Each year a beautifully designed, fact-packed sustainability report from each of the major companies arrives in our office, but after a cursory glance I am afraid it is often not gripping reading and joins the teetering pile on my desk.
At the recent Tetra Pak sustainability round table in Lund, Sweden, however, it became clear that it is big business not governments that are driving environmental change with these big players all having their own sustainability agenda.
From packaging design to health, exercise and nutrition, these companies are making progress where governments are frequently setting unreachable targets or more despondently failing.
Following the introduction of the plant bottle, Coca-Cola is aiming for all PET bottles to be bio-based by 2020. Vitally it is also already supporting physical activity programmes in every country where The Coca-Cola Company does business.
PepsiCo too is working on more next generation materials with bio-based bottles made from agricultural waste. Energy is high on the agenda here with plans for 25% energy reduction by 2020.
It is no longer just environmental awareness that is prevalent – the need for job creation has led to a promise that by 2016 Nestlé will hire 10,000 young people and 10,000 trainees under the age of 30 in Europe.
Water is a big one with water re-use highly important as is CHP (combined heat and power). A pledge to improve water efficiencies by 2% annually has been made, with Coke promising water efficiency in its manufacturing operations by 25% by 2020 compared with its 2010 baseline.
Co2 reduction is essential for cleaner air and a promise to reduce this by 25% is apparently achievable. That is where the big companies win, by substantial data collection so they can see where the big savings can be made. New efficient compressors too are helping save on energy in plant.
As part of Unilever’s Sustainable Living Plan for instance, the greenhouse gas impact of products across the lifecycle is to be reduced by a massive 50% by 2020.
Tetra Pak has worked with the government of Myanmar to promote milk consumption in Burmese schools.
And one of the most interesting facts for me, is that by 2015 a promised 80% of packaged ice cream will not exceed 250kcal per portion. Big brother is the last thing we want but there is no doubt that many of us need clearer guidance when it comes to portion control.
While for Tetra Pak no doubt, the big one is that a number of the major companies have a mandate that packaging material is to use 100% recycled paper by 2020.
A big thank you to all of the companies involved – Unilever, Arla, Danone, Coca-Cola, Friesland Campina, PepsiCo and Nestle – for their years of dedication doing all the laborious data collection and research into progressive ways to help save our people and planet. I am sure there are numerous small and medium-sized companies too doing far more than their counterparts a few decades ago but it is the big companies that are leading the way.
© FoodBev Media Ltd 2020