Nestlé achieves key environmental milestone in its goal of deforestation-free operations

A major environmental performance milestone has been declared by Nestlé, which has reported that 77% of its agricultural commodities have now been verified as deforestation-free.

As the company stated, in 2010, it made the pledge that none of its products globally would be associated with deforestation by 2020. The business, which retains a number of leading confectionery brands around the world, has worked with partners like Airbus and Earthworm Foundation, and its suppliers to identify areas at risk of deforestation.

According to Nestlé, the company is now using a combination of tools, including certification, supply chain mapping, on-the-ground verification and satellite imagery from the Starling system to achieve its key goal.

Starling is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Airbus, Earthworm Foundation and Nestlé. Nestlé is now using the system to monitor its entire palm oil supply chain. Pilots in pulp and paper are also now underway and the company plans to extend it to soya later in 2019. Starling’s cutting-edge technology helps Nestlé understand better where deforestation occurs, what drives it and who is involved. The company uses this information to verify compliance, challenge its suppliers and prioritise transformative actions.

However, in its wider sustainability work on palm oil, the company suffered a setback two years ago, after its membership of the RSPO (Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil) was suspended as a defined annual plan to address the issue had not been submitted to the organisation for the period covering 2016/2017.  The company was soon re-instated in the summer of 2018, after producing a plan to ensure 100% RSPO palm oil by 2023 across its operations.

Speaking on its latest milestone for agricultural commodities, Magdi Batato, executive vice president, head of operations, Nestlé S.A., said: “Innovation and technology like Starling is accelerating our journey towards zero deforestation. This is transforming the way we manage deforestation risks in our palm oil supply chain – we are using this tool to hold our suppliers and ourselves accountable. We are satisfied with our progress, but there is much more to do. The last miles to go are always the hardest.”

“Starling turns terabytes of satellite images into actionable insight, enabling customers to understand where and why deforestation happens and make the best possible decisions,” said Grazia Vittadini, Chief Technology Officer, Airbus. As the company noted, transparency is essential in ensuring sustainable supply chains, which led to it publishing a Transparency Dashboard that uses Starling data to provide information on deforestation trends observed near the mills it sources from.

“Nestlé is the first company to use satellite monitoring across all its palm oil supply chain, accelerating its no deforestation commitment and providing such level of transparency to the public. The data collected through these satellites points out that challenges remain and no single company can achieve that on its own. All businesses that have similar commitments must start monitoring, verifying and most importantly acting on the basis of what these tools reveal to us. Eventually, publicly available information about deforestation and supply chains will allow consumers and investors to really see which companies are truly walking the talk,” said Bastien Sachet, CEO of Earthworm Foundation.

The company added that it will continue to engage with all its suppliers to fulfil its no deforestation commitment more quickly. In particular, it said that it also recognises the need for a collaborative approach to improve smallholders capacity in eliminating deforestation. Nestlé is working to find solutions that ensure sustainable supply chains while respecting people’s rights to improve their livelihoods. In addition, the company added that “combatting deforestation requires true transformation of all global commodity-based supply chains,”  which it said remained a shared responsibility across industry.

Consequently, the company has invited consumer goods companies to adopt innovative satellite monitoring services to accelerate efforts to achieve deforestation-free supply chains and transparently report on their progress. Nestlé calls for urgent collaboration as immense challenges remain. By inviting others to embark on this journey, Nestlé hopes to inspire further collective action towards sustainable supply chains and help transform the whole industry.

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