Nestlé Jamaica is pressing the Government to consider legislation for green taxes, and incentives for corporations to encourage them to take better care of the environment as part of plans to reduce the country's carbon footprint and eventually get to carbon neutrality by 2050.
Antoinette Johnson Peart, Safety, Health and Environment, general services and distribution centre manager for Nestlé Jamaica made the call as she outlines steps Nestlé has been taking to reduce its own carbon footprint.
"Apart from our NRCA Act and things like our Forestry Act...there is no legislation that exists right now to encourage companies...to be more sustainable in their operations," Johnson Peart lamented in an interview for this Eco-Buzz feature.
Johnson Peart, who is charged with managing and reducing Nestlé's own carbon footprint in Jamaica, said it is practised in her own organisation because it "actually makes us more efficient. Because you find ways and means to not only reduce your carbon footprint but also your spend".
She outlined to the Jamaica Observer that, though Nestlé does not manufacture in Jamaica anymore, choosing instead to co-produce with companies producing similar products and then importing the rest. Both operations are done in ways which reduce the company's carbon footprint.
Taking that into consideration, she made the plea: "Give me a carbon credit based on the type of importation that I do. I am importing full container loads of products and I ensure my facility is not 50 minutes away from the port. The closer you are to the port, the less distance you have to travel. That's less carbon dioxide going into the environment, that's less greenhouse gases going into the environment. Give me a credit for that. Give me a tax break for that. Encourage me to want to continue to be sustainable."
Delving deeper into Nestlé's own efforts to being stewards of the environment, Johnson Peart said even its co-manufacturers have to meet International Organization for Standardization (ISO) certification relating to the environment and sustainability before they are chosen or continue to operate as co-manufacturers.
"We do not partner with [companies] which, number one, don't have international certifications to certain standards, because that way we know they are already adhering to something that is a little bit above what is required by the country. Jamaica is a wonderful place, but our legislation is a little slow. So right now we don't have anything that speaks specifically to environmental sustainability in the business world at all. So that means we have to go above market. So, for Nestlé, we have to be partnering with [companies] that already recognise the importance of sustainability also in their business."
"If you are not ISO certified, we dont deal with you. You have to pass that stage," she outlined to Sunday Finance as she added, "There is a full deep dive into the partner before they are considered qualified to co-manufacturer for the organisation."
She explained that to qualify to be a partner manufacturer or distributor, the company with the ISO certification must be audited first and that audit must be passed. To continue being a partner, you must be audited at least every two years.
"When we check things in our audit, we are checking those certifications as well as also [checking to see] if they are adhering to the requirements of those certifications, bsecause an entity can get the certification and still doesn't adhere to the requirements. And if we find in our audit that they are not adhering, certification or not, then we are going to pull out. We have done it before," she said, repeating it three times before adding that she is not at liberty to tell us which co-manufacturer was dropped because that entity was not sticking to the requirements of the certification.
She admits the co-manufacturing partner gets annoyed at times with the company sticking doggedly to its standards. "They do, even now, even with our current co-manufacturing partnership because our standards are pretty stringent, but it's business."
Johnson Peart said an audit was done recently on Nestlé's partners and the result means that "some of our distributors will not be able to continue distributing for us...because they are not meeting the standards for the environment or sustainability".
Her passion showed as she spoke, suggesting that she was not on a public relations campaign but genuinely believed in the methods she is employed to maintain.
Nestlé, she told Sunday Finance, is serious about the environment and incorporates it into everything it does.
"Our country manager is always saying that customers can eat our products with their eyes closed because they are guaranteed that we have done everything to ensure it is good," she said with a chuckle.
"As part of our global marketing, we make it known. So we tell you that our packaging is reduced virgin packaging and recyclable, for example. Locally we try to make as much noise as we can. We try to participate in as much activity as we can that relates to sustainability as well as corporate social responsibility. We ensure that we participate also in things that provide good visibility for companies that are trying to make good on environmental sustainability."
"The benefits are there. So why can't we be a little bit faster to act, to ensure that [we] can actually access what [we] need to be a more sustainable company. It's a win-win. It's a no-brainer win-win," she continued.
Johnson Peart said, even in laying out its new headquarters at Ferry Pen, St Andrew, Nestlé was keen on ensuring that it reduced the impact its operations would have on the environment.
"As basic as the building might look, considerations [for the environment] were taken into consideration when we were putting the building together. We use a steel frame, which is what most warehouses are being made out of now. The material is steel because steel is, believe it or not, more environmentally friendly. It's less to process, less to manufacture, less to ship, the carbon footprint is significantly reduced and all we essentially do is, like Lego, put the steel frame together and then we wrap the building in either concrete or concrete board or drywall. So my carbon footprint is reduced by using less material."
The company even generates much of the power it uses for lighting and cooling the building from solar panels installed on the compound, covering much of the parking lot in a way that provides shades for cars as well. Cooling, she said, accounts for 20 per cent of the energy the company uses due to the design of the building. The solar panels generate between 30 per cent and 40 per cent of the energy needed, depending on the time of year. Even the forklifts in the warehouse use lithium-ion batteries which run them for the entire day on a single charge and is more environmentally friendly than lead batteries.
Some vehicles in the company's fleet are hybrid "because that's what our suppliers had at the time". Consideration is being made to go full electric over time. Other projects are in place as well.
"For Nestlé, globally we have to do something called carbon insetting, which is another way to reduce our carbon footprint. Now, because we do not have an actual production facility here, we have to partner with our co-manufacturer, Seprod, to do some carbon insetting. In a nutshell, in laymans term, it means we just basically plant some trees on lands close to where we are doing primary production. In this case, the dairy farm [in St Thomas]. We partner with the Forestry Department to guide us. We are doing five acres now, with plans to expand in the future."
Johnson Peart concluded: "Nestle's charter is that we must give back to the environment. We have three main pillars that we have to maintain, and environment is one of them. Because no matter where you are in the world for Nestlé, Nestlé must feel like a part of that country. So a lot of people didn't know that Maggi was Nestlé, they thought Maggi was Jamaican. A lot of people thought Milo was Jamaican, but it's a Nestlé brand. So Nestlé, as far as they are concerned, belongs to the place that they are at. And if you are going to belong to the place that you are at, you must be rooted in the place that you are at, so that means your impact on the environment has to be significantly less as well. We can't just do what we want to do, we understand that, especially for Nestlé locations which have production facilities, we are extracting significant resources from the environment. We have to be able to give back or ensure that we do it sustainably."