Sustainable nutrition: why FrieslandCampina Ingredients aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Discover why the SDGs are so important for nutrition companies, and how FrieslandCampina is working to meet them.
Sustainable nutrition: why FrieslandCampina Ingredients aligns with the UN Sustainable Development Goals
Anne Peter Lindeboom, Managing Director of Innovation at FrieslandCampina Ingredients, talks us through the importance of the United Nations’ SDGs – and what we’re doing to feed a better planet.
The United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are undoubtedly the most important – and most ambitious – plans ever created to ensure a more sustainable world. Set in 2015, 193 countries agreed on these goals, setting out to create peace and prosperity for people and the planet by taking urgent action to tackle climate change and building a world that’s free from inequality. At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we’re dedicated to tackling these challenges head on. We have ambitious plans to deliver affordable nutrition to people around the world, all while reducing our impact on the environment.
In this blog, Anne Peter Lindeboom, our Managing Director of Innovation, discusses the important role that food, beverage and nutrition companies play in meeting these goals, and the steps we’re taking to feed a brighter future by aligning with the UN SDGs.
Q: In your own words, why are the UN SDGs so vital to creating a more equitable, sustainable world?
A: To me, the only way to articulate the importance of the Sustainable Development Goals is to do so through the lens of their benefits for humankind. As we all know, there is no planet B. We all have a responsibility to care for our planet for the generations to come. There’s a Dutch word that depicts this obligation perfectly – ‘Rentmeester’. In English, it literally translates to stewardship, but it essentially means someone who looks after something – like the planet – for someone else.
But the UN SDGs are not just there to create a better future – they’re necessary now. We all live on this planet, and it is our duty to take care of its inhabitants, today and tomorrow. The SDGs also cover equality; the first Sustainable Development Goal is to end poverty in all forms. Nobody can be against that principle. For me, these are the two pivotal themes of the SDGs – to protect the planet for tomorrow, and to protect each other today.
Q: Why is it important for businesses to align with the SDGs? And is it particularly important for food and beverage companies to align with these goals?
A: Over time, we have gained a better understanding of industry’s impact on the world. It’s therefore crucial that every single business and organisation on the planet does everything they can to align with the UN SDGs not just considering profit as a measure of growth, but also progress towards bettering the lives of people and ensuring a healthy planet for generations to come. What’s more, there are benefits to companies for doing so. People recognise that the ‘soul’ of a company is reflected in its actions – particularly younger generations like Generation Z. The people entering the labour market today are looking to join companies that are actively trying to improve their impact. So, businesses should align with the SDGs not just to protect the planet but to stay relevant and attract the best talent.
The food and nutrition industry, specifically, has a huge role to play in protecting the planet. If you look at the SDG goals related to nutrition, such as zero hunger and good health and well-being, it’s clear that our industry has a strong obligation to be proactive in achieving the UN’s objectives. If we can’t nourish and feed people well, people won’t be able to look after the planet. There’s also an obligation for us to do this in a sustainable, circular way to enable the industry to continue operating to achieve this. We need to be able to continue to grow crops, to feed our cows, to ultimately feed people. Sustainability has to become an intrinsic part of the food supply chain.
Q: Where does FrieslandCampina Ingredients have the most impact in relation to the UN SDGs, and how?
A: All of the SDGs are important to us, but there are certain goals that directly align with our own business goals. FrieslandCampina has six pillars that form our sustainability programme, all of which are based on the Sustainable Development Goals. SDG number 3, ‘Good Health and Well-being’, is one where I certainly see us having the biggest impact; nourishing people is at the heart of what we do. As an ingredients company, we want to maximise and improve nutrition – it’s not just about providing calories, but additional health benefits, such as those for the gut, muscles, brain and the immune system. And sustainable nutrition extends beyond the benefits we provide – it includes FrieslandCampina’s work helping local farms and dairies to provide locally, sustainably produced and accessible nutrition.
Some of the other SDGs that are important to us include SDG 13, ‘Climate Action’ and SDG 15, ‘Life on Land’. When it comes to these sustainability goals, we don’t want to follow in the footsteps of others; we want to set the standard. Concrete, measurable actions and data-driven decision-making help us do this. We can’t answer the difficult questions without insights. What will make a dent in our CO2 emissions? How do we help biodiversity; is it the number of worms per cubic meter of soil or the different varieties of plant species found on our grasslands? Data helps us understand how we can set meaningful goals and make progress against them.
For example, we recently launched our Climate Plan which details the steps FrieslandCampina is taking to produce net climate-neutral dairy by 2050, based on a robust goal-setting process. And on reducing biodiversity loss – which for me is just as important as reversing climate change – we’re using tools like our Biodiversity Monitor to measure progress, develop these insights, and share with both our member farmers and the wider industry.
Q: How does aligning with the SDGs shape your work as a member of the FrieslandCampina Ingredients team? And how does it shape business strategy?
A: In my role, aligning with the SDGs is about seeking new processes and technologies that can revolutionise how we work. But for other roles in the company, the link is not so clear cut. I was actually reading recently about how many businesses struggle to connect the SDGs with the daily lives of employees. At FrieslandCampina Ingredients, we’re currently working to establish the granularity of how we can help our employees work towards these targets every day.
Purpose is important here. Everyone in FrieslandCampina Ingredients – and the wider industry – needs to understand their professional and personal role in driving these goals. But it’s also about what we can practically do to empower individuals to operate with sustainability front of mind. One of the things we’re doing, for example, is using our new energy management system to make factory data instantly available to those who work with the equipment, so they can assess production efficiency and minimise energy waste. By making changes in this way, the decisions we make on everything – from factory investments to new product launches – are explicitly created with sustainability front of mind.
Q: Do you think the SDGs will become more important to consumers in the future? And how can a company’s alignment with these goals appeal to consumers?
A: We recently conducted research which shows that 7 out of 10 consumers are willing to make planet-positive nutrition choices when available to them. And while consumers may not actively look for companies’ alignment with SDGs when making a purchase, they will certainly look at a business’ impact. So, by aligning with these goals brands can appeal to consumers who are increasingly concerned about the planet, and who are looking to support brands with strong sustainability credentials.
Q: Do you have any predictions about what the future holds for SDGs and how businesses will work with the UN to drive progress?
A: In my opinion, the scope of the Sustainable Development Goals is very thorough, and I think the future focus will be on consolidating our approach to achieving them. I believe that collaboration will be essential in this, and we’ll certainly see more insights highlighting the impact of cross-industry partnerships in making meaningful progress towards the goals. For example, it’s clear that to feed our growing global population, we need to invest in a variety of sources of sustainable nutrition – such as a combination of dairy, plant and even cell proteins. This can’t be achieved by one company alone. That’s why we collaborate with AGT foods to develop our plant-based protein offerings.
Partnerships within our industry can have a significant impact. In my opinion, dairy has the potential to lead on sustainability progress, especially where we investigate the potential of new innovations. We’ve partnered with global brands like Danone and Nestlé on projects looking at innovations to tackle greenhouse gas emissions. What I find exciting is the fact that those innovations are already out there. As a chemical engineer by training, I’m excited by technologies like the ‘hydrofication’ of energy, for example. If we work together to implement these technologies, we can act fast enough to preserve our planet. And I believe, wholeheartedly, that we will do it.
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