I joined Danone straight after university as a graduate, so Danone's been everything I've known for the last seven years. One of the things that appealed to me about the company when I was originally researching its history and ethos were some speeches given by Danone’s CEO back in 1972, when he spoke about the fact that responsibility doesn’t end at the factory gate or the office doors. As a business, you need to think beyond your direct responsibility and about your broader impact and reputation - and those are values that remain at the core of Danone and Nutricia today.
My workdays are very varied and diverse because we cover the entire spectrum of topics around social and environmental sustainability. So, it might be human rights and modern-day slavery one day, then the next we might be reviewing environmental claims of marketing brands, reviewing the recyclability of our packaging or speaking at external conferences about our net zero ambition. Our team members are the local representatives of a huge global organisation, so we’re able to call on a lot of expertise from other countries; some of our work involves ensuring these messages resonate with customers in the UK, or at other times communicating what’s required for the UK and Ireland to colleagues in other countries.
There are big topics on the agenda that are challenging everybody, everywhere. We have to think about climate change, the circular economy of packaging, human rights and all these huge global interconnected issues that are challenging because there are a lot of grey areas where we need to have interconnected international responses. But at the same time that’s very rewarding, because I feel proud that I’m playing a part in shaping what Danone and Nutricia stand for, and how we respond to these global challenges.
Working for Danone is highly collaborative; we all have very different areas of expertise while working very closely together. My area of expertise is sustainability, but I work very closely with different teams across Nutricia such as marketing, contracts, nursing and solutions. What we all have in common is a collective pride and enthusiasm to drive our initiatives forward. We share the workload, share the ambition, share the deliverables - and we pool our expertise to think about what we want to achieve as Nutricia, and Danone.
One of the projects I’ve been particularly proud of is the reusable bottle initiative that we have implemented for Nutricia Homeward patients - that has been really exciting. These are bottles that can be washed and sterilised at home and reused up to 30 times. Compared to single-use containers, these reusable bottles have the potential to reduce a huge amount of waste.
Recycling is an issue that is very close to the heart of the company; Danone is an official sponsor of Recycle Week 2022. So, a lot of our sustainability work focuses on ways we can recycle and reuse more efficiently. We’ve trialled the ‘milkman model’ for some of Danone’s yoghurts, by packaging them in glass jars that are returned when empty, then refilled and sent back to customers. More specifically for Nutricia, we’ve also been trying to explore what’s possible in terms of moving away from a single-use mindset for both patients and healthcare professionals. One of the ways we have been doing that is by looking at our Flocare giving sets and investigating if it’s safe to use them several times over a 24-hour period, rather than having to throw them away after each use. Another possibility is encouraging more people to switch to reusable syringes. We’re always trying to think of ways to step back from throw away culture and remember that everything has a cost and value.
On a broader scale, we are working on building our local roadmap to net zero, looking at how we can reduce carbon emissions for our local business. We’re looking in even greater detail at how we can reduce our impact in regions where we work with the NHS, so that is something that is very topical and will make a tangible difference; working out how we can deliver products to our patients and healthcare professionals, and how we can operate more sustainably as a business.
The biggest way I feel that I’m personally making a difference on a day-to-day basis is by raising awareness. Whether that be with internal colleagues or external stakeholders, I know that I’m helping everybody to understand our business that little bit better in the context of sustainability, and what changes we could be making to have an even greater positive impact on the planet.