I've always been very passionate about food and nutrition; it's such an important part of all our lives. My degree was in pharmacology, which also gave me a strong grounding in physiology, biochemistry and nutrition. Whilst I loved deepening my understanding in these areas as well as keeping up to date with the latest scientific research,I knew quite early on that my ideal career would be more focused on people and collaboration than directly on lab work.
I joined Danone eight years ago, driven by the fact it was a purpose-led business with many opportunities to work in nutrition and science-based roles. I was really excited about the potential for positive impact that comes with working with well known brands and products that directly benefit people. I was on a two year graduate scheme that placed me in various roles, giving me a feel for different aspects of the company. Once the two years were up, I stayed with Danone to work in a range of medical affairs based roles.
Throughout this time, awareness and concern relating to the climate emergency were rapidly growing, Coupled with increasing urgency to accelerate efforts to limit its impacts. This is something I felt particularly passionate about. An opportunity opened up in Danone's sustainability team, which was growing, in recognition of its importance within the business. I seized the opportunity, moved into the sustainability team and have been there ever since.
Within the sustainability team, our jobs are all extremely varied from one day to the next. Because we work across all of Danone’s different product categories and brands, we are frequently connecting with sustainability experts in the global team as well as working with different teams across the UK business. There are so many topics to be tackled in the field of sustainability that the work ends up being very diverse, which I love. The landscape is ever evolving, so it's key for our team to always be alert to latest news, insights and regulatory changes from a climate and sustainability viewpoint, flagging up any opportunities or risks that these might create for the business and how those might impact our plans.
We also work very closely with teams across the business to review our innovation pipeline - the products we’re hoping to bring to market - to identify and make any changes which will make these products more sustainable. That might involve reducing packaging where possible, increasing the amount of recycled materials in the packaging we do use and ensuring that all of our packaging can be recycled at the end of its life. We seek to identify ways to reduce our carbon footprint in every stage of the process of bringing a product to market. At the same time, external collaboration is very important, trying to understand how we can work with customers like retailers, supermarkets and the NHS to drive progress towards joint sustainability goals.
A key sustainability priority, as mentioned above, is thinking about our packaging and how we can move towards a circular and low-carbon packaging system (where packaging stays in the loop and you minimise wastage). We work towards these goals by recognising that sustainability has to be embedded across all of our functions and teams - everyone has to be thinking about sustainability, not just the sustainability team! So the question is often about how we can upskill all of our colleagues throughout the business to understand what our sustainability priorities are and how their roles can contribute to making an impact. The Nutricia team provides some great examples of taking it upon themselves to identify sustainability opportunities, such as the reusable bottle, and running pilot schemes in hospitals to increase awareness of packaging recyclability.
It’s vital that everyone across the business understands what we are working towards and what our priorities are, and how their day-to-day roles connect to our overarching sustainability strategy: the Danone Impact Journey. The strategy has three pillars which are Health, Nature, and People & Communities, and these provide a framework for all parts of the business and its brands. Health focuses on how we will continue to progress and lead on bringing health through nutrition for our patients and consumers. Nature, the actions we will take to preserve and regenerate nature; essential for the health of the planet and to ensure we can continue to supply and enjoy healthy, nutritious food. People & Communities sets out how we will continue to have a positive social impact, supporting individuals to thrive - not just in relation to Danone employees, but also in all of the communities in which we operate externally. These are huge ambitions, and we recognise that they can only be achieved in partnership with all of our stakeholders; from farmers, our supply chain, all the way through to our consumers, patients and their families.
One of my roles, in relation to the ‘community’ aspect of our strategy, has been promoting Danone’s volunteering programmes, through which we encourage all of our colleagues to get out and volunteer in their local communities. We have an unlimited volunteering allowance to enable our colleagues to support our charity partners across the UK at a time that works for them. It’s so rewarding to see it all come together, and the positive impact this can have - whether that be in supporting local food banks, litter picking, or helping community gardens and green spaces to thrive. It’s also great to see how it gives colleagues a tremendous sense of accomplishment.
Last year, one of my key projects was to identify a new charity partner for Danone UK; something closely aligned to our mission of bringing health through better nutrition. We undertook a review of programmes and charities across the UK, as well as speaking to lots of our colleagues to understand their views. Eventually we identified FoodCycle as the partner we wanted to work with. They bring together members of disadvantaged communities for a weekly nutritious three course meal based around surplus ingredients and cooked by volunteers. They have an open door policy, so whether it's families who are struggling to afford healthy meals seven days a week, adults who are living on their own and perhaps lacking the skills or confidence to cook, or elderly people in the community who might be lonely, everyone is welcome at FoodCycle to eat, connect, and learn more about healthy nutritious food.
We were really pleased to launch the partnership at the beginning of this year. There are lots of ways that we're going to work closely with FoodCycle; not only through financial donations to help to support the continued running of their projects across the UK, but also through many of our colleagues volunteering at their local FoodCycle projects - cooking the food, or serving the guests that come to eat. Additionally, we’re looking at ways that we can leverage Danone’s nutrition expertise to support the upskilling of Food Cycle volunteers who cook in the kitchens. This is just the start of an amazing journey.
I’m so fortunate to be able to witness how passionate everyone is about health, nutrition and sustainability across Danone’s businesses. There is a real appetite from our colleagues to do more and do better, and it inspires me every day. It makes me very proud to be part of Danone and Nutricia.