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FOCUS 71: Agents Of Change

Pascal de Petrini, Senior Vice President Chairman Asia at Danone, shares how the group  has embarked on a revolution to provide better solutions for the environment. 

As a leading global food company, there is an enormous public pressure to see more on sustainable actions on the environment . Tell us more about your operational activities with regards to this. 

As a leading global food company, there is an enormous public pressure to see more on sustainable actions on the Environment . Tell us more about your operational activities in Singapore with regards to this. 

Indeed, what was just a rising concern over the Environment a few years back has escalated to top the list of absolute priorities for consumers across the world. This sudden awakening has pushed individuals to take actions at their own level, making their own contribution to help reduce global warming, but the average consumer is also very lucid that they can’t bear the responsibility alone. The risk is so imminent and threatening that an action must be taken at a much broader level, challenging Governments, NGOs and private companies to scale up their commitments to drive a real impact in the short term. In a global consumer confidence survey by The Conference Board conducted in collaboration with Nielsen in 2017, a whopping 81% of global respondents feel strongly that companies should help improve the environment. This passion for corporate responsibility is shared across gender lines, generations and nationalities. The recent Tetra Pack Index 2019 reveals that 63% of consumers across the globe rank Environmental Issues as the #1 global concern, with 2 out of 3 believing “that we are heading for environmental disaster unless we change our daily habits quickly”. 

Very early on, Danone has welcome this emerging trend from our consumers towards a better health of the people and of the planet, and has embarked the company into what it calls the “Food Revolution”, placing its employees at the heart of this major transformation. The challenge is so incommensurate that alone, the company can’t begin to address it fully, and it has therefore engaged itself in numerous initiatives, partnerships and collaborations at the global, regional and community levels to make things happen quickly. The company fully supports the COP 21 agreements and proactively engages with organizations such as the CGF, the OECD and the WBCSD to find innovative solutions for the People and for the Planet. 

And to accelerate the global transition towards a circular economy of packaging, Danone has committed to ensuring that its packaging will be 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025. In Singapore, we have no manufacturing plant however we conduct and endorse many educational and awareness program including the FCCS’ Beach Clean Up every year, and we have numerous projects in neighboring countries that directly affects Singapore’s environment ecosystem. Singapore is also a great place for engaging with regional stakeholders such as NGOs, Governments and fellow private companies to positively impact policies and foster collaborations across the board. 

 

Could you share with us about Danone's business partnerships that are tackling the climate change problem? 

To bring our ‘One Planet. One Health’ vision to life and guide us through the food revolution, we have defined an integrated set of nine Goals by 2030, aligned with the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals of the United Nations. As we strive to be a game-changer to foster positive solutions for the planet, preserving and renewing the planet’s resources stands as one of our main goals. This is why we pledged in our 2015 Climate Policy to become carbon neutral by 2050 across our full value chain. Our zero net carbon commitment means that we are responsible for the carbon emissions from the farms where we source our ingredients to the facilities that manage packaging once our products are consumed. As part of our journey towards carbon neutrality, we set intermediate carbon reduction targets for 2030 (from a 2015 baseline) to reduce scope 1, 2, and 3 emission intensity by 50% and to achieve a 30% absolute reduction of scope 1 and 2 emissions. In September 2019, we strengthened our climate policy by committing to lowering our carbon emissions to keep global temperature rise within 1.5 degrees Celsius (from pre-industrial levels). Our strategy to achieve these goals is based on three pillars: reducing emissions by transforming agricultural practices to sequester more carbon on the ground, eliminating deforestation from our supply chain, and offsetting the emissions that remain. 

To promote regenerative agricultural practices Danone has joined the 4 per 1000 initiative in 2017, an international platform to catalyze cooperation on soil health and soil carbon sequestration with initiatives limited to the US and France for now. As for Deforestation, Danone is committed to eliminating deforestation from its supply chain in key commodities by 2020. We signed the New York Declaration on Forests, and also support the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF) resolution to achieve zero net deforestation in key commodity sectors by 2020. At the UN Climate Action Summit last September, Emmanuel Faber announced the launch of the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) Coalition. OP2B is a nineteen forward-thinking, agriculture-centric companies coalition that, together with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), aims to protect and restore biodiversity within their supply chains and product portfolios and recognize this urgent need to act. 

Closer to Singapore, through Danone-Aqua Indonesia’s ‘One Circular Planet’ initiative, we address the environmental challenges of the planet and aim for integration in our water, energy and plastics production and other business operations. Our Indonesian brand AQUA is sourced from carefully selected and cared for volcanic mountain water. To ensure sustainability, protecting our sources, the watershed and the total ecosystem around us are our highest priorities. Activities include implementing sustainable farming practices, water access programs and tree planting. Danone Indonesia has planted more than 2.5 million trees, built thousands of recharge wells/biophore holes and installed rain-harvesting facilities to 

sustain healthy water sources and ecosystems. With our global expertise on water conservation, we work with local experts and stakeholders to reverse the impact of decreasing water sources as a result of climate change. Our Rejoso Project in East Java is a partnership between Danone-AQUA and our partners to restore the Rejoso watershed that is currently under pressure from deforestation and irresponsible water exploitation. 

