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Interview: Empowering a sustainable and longevous dairy industry
FoodBev Media

FoodBev Media

4 July 2023

Interview: Empowering a sustainable and longevous dairy industry

FoodBev Media caught up with Pan Gang, chairman and president of Yili Group, who tells us about the group's sustainable development journey. In May 2022, Yili held its ‘ESG and Social Value Forum’ at the group’s Modern Intelligent Health Valley. To begin, could you tell us more about the forum and its outcomes? The Earth, our cherished home, is the foundation on which our survival and progress depend. The pursuit of sustainable development holds paramount importance for every one of us. Yili held the ESG and Social Value Forum on May 2022, the International Day for Biological Diversity, where representatives from many international organisations, including the United Nations Global Compact, Global Reporting Initiative and World Wildlife Fund Beijing Office, exchanged their valuable practices and insights concerning ESG matters. We firmly believe that for an enterprise to truly fulfil its purpose, it must actively generate value for society. At the forum, we officially released three ESG reports: The 2022 Sustainability Report, the 2022 Annual Report on Biodiversity Conservation and the Net-Zero Carbon Future Report 2022. Together with the participants, we also unveiled the WISH2030 Declaration for a Sustainable Future. While we showcased Yili’s sustainability achievements at the forum, we also wished to facilitate communication with stakeholders to help influence, empower and lead more companies and the entire dairy industry towards sustainability and high-quality development.

Could you outline the objectives of these three ESG reports? “Good health and wellbeing” are important components of sustainable development. As a healthy food company, Yili has been embracing its vision of World Integrally Sharing Health (WISH) and striving to provide nutritious and healthy, high-quality products. We are also committed to driving the industry towards a sustainable future. Since 2007, Yili has, for 17 consecutive years, released its annual sustainability report. We wish to enhance friendship and cooperation with our global partners and build a deeply rooted, far-reaching and fruitful network of sustainable development. Safeguarding the health of biodiversity is crucial for the sustainable development and operation of a long-lasting business. Yili has been actively practising its corporate social responsibilities to conserve biodiversity and our environment. For instance, Yili was the first Chinese company to sign the Business and Biodiversity Pledge of the 2016 Conference of Parties (COP) to the Convention on Biological Diversity. In 2022, Yili also attended the High-Level Segment, Phase II of COP15, as the sole dairy enterprise in the COP15 business partnership. In addition, Yili was the sole dairy enterprise included in the New Deal for People and Nature: Case Book on Business Actions in Biodiversity. The pressing challenges of global warming and the increasing occurrence of extreme weather events call for urgent global efforts to combat climate change and accelerate the irreversible transition towards carbon neutrality. In 2022, we launched our Plan for a Net Zero Carbon Future and Roadmap to Realize the Plan for a Net Zero Carbon Future, becoming the first Chinese food company to release carbon peak and neutrality targets as well as a roadmap. Looking forward, we will anchor our efforts surrounding our own business operations and continue to expand our carbon reduction practices. Guided by our goal to realise carbon neutrality throughout the entire value chain by 2050, we will continue to enhance our organisation, exploring and forming a new management model for low-carbon green growth. While going through our own low-carbon transition, we will maximise our industrial leadership and engage upstream and downstream partners, as well as consumers, in the drive towards decarbonisation.

How is Yili promoting and empowering more enterprises and industries to achieve sustainable high-quality development? Yili upholds a sustainable development philosophy that underscores the importance of environmental protection, win-win cooperation and shared prosperity. We wish to join hands with our partners to achieve shared, sustainable high-quality development. The dairy industry features a long industrial chain with a wide range of players, imposing great challenges to the chain-wide realisation of sustainable development. That said, Yili, as an industry leader, has fully stepped up to address those challenges. As early as 2007, Yili became the first Chinese private company to release a corporate citizenship report. In the report, we proposed a concept of “green leadership,” which was later upgraded to the strategy of “green supply chains” in 2009. Yili was also the first Chinese company to sign the Cancun Business and Biodiversity Pledge. In 2017, Yili then initiated the World Integrally Sharing Health Corporate Sustainable Development (CSD) System, or the WISH system. In 2021, Yili officially released the New Vision for Value Creation to advance the concept of green and sustainable development. In 2022, Yili also became the first Chinese food company to release carbon peak and neutrality targets as well as roadmap, pledging to achieve carbon neutrality throughout the entire supply chain by 2050. In the past 17 years, we have always adhered to the spirit of longtermism and altruism, uniting efforts from all fronts to celebrate both business and social values. In 2017, under the guidelines of the WISH system, we conducted full life-cycle carbon reduction activities and established the industry’s first net-zero carbon alliance. We have also organised many child and adolescent social welfare projects, such as Yili’s Ark, Yili Nutrition 2030 and Children’s Dream for Space. As part of efforts to fully achieve the 17 UN SDGs, we have upgraded the WISH system to the WISH2030 Golden Key Sustainable Development System. Prioritising four major areas – comprehensive value management, high-quality products and services, a net-zero carbon better future and shared prosperity of a better life – the WISH2030 system will enable us to create integrated ESG values and realise our dream of “World Integrally Sharing Health.”

What initiatives are currently being carried out to promote the four major areas prioritised by Yili's upgraded WISH2030 Golden Key Sustainable Development System? We believe that a successful enterprise should emphasise social responsibility over simply its own development, industry prosperity over its own achievements and social value over commercial wealth. Embracing the concept of balanced development and a strong sense of responsibility, we have fully integrated sustainability into our corporate development strategy. As mentioned earlier, the WISH2030 Golden Key Sustainable Development System concentrates on four key action areas – comprehensive value management, high-quality products and services, a net-zero carbon better future and shared prosperity of a better life – underscoring that sustainability is the golden key to realise shared value and prosperity. Centred around the four action areas, we will prioritise value creation as the bedrock for enhancing value sharing with our partners. In terms of 'comprehensive value management,' we continuously enhance our strengths around quality management, innovation and digital operations in order to create value for our shareholders and investors. Regarding 'high-quality products and services,' we strive to serve our customers and retain their trust. In terms of 'a net-zero carbon better future,' as the first Chinese company to release carbon peak and neutrality targets as well as a roadmap, we already achieved peak carbon emissions in 2012 and will realise carbon neutrality throughout the value chain by 2050. And in terms of 'shared prosperity of a better life,' we strive to attain shared prosperity with our employees and industry partners, and, by doing so, contribute to the common prosperity of society as a whole. Now is the time for taking joint actions aimed at expediting the shift towards green growth and sustainable development. We look forward to partnering with all parties to forge an even brighter future.

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