Nestlé has inaugurated its new Institute of Packaging Sciences, with the goal of ultimately sending none of its packaging to litter or landfill.
At the announcement in Vevey, Switzerland, CEO Mark Schneider said it will enable the company to create a “strong pipeline of sustainable packaging solutions for Nestlé products across businesses and markets”.
The Institute will focus on several science and technology areas, such as refillable or reusable packaging, simplified packaging materials, recycled packaging materials, and high-performance barrier papers, as well as bio-based, compostable and biodegradable materials.
For Schneider, it means they can accelerate efforts to bring functional, safe, and environmentally friendly packaging solutions to the market and to address the global challenge of plastic packaging waste.
Nestlé chief technology officer Stefan Palzer said, "Reducing plastic waste and mitigating climate change effects through cutting-edge technology and product design are a priority for us. Nestlé experts are co-developing and testing new environmentally friendly packaging materials and systems together with our development centres, suppliers, research institutions and start-ups.”
Located at the Nestlé Research facilities in Lausanne, Switzerland, the Institute will leverage existing research capabilities in food safety, analytics and food science, Palzer said.
Sander Defruyt, New Plastics Economy lead at the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, said: "Nestlé was one of the first companies to sign the New Plastics Economy Global Commitment, setting concrete targets to eliminate plastic waste and pollution at the source. It is great to see the world’s largest consumer goods company now increasing its research focus and capacity to deliver on these ambitions."
In April 2018, the company announced it planned to have 100 per cent of its packaging recyclable or re-usable by 2025. Three core areas were mentioned: eliminate non-recyclable plastics; encourage the use of plastics that allow better recycling rates; and eliminate or change complex combinations of packaging materials.
Nestlé said in recognising the need for developing a circular economy, it was committed to:
- Playing an active role in the development of well-functioning collection, sorting and recycling schemes across the countries where it operates;
- Working with value chain partners and industry associations to explore different packaging solutions to reduce plastic usage, facilitate recycling and develop new approaches to eliminate plastic waste;
- Labelling its plastic product packaging with recycling information to help consumers dispose of it in the right way;
- Promoting a market for recycled plastics by continuing to increase the proportion of recycled plastics in its packaging; and
- Preventing packaging material ending up as waste, including in seas, oceans and waterways.
In the 12 months since that announcement the company has developed recyclable paper packaging for Nesquik All Natural Cocoa Powder and the Yes! snack bars.
Zero GHG emissions by 2050
Building on that 2018 announcement, Nestlé has announced its ambition to achieve zero net greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Ahead of the UN Secretary-General’s Action Summit this month, Nestlé will sign the ‘Business Ambition for 1.5°C’ pledge.
Over the past four years, Nestlé has aligned its objectives with science-based targets to keep the temperature increase below 2°C. It said it is determined to play a leading role in tackling climate change and, over the next two years, will detail a time-bound plan including interim targets consistent with the 1.5°C path. Nestlé will review its progress annually to ensure it is on track.
Schneider said, “We are running out of time to avoid the worst effects of global warming. That is why we are setting a bolder ambition to reach a net-zero future. Deploying Nestlé’s global resources and industry know-how, we know we can make a difference at significant scale. Our journey to net zero has already started. Now, we are accelerating our efforts.”
Some of its specific actions include:
- Speeding up the transformation of its products in line with consumer trends and choices. Nestlé will launch more products that have a better environmental footprint and contribute to a balanced diet. This includes more plant-based food and beverage options. Nestlé will also look to reformulate its products using more climate-friendly ingredients. Consumer demand for such products is rapidly increasing, and Nestlé’s core strategy is in line with this shift. The company is also moving to alternative packaging materials.
- Scaling up initiatives in agriculture to absorb more carbon.
- Using 100% renewable electricity in Nestlé factories, warehouses, logistics and offices. A third of Nestlé factories (143) are already using 100% renewable electricity.
The company said, “Supportive legislation could help to reduce barriers to expanding renewable energy markets, incentivise innovation in the agriculture and forestry sectors to capture more carbon, and help to establish carbon pricing.”
Nestlé executive vice president, head of operations Magdi Batato said: “To align our goals to the 1.5°C pathway, we are transforming our operations. This will lead to a major shift in the way our ingredients are produced and sourced. We will need our suppliers to embark on this journey with us. The task is huge but we are determined to make it happen.”
In the company’s top 100 distribution centres, GHG emissions have decreased by close to 40 per cent over the past four years. Nestlé has intensified its activities to ensure the responsible sourcing of its raw materials, and it has made significant progress toward its zero deforestation goal. Since 2014, the reduction of GHG emissions across its entire value chain is equivalent to taking 1.2 million cars off the road.