its absolute best, and we couldn’t be more grateful to the City Tower team for setting up all the 21st century gadgetry at such short notice. Inder explained how, until six years ago, Nestlé’s approach was reactive rather than proactive when it came to sustainability. And of course, their historical association with formula milk in developing countries has led to much negative publicity. However, today it’s a completely different story, with fantastic past achievements and ambitious future targets.

Nestlé’s proactive approach is based on their material issues – they impact on everything from obesity to climate change. Some of Nestlé’s achievements to date include factory improvements – such as making them resilient to the effects of climate change (e.g. flood barriers), installing anaerobic digestion plants and giving every UK factory a wildflower meadow, a prospect which was initially laughable but has profound effects of local biodiversity.

The humble KitKat is a key example of how Nestlé are doing their best to consider their impacts on people and the planet. 70% of ingredients are sourced locally, including sourcing all milk from Scottish dairy herds, where Nestlé have a strong relationship with farmers and their policies on responsible sourcing and pricing. Inder also explained how Nestlé are communicating their sustainability story to the masses through rolling out social impact info through QR codes on KitKat (and other) wrappers. Although Nestlé’s historical relationship with milk has been far from good, Inder acknowledged just how important the work of NGOs is to drive positive change; it’s clear that Nestlé’s approach today is to make sure they are perfecting their walk before they begin to talk.

Overall, Inder made it clear that Nestlé understand that they can’t achieve anything without bringing in the rest of the global community… And think how much CO2 he saved by attending to the event virtually!

Paul then gave us a fascinating insight into the work of First Milk, who have a close relationship with Nestlé. First Milk are a dairy cooperative with the interests of farmers at the heart of everything they do. They handle 10% of the UK’s milk supply, with factories producing everything from cheese to sports nutrition. Paul began his talk with a glimpse of the current state of the UK dairy industry, and comparing it to a picture of the global supply and demand predictions. It seems counterintuitive that milk prices are plummeting while global dairy demand will far exceed supply by 2020. It’s also clear that the industry faces huge challenges, with few future certainties other than this increasing global demand and increasing volatility for the farmers who produce this milk.

So, what are First Milk doing to ensure a sustainable future? Firstly, they avoided the temptation to copy other companies’ sustainability commitments and came up with goals that would work for them. They’re working with farmers to encourage them to take lots of steps, such as feeding cows local forage rather than feed from a deforested region half way across the globe. Paul also discussed how First Milk are partnering with conservation projects such as Natural Resources Wales to conserve regions for the good of the farmers, factories and the rest of the local community.

Paul finished off with a few lessons he’s learned about sustainability, including the importance of keeping it simple, relevant and transparent, and also, not talking about “sustainability” but making sure you deliver it in a guise which hooks the audience, whoever they may be.

To see Paul’s slides, click here.

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