Danone to become 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030

Green Forum
Sustainability is a mindset which needs to be integrated in all business layers: procurement, logistics, research and innovation, marketing, human resources, regulatory and compliance etc. It must be considered from day one of planification and budgeted accordingly. Urgency is one of the biggest challenges in implementing sustainability strategies, said Cristina Biciila,  CEE  Sustainability Manager at Danone, in an interview for Green Forum.

Danone has recently set the goal of being a net zero company. What are the short and medium-term targets for reducing carbon emissions from packaging, transport, and operations? How do you measure progress toward these goals?

Danone has always had the mission to “bring health through food to as many people as possible.” As part of our ambition to reach net zero, we've committed to a 30% reduction in methane emissions from fresh milk by 2030, aligning our efforts with the Global Methane Pledge. We continue to accelerate the roll-out of regenerative agriculture programs, recognizing the dairy industry's key role in mitigating methane emissions produced by cattle. Approximately 90 to 95% of the methane released by cows comes from their mouths, while 5 to 10% is released in the form of manure and flatulence.

Romania is the only country in the Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) region with its own manufacturing facility for dairy products. Consequently, the methane reduction goal has also been adopted locally with a clear strategy and investment by 2030. This builds upon Danone Romania's ongoing focus, which began with the socio-economic program “Chance for All” in 2012, in partnership with the Heifer Foundation and the Polaris Group. Danone Romania invested €7 million to support 220 local households in Zimnicea, enabling them to become small farmers who currently provide 10% of Danone's milk.
Danone diligently tracks CO2 emissions across Scope 1&2 and 3. Scope 3 is further devided into “FLAG” (Forest, Land & Agriculture) emissions and „NON-FLAG“(remaining Scope 3 emissions, including Logistics, Co-manufacturing, Packaging and other) emissions. Each scope has its own set medium-term (2030) targets, and is being continuously evaluated.  

In 2023, the Central and Eastern Europe region achieved a 30.2% decrease compared to the 2020 baseline. Notably, Romania contributes significantly to total CO2 emissions due to its production activities.
Additionally, in 2024, Danone Romania finalized an investment of €1 million in the purchase and installation of photovoltaic panels. These panels, comprising 2,350 units, have been commissioned on the roof and land behind the yogurt factory in the Colentina district. They will provide a total power of 1,280 KWP and supply 1,473 MWh per year, equivalent to 20% of the total electricity consumed by the factory in Bucharest.

Reducing food waste is a global issue. What specific initiatives has the company implemented in Romania to reduce supply chain waste and support the circular economy?

One of the Danone Impact Journey KPIs is to cut by halve all food waste by 2030 vs 2020. In 2023 Danone Global announced a 19,8% reduction vs 2020. In Romania, this commitment is taken seriously and implemented starting from the milk sourcing, using best practices to preserve best quality and reduce waste, to factory investments in efficient production, quality of products as well as in transportation and final consumers.

In 2022 Danone Central Easter Europe donated to Food Banks products in value of 1.2 M. Half of them were donated in Romania.

Regarding circular economy, Danone has committed at the Global level to become 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030, reaching 84% in 2023 vs 2020.

Also, another KPI related to circular economy is to halve the use of virgin fossil-based packaging by 2040, with a 30% reduction by 2030, accelerating reuse and recycled material. To this scope, in 2021 Danone Romania invested 4 M euros in a new Tetra Pak line of packaging in the Bucharest factory which is producing dairy products for 14 countries. The materials from which TetraPak packages are made can be recycled, as, during the recycling process, the fibres of the raw materials from which the package is made are recovered. These are then reintroduced into the economy to make new products. TetraPak packages are made in proportion of 93% plant-based materials, namely sugar cane.

Sustainable procurement is a key part of an ethical supply chain. How does Danone work with local farmers in Romania to ensure high environmental and animal welfare standards?

Currently 100% of the milk used in Danone factory is sourced from Romanian 20 Romanian farmers and 220 small farmers from Zimnicea. Environment impact and animal welfare have always been our concern that is why, in 2021, with Danone support, farmers from the Chance for All program started to use: crop rotation, a technique that reduces the chances of the development of harmful insects and plants; scarification, at a depth of 60-70 cm (this process has not been done before at Zimnicea);minimum tillage, a technique by which the land is worked only on the surface, straightens and conserves water in the soil. In addition, also within the program, 4 mobile oases were created at Zimnicea - an innovative solution that helps farmers to increase the welfare level of the cows grazing on the pasture, as well as the quality of the milk.

Danone Romania is also fulfilling the zero-deforestation commitment as most of the farmers are not using soy for animal feed, and those who are, produce it locally.

Are there independent certification or auditing programs involved?

In 2024 Danone Romania was B Corp certified under the Central Eastern Europe Region with 103.3 points.  B Corp is a public recognition of the high-quality standards of sustainability Danone has in its business, across value chain. It is also the proof of Danone long time double mission: economic and social, showing that our way of doing business goes beyond profit with clear objectives for positive change on health, planet, people, and communities.  

B Corp is more than a certification. It is a social movement created to change the way companies act in society. The "B" in "B Corp" stands for "Benefit to all" and refers to a company that generates benefits not only for shareholders, but also for all stakeholders.

Companies can get the B Corp certification only if they can prove they meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability. To obtain certification, which is valid only for 3 years – after this period the company needs to recertify- a company must score at least 80 points according to the B Lab standards.

Transitioning to more sustainable practices can be costly. How do you manage the balance between sustainability goals and long-term financial performance?

To answer this question, I would like to quote Danone CEO, Antoine de Saint-Affrique, who places sustainability at the core of Danone's business model. “Performance and sustainability go hand in hand. Performance without sustainability has no future and sustainability without performance has no impact. So, it's not one or the other. It's the two together.”

Sustainability is a mindset which needs to be integrated in all business layers: procurement, logistics, research and innovation, marketing, human resources, regulatory and compliance etc. It must be considered from day one of planification and budgeted accordingly.

As consumers become increasingly concerned about sustainability, how does Danone intend to position its products as sustainable choices for consumers?

Danone mission has always been to “bring health through food to as many people as possible” We offer healthy, delicious products tailored to the nutritional needs and eating habits of our consumers. Essential Dairy and Plant-Based Products, Waters, Early Life Nutrition and Medical Nutrition–all our ranges share the same goal: offering innovative, top-quality products that meet the expectations of consumers at every stage of life. We are celebrating this year 25 years of local production in Danone Romania. In these 25 years, Danone Romania has grown and developed alongside generations of consumers and partners, demonstrating its commitment to quality, innovation, and social responsibility. Our portfolio has diversified, but we have remained true to the demands of a healthy and modern lifestyle. Today we are present in Romania with fresh dairy, herbal products under the Alpro brand, but we also offer baby food and specialized nutrition under the Aptamil, Milupa and Forticare brands, providing nutritional solutions tailored to specific needs.

Our business is about nourishing people so they can take care of their health and live better lives in a healthier planet.

Sustainability is more than environment. It covers other areas as: governance, workers, and social impact, reflected in lots of complex business ways of operating and values, starting from innovation, science, human resources expertise and care for consumer needs. All these we hope we can make visible to people who choose our products.

B Corp certification for our business is also a symbol of Danone sustainability, a sign which consumers can easily identify on pack or through our communication.

What are the biggest obstacles food companies face in implementing sustainability strategies?

Urgency is one of the biggest challenges. No matter how fast we move, we need to move faster. We also need to adopt to the consequences of accelerating climate change and transform current food system into much more resilient, efficient, and sustainable one. 

Green Forum  |  20 June, 2024 at 8:04 AM