Product life cycle

Managing environmental sustainability

Our goal is for our products to be not only tastier and healthier, but also better for the environment along their value chain. To improve the environmental performance of our products, we need to assess and improve their environmental impacts from the moment we begin to develop them. This means having a clear understanding of the environmental life-cycle impacts of our products, from agricultural production and the sourcing of ingredients through to what happens at the end of a product’s life.

The environmental life cycle of products

We use the scientific method known as life-cycle assessment (LCA) to help us understand the performance of our food and beverage products along their value chain, from farm to consumer and beyond. The LCA focuses on preserving water, using natural resources efficiently, conserving biodiversity, reducing air emissions, adapting to climate change and reducing waste.

This approach informs our decision-making, helping us take actions to continuously improve our environmental performance. It also enables us to respond to stakeholders’ growing interest in the environmental performance of food and beverage products, and provides credible evidence to support specific environmental communications and marketing claims.

We’ve completed LCAs for all our product categories. Examples of the improvements we have made to products as a result of these LCAs include:

  • The eco-mode for our Nescafé Dolce Gusto Melody coffee machine enables auto-standby mode after 20 minutes. For a 120 ml cup, this has helped consumers cut carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2eq) emissions by 32%, fossil fuels by 41% and water use by 25%, compared to the first model launched in 2006;
  • The new Nestlé Infant Nutrition Ready-to-Feed plastic bottle produced in Germany has a better environmental performance than the glass equivalent. GHG emissions have been reduced by 19%, water withdrawal fell by 15% and ecosystems quality improved by 28%. The environmental savings on a 32-bottle pack in Germany are estimated to be 13 kilometres of road travel avoided, 74 m2 of green space preserved and 37 litres of water saved;
  • The new Nescafé refill pack in Italy has a better environmental performance than the previous 150 g glass jar because it has reduced GHG emissions by 79%, water withdrawal by 72% and resource consumption by 77% (taking into account packaging production and delivery, product distribution and end of life). More information about the pack and the Nescafé Plan for more responsible farming, production and consumption is available through the on-pack Quick Response (QR) code; and
  • The new Nescafé Café Menu cappuccino pack has reduced the carton weight by 21% compared to our previous pack – the equivalent of 14% fewer lorries on the road.
Life cycle of products

Identifying and addressing environmental hotspots

We share the data from our LCAs internally through the Nestlé Category Sustainability Profiles. These profiles summarise a category’s environmental ‘hotspots’ – areas of significant impact, based on environmental indicators including GHG emissions and water use – and outline how we are addressing them to improve environmental performance along the value chain.

In 2015, we completed LCAs for all our product categories, and established and documented Nestlé Category Sustainability Profiles for 15 categories.

Sustainability by Design

All our new products undergo an environmental sustainability assessment where relevant, using our LCA-based eco-design tool EcodEX (Ecodesign for Sustainable Product Development and Introduction). This tool enables product development teams to assess the environmental performance of a product faster and much earlier in the design process. Using five environmental impact indicators, EcodEX allows different scenarios to be compared using data specific to the food and beverage industry. It can be used to assess the overall environmental impacts of a packed food product along the value chain, from the sourcing of raw materials right through to the end of life. EcodEX is now used in 30 (100% of in-scope) R&D locations – this represents 96% of the whole R&D organisation.

During 2014 and 2015, we also used EcodEX to run environmental assessment studies for our main products in the Swiss market, to identify areas with a high environmental impact and to inform action improvement plans. The work extended the application of EcodEX beyond R&D, with a decision to carry out a more detailed study on two specific applications. It will also act as a pilot to explore how EcodEX could be used to provide the basis for environmental claims, which will include a process for an external peer review of the scope and the results of the analysis.

By the end of 2015, we had evaluated 6174 projects1 and 17 724 scenarios2 using PIQUET, EcodEX and the GEF (Global Environmental Footprint) ecodesign tool, developed and used exclusively by Nestlé Waters.

Mandatory rating system

We use a mandatory environmental rating system for all new product and process developments. It uses a five-point scale to evaluate potential impacts, both negative and positive, and is designed to inform our decision-making at the earliest possible stage – well before a project goes into development.

Promoting access to data

To make informed decisions, our teams require accurate data, and we are continuing to work with external collaborators to develop databases that benefit not only Nestlé but the LCA community at large. In particular, we are focusing on enlarging the scope of the input data on agricultural raw materials, as they constitute the main environmental impact of many products.

For example, we are continuing to develop and improve EcodEX through a collaboration with the Montreal-based International Reference Centre for the Life Cycle of Products, Processes and Services (CIRAIG). We are currently working on incorporating information on statistical uncertainty into EcodEX and regionalising life-cycle inventory datasets for water flows and land use. We are also co-sponsoring the development of a World Food LCA Database, coordinated by LCA consultancy Quantis and 11 other partners.

During 2015, more than 750 critically reviewed datasets were added to EcodEX. Nestlé is also funding further data development, in collaboration with Quantis, to focus on ingredients not yet considered in other major databases.

To stay at the forefront of LCA and ecodesign, we are continuing to promote Sustainability by Design and provide our product development teams with opportunities for continuous learning and knowledge sharing. In addition to staff at our 40 R&D centres disseminating their expertise throughout our R&D community and across our operations, the experts in our global Sustainability by Design Network are responsible for building sustainability into the earliest phase of product development.

To evaluate the opportunity to extend our sustainability analyses beyond just environmental factors, we have been collaborating with global science company DSM to trial tools that will conduct integrated assessments of environmental, social and health impacts. The test case was a fortified milk product in the Asian market. The project has resulted in new insights and recommendations for using sustainability in innovation decision-making and communication, and opportunities to develop products with favourable environmental, social and health impacts.

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  1. In the case of packaging, a project is a detailed description of all the different packaging system formats (or scenarios) that a product can be packaged in.
  2. In the case of packaging, each packaging system format that a product can be packaged in (e.g. aluminium can and corrugated board, glass bottle and shrink film, etc.) is termed a scenario.