Nestlé Vietnam helps accelerate regenerative agriculture and reduced emissions

Wednesday, Jun 28, 2023 06:53

Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestle, at an event in Dong Nai Province on June 20 to sign an agreement on supporting Viet Nam's transition to regenerative agriculture. —Photo courtesy of Nestle Vietnam

To support Viet Nam in moving to sustainable agriculture and achieving its 2050 net zero target, Nestle Vietnam is working with the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development to spread regenerative farming practices and tree planting to coffee farmers in the Central Highlands.

Viet Nam News spoke to Mark Schneider, CEO of Nestle, on the company’s commitment to regenerative agriculture, its 2050 net-zero goal, and improving the lives of farmers.

Nestle has announced a climate roadmap to hit net-zero emissions by 2050 to tackle climate change. What are you doing to make sure everything is on track?

Twenty-five per cent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions are related to the production of food and agriculture. So as Nestle, the world's largest food and beverage company, we can be a leader to show how solutions can be developed and applied.

We set up a plan to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions by 20 per cent by 2025 compared to our base level in 2018, then 50 per cent by 2030, and then net zero by 2050.

Even though our business is growing, we have been reducing our emission of greenhouse gases. W We reached peak carbon output between 2019-20 and are now below our starting point in 2018. We are on our way towards our goal.

To achieve this, we have carried out a number of policies. This includes switching all of our electricity sources for our factories and offices around the world to renewable electricity. That's a project that we are embarking on right now in most countries we operate in, and we expect to finish this within the next one or two years.

More than two-thirds of our emissions are from agriculture, which is why we are working with agricultural communities around the world to make their practices more sustainable.

Regenerative farming and growing trees can play a big role in improving the quality of the soil, restoring natural water cycles, and ensuring more carbon can be sequestered in the ground again over time, thus combating the damage done by deforestation.

Why does Nestle focus on agriculture to deliver sustainability initiatives?

Our company has always been about working with agriculture, with crops like coffee and cocoa, and turning them into food and beverages.

When it comes to farming production, you’re working with hundreds of thousands of people running small family farms, which can be vulnerable to seasonal changes and weather. Losing a yield is a big risk for farmers; they are the most exposed element in the entire supply chain.

It is important for us to understand and respect the situation of the farmers and help them by being a reliable partner.

We are deeply moved whenever we meet farmers in the fields who tell us how we've been buying from their farms for generations. They trust us to never leave or exploit them. We are always doing our best to provide technical assistance - and sometimes even financial assistance - to our farmers.

Mark Schneider (third from left) gave a tree to a farrmer at the ceremony to kick off an agroforestry and reforestation project. — Photo courtesy of Nestle Vietnam

Viet Nam is very susceptible to climate change, especially the Central Highlands which can suffer from drought. How will Nestle's agroforestry project improve this situation?

A key feature of this program is protecting the soil. One of the best ways to ward off climate change is to have inter-cropping and tree shading, so as not to deplete the soil by monoculture.

We have also done lots of research into this coffee planting model which is less vulnerable to extreme weather and other challenges, where the crops can thrive under harsher conditions. By subsidizing, handing out forest and fruit trees and making them widely available, we believe that we can make farming in the Central Highlands more resilient.

Protecting the soil and making farming more resilient are two salient key features of the plan. We will continue to train farmers on sustainable farming practices to make coffee farming more successful and increase the farmers’ incomes.

What challenges does the company face in implementing the planting model in Viet Nam? How will it overcome them?

Farmers around the world are very exposed to the natural elements, and they tend to be very conservative, often wanting to stick with their old methods.

We noticed this as part of working with the coffee farmers: just because you approach them, tell them to do this new method and show them research to prove that it will be better, they will not necessarily adopt new methods. If you are wrong, they are the ones who will bear the economic consequences.

Getting them to trust us means taking it easy, going one small step at a time. They can also learn from each other's example, from farmers who have already gone down this path and can give assurances to them that this works.

Respecting the fact that farmers can be conservative, and slowly building trust with them over several years is key to our strategy. Once you have their trust, they will stay with you for long periods of time, which is good for us because our approach to business and farming is very long-term.

What are some of the goals of the project for it to have a positive impact on the environment?

It is important to see this project not as a completely enclosed one, but as a starting point. Over time we would like to escalate the project’s scale and potentially apply it to all other provinces that grow coffee so they can all benefit from it.

In terms of trees, the scale we have in mind is about 2.3 million additional trees planted over the next five years. Also under our Nescafe Plan 2030 , we intend to have 50 per cent of our coffee sourced from regenerative agriculture practices by 2030.

This whole system is something we aim to share with local farmers so that over time, coffee farming will become more resilient and regenerative.

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