Lastly, Offsetting plays a key part in mitigating the global warming risks while we work on more sustainable solutions for the future. Along with nine other corporate partners, we invest in the Livelihoods Carbon Funds to support projects for agroforestry, mangrove restoration, and fuel-efficient cooking tools for communities in Asia, South America, and Africa. Projects are monitored over up to 20 years, requiring a long-term commitment from investor companies in the Livelihoods Carbon Fund. For instance, in Indonesia, the Yagasu Aceh association, the Fonds Français pour l’Environnement Mondial (FFEM) and Livelihoods are working with the local communities of the province of North Sumatra to restore mangrove forests and, as a result, increase the safety of the local population, both by mitigating risk and fostering growth. The association Yagasu Aceh has been present in the area since 2003. With the support of the Livelihoods Funds, the NGO has replanted 5,000 hectares by the end of 2014. Over the next 20 years, the 18 million planted trees will allow for the sequestration of over 2 million TeqCO2. 

On top of that we are committed to reducing the carbon footprint in our operations including using renewable energy. By the end of the year will have three out of four production plants supported by full solar panel roofs in Indonesia and we have heavily invested in biomass boiler at our New Zealand plant of infant formula to replace the traditional gas-fueled boiler. 

 

As Danone celebrates its 100th year milestone, could you tell us more about Danone's strategy to cultivate a more active circular economy in SEA? 

A major environmental topic in the world today is the use of plastic. Unfortunately, our neighbor Indonesia is ranked second in contributing to the marine plastics problem, and it does affect greatly the Singapore coastline and marine water too. This is a key priority for the Indonesian government and it has articulated an ambitious goal to reduce marine plastics by 70% by 2025. For Danone Indonesia and AQUA this is also a huge issue as most of our mineral water is packaged in plastic but the journey towards a better use of the plastic did not start recently. AQUA is a pioneer in private plastic recycling initiatives in Indonesia. Our first recycling program, ‘AQUA Peduli,’ started in 1993 as an initial step toward a more circular packaging model. Currently, we collect 12,000 tons of plastic every year through six Recycling Business Units in different locations in Indonesia. Last year, AQUA, launched a #BijakBerplastik (wise use of plastic) movement to strengthen our commitment for a cleaner Indonesia and to support the Indonesian government’s goal to reduce the country’s marine debris by 70% in 2025. Through this movement, we focus on three core aspects: recycling education for our consumers, product innovation, and the development of a waste collection infrastructure. These three core aspects are aimed at helping us achieve our ambition in 2025 to collect more plastic than we use, to use 100% recyclable, reusable or compostable packaging and to 

increase the proportion of recycled content in our bottles to 50%. We recently launched AQUA LIFE, the first 100% recycled PET water bottle in Indonesia. It is now available in Bali and will be launched in Jakarta later this year. This is proof that circular production is possible and that we can do more with continuous collaboration between industries, consumer associations and governments. 

Globally, Danone, along with other global multinational companies, is part of the Ellen McArthur Foundation that promotes circular economies in addressing plastic waste. Danone is also working together with The Ocean Cleanup in a research project on plastic waste. 

 

 On a more personal note, what are some actions consumers can take to improve our climate change problem? 

As I mentioned a couple of times, climate change is a complex topic. With new solutions come newer problems, and while this is frustrating because we are totally out of our comfort zone, we still need to keep looking and improving our practices. Nobody knows it all. Therefore the first thing to do is to educate ourselves in order to make the right choices. 

A good tool to increase awareness is an online course developed by UNITAR and Danone named "Sustainable Diet". By highlighting the environmental and social aspects of food production and consumption, the partnership helps people to better understand the impact of their food choices on their health and on the health of the planet. It is seeking to shift mindsets towards a more sustainable way of living and to include sustainable development challenges - such as climate change and biodiversity - into consumers' decision-making. This course is already available on our internal digital platforms and all our employees are strongly encouraged to take it. 

For the general public there is a free-of-charge and self-paced public version available to anyone on UN CC:elearn platform. This initiative is part of a broader partnership between UNITAR and Danone in 2018 to build a core set of knowledge to help promote conservation, restoration and safeguarding of our planet, in line with the UN sustainable development goals and Danone 2030 Company Goals. 

We will never say it enough, knowledge is power, and it’s up to everyone of us and all the actors of the society to power the change.

Interview with Pascal de Petrini, Senior Vice President Chairman Asia at Danone, for FOCUS #71. To read more articles from this issue, download your digital copy here

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