New Zealand milk processor Synlait has announced a series of ‘bold targets’ aimed at significantly reducing its environmental impact.
They include a 35% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, a 20% cut in water usage and a 45% reduction in nitrogen loss on farm.
The company, which this week announced a new CEO to replace John Penno, is increasing the premiums paid to farmers who subscribe to Synlait’s environmental best practice programme, called Lead With Pride.
Synlait CEO John Penno said: “We’re stepping up to take responsibility for our business and demonstrate leadership in the primary industry that will benefit all New Zealanders. People, communities and land thriving is the heart of our ambition and central to the three pillars of our sustainability strategy: environment, people and enterprise.
“We’re a nutrition company with a value chain that starts on some of New Zealand’s best farms and extends to markets around the world. As well as responding to the irrefutable and increasing global demand for sustainable goods, we genuinely believe an enduring a profitable business has to be built on a robust foundation that supports economic, environmental and social outcomes.”
On top of the planned reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, water usage and nitrogen loss on farm, Synlait will commit to never building another coal-fired boiler and will address its existing coal infrastructure in a show of commitment towards more sustainable forms of energy.
The company will commission New Zealand’s first large-scale electrode boiler in January 2019 to provide renewable process heat to its upcoming advanced dairy liquids facility in Dunsandel, near Canterbury, on the country’s South Island.
It will also become a Certified B Corporation, adopt several of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, and establish a social investment fund to boost its support for communities, organisations and initiatives that fit with its own sustainability agenda.
As well as inaugurating the new plant in Canterbury, Synlait will also spend NZD 260 million ($189 million) to build a nutritional powder manufacturing site in North Waikato.
Its sustainability objectives bring it firmly in line with those of other New Zealand dairy firms – including Fonterra, which, in recent months, has made a concerted effort to reduce emissions and boost water efficiency at two separate production sites in the country.
Part of Synlait’s sustainability strategy is Lead With Pride, which rewards independently certified dairy farmers for meeting best practice in four areas of environment, animal health and welfare, social responsibility, and milk quality.
The company is increasing its financial incentives to farmers in a bid to make them think more seriously about sustainability.
Farmers who fit into the Gold Plus band within Lead With Pride’s grading system will benefit from premiums as high as NZD 0.20 ($0.135) per kilogram of milk solids, while those who then qualify for the Gold Elite classification – the highest band – will see their premiums increase by NZD 0.12 per kilogram ($0.081) to a potential NZD 25 ($0.169) as a result of today’s announcements.
David Williams, Synlait’s milk supply manager, said: “28% of our farms are already certified best practice under Lead With Pride, and we have a number more working through certification. They will be a major contributor to our targets and beyond this we will work closely with our other dairy farmers to focus on opportunities they have in their business to contribute.
“The best way for us to meet our on-farm sustainability targets is to encourage faster uptake of the Lead With pride programme. We believe this increase [in premiums] will lead to many more of our farmers moving toward Lead With Pride certification.”
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