The convergence of human capital, technology and visionary leadership have seen us continue to lead in the business of manufacturing and distribution of food globally. In a radically evolved context over years, Nestlé has leveraged the best minds in science, the best technology and made surefooted steps towards being part of the human shift in nutrition, health, and wellness.

From fortified foods that tackle micronutrient deficiencies in emerging economies to the addition of plant-based foods to our portfolio, our purpose is to unlock the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for generations to come. Innovation in food products that are tasty, offering choice while delivering a range of benefits for people’s broad health and wellness needs is synonymous with our purpose. But what lies beyond that?

Innovating beyond our core has been a considerable business shift at Nestlé in the East & Southern Africa region, expanding the breadth of our impact in the community within which we exist, and beyond to ensure we continue to delight our consumers with experiences that go beyond the product.

Engaging the startup ecosystem through Nestlé Hatcher
Nestlé Hatcher is an ecosystem aimed at connecting Nestlé’s core business to the broader innovation ecosystem. The aim is to enable better collaboration with external innovators across the east and southern Africa region (ESAR) to solve business challenges with locally developed innovation. This initiative has enabled us to bridge our corporate culture with start-up culture through collaboration and partnership. It has extended our efforts at innovation, allowing us to engage bigger societal issues such as access, affordability, and at the same time support the long-term sustainability of startups.

The program is an ongoing experiment where with our partner, COOi Studios, we search, identify, mentor, and support start-ups in the implementation of cutting-edge ideas that aim to provide beyond product experiences and services to our consumers. To date, Nestlé Hatcher has had two rounds, from which it has seen the piloting and onboarding of Coffee Ratings, a borderless coffee community that is brought together by their love of coffee.

How did we get it right? “One of the biggest challenges between the start-up ecosystem and the established private sector is the mismatch of culture. Start-ups are idea hubs that move at a deafening pace compared to big corporates, and their culture of innovation is incongruent with the bureaucracy of long-established businesses. Collaboration has been a fundamental solve, by way of working with partners with shared values to drive innovation beyond the core,” says João Barreto, Head of Innovation at Nestlé ESAR.

Piloting Africa’s first net zero waste fairy farm
Skimmelkrans Net Zero Carbon Emissions Project is an ambition to create the company’s first dairy farm to reach net zero carbon emissions. Located in George, South Africa, Nestlé has committed that by 2023, the farm will be carbon net zero. This is part of the business’s commitment to reaching a waste-free and zero net emission future by 2050, building on decades of work already done to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

This project forms part of the Nestlé’s broader sustainability platform in South Africa called RE, where the company has committed to RETHINK, REDUCE AND REPURPOSE on its journey towards a more sustainable future. All three pillars come into play on the Skimmelkrans farm.

Skimmelkrans sets itself apart through their soil work, water conservation, feed management and manure processing, where some of the biggest reductions of greenhouse gases occur. The farm operates in a biodiverse ecosystem: from releasing manure back into the soil, to growing their own animal feed without having to buy large quantities from external feed suppliers, as well as conserving water. All these practices result in better care and nutrition for the cows on the farm, as well as better nutrition in the milk products produced, giving consumers a safe, environmentally friendly product.

Leading with Water Stewardship
Nestlé, in its Mossel Bay factory leads with its water stewardship project that includes water recovery, treatment and recycling technology. The factory produces milk products such as NESTLÉ NESPRAY, NESTLÉ MILO, NESTLÉ NIDO, NESTLÉ KLIM and NESTLÉ SWEETENED CONDENSED MILK sources its milk from the Skimmelkrans Net Zero Carbon Emissions Project. One of the few in the Nestlé business, the plant’s water-saving operation embraces the pillars of RE and seeks to REDUCE and REPURPOSE water from its dairy operations, by simply re-using the water recovered from the milk evaporation process. The vision for this initiative, which is known as Project ZerEau, is to become a zero-water intake facility, which will be a first in South Africa when we achieve this feat.

“Project ZerEau captures our commitment to unlocking quality of life of our communities through good, and in this case the focus is on doing good by our planet. The impact of transitioning this facility to a zero-water intake, in a water-scarce country like South Africa will go a long way in supporting residents, businesses and the entire community at large,” said Saint-Francis Tohlang, Corporate Communications and Public Affairs Director at Nestlé ESAR.

Capturing Emissions from factory operations
At the Babelegi Factory in Pretoria, Nestlé is piloting an industrial-scale project that has successfully tested a global-first, Artificial Intelligence technology in Africa that reduces emissions and saves water. The pilot is a partnership with the Emissions Capture Company (ECCO2), whose proprietary technology called WhiteBoxTM captures CO2 from flue gas emissions, recycles industrial wastewater and creates sustainable green products. The green products can be sold directly for animal feed, human food, consumer goods, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals or used to eliminate Sulphur dioxide emissions without the need for water.

Data collected from the industrial scale pilot coupled with industry-first machine learning techniques, demonstrates that the WhiteBoxTM can be calibrated to capture between 25% to 70% of Scope 1 carbon dioxide emissions and recycle available industrial wastewater per site. Much of this is done through direct air capture and energy-efficient gas processing, using low-fuel consumption methods.

“The industrial-scale pilot project has directly upskilled and employed 15 people from the local community and has the potential to create more jobs when scaled. Part of the operation has also included skills development for Nestlé employees at the facility to ensure a just transition to low emission operations, with no one left behind,” said Tohlang.

Going beyond our day-to-day business – the production of delicious food that delivers nutrition and wellness – to innovate and leapfrog change in the industry and society is synonymous with our culture at Nestlé ESAR. The continent is ripe for this kind of innovation – Africa is the youngest continent by way of population age, and the most entrepreneurial of them all.

The opportunity to leapfrog change as a big corporate is one that can only be leveraged through partnerships fit for purpose. This means ongoing collaboration with the startup ecosystem, with leading futurists and technologists, and most importantly, with the consumers who entrust us with their nutrition, health, and wellness.


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