Seeding a Forest Positive approach

3 learnings that changed Nestlé’s on-the-ground forest strategy
forest
When Nestlé first committed to no deforestation in 2010, it was the beginning of a major journey.

There wasn't an industry-wide definition of deforestation, we didn't have visibility on ingredient sources beyond our direct suppliers, and we didn't know what deforestation risks were in those locations. Now, a decade later, the team has progressed enormously: ingredients that are high-risk for deforestation are largely traceable back to origin. We developed a set of tools to assess and address deforestation risks within our supply chains and as of the end of 2020 we assessed 90% as deforestation free. And importantly, whether for palm oil, cocoa, or other focus ingredients, we are deeply engaged with our suppliers to transform practices on the ground. Collectively, this progress has brought us closer to deforestation-free supply chains. But it also opened our eyes to the challenges and opportunities to protect and restore forests with holistic, collaborative, and future-facing approaches. Through our Forest Positive strategy, we source our ingredients by investing in suppliers who actively conserve forests; respect human rights for all, including Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities (IPLC); and promote sustainable livelihoods.

Our commitments
 
  • 100% deforestation-free by 2022 for palm oil, sugar, soy, meat, pulp and paper, and by 2025 for coffee and cocoa.
     
  • We will reduce our emissions by 20% by 2025, halve them by 2030 and reach net zero by 2050.
     
  • We will plant 200 million trees by 2030 in and around farms where we source our ingredients.

Here are three ways that a mix of climate experts, sourcing professionals, and external partners are transforming how a company like Nestlé can get evolved beyond a no-deforestation strategy. We can achieve Forest Positive supply chains that both protects and restores ecosystems and supports equity and human rights. 

1. Leveraging both old-school and new-school tools 

No single tool, be it a certification or a satellite monitoring system, can solve the challenge of deforestation, let alone achieve a Forest Positive future. That's why we adopt a combination of tools. 

When I joined Nestlé in 2017, we were laying the critical foundation for a Forest Positive approach – for the first time, we moved from pilots to large-scale deployment of satellites to monitor deforestation risks in real time.

person measuring a tree

From the onset, we've worked closely with our external partners and suppliers to deploy teams on the ground to monitor sites, including documenting land cover and manually measuring tree circumferences and densities, giving us initial information to develop sustainability plans. But eyes on the ground only provide information from a snapshot in time. We needed to better understand ongoing changes and adapt. Then, there was an opportunity to kick our collaborations into orbit – 700 kilometers up. With the addition of satellite monitoring, we became able to monitor forests in real time and identify areas for protection.

map

With a new partnership with Airbus and the Earthworm Foundation, we initiated large-scale satellite monitoring across our supply chains through Starling – which brought new visibility into the detailed forest risks of our supply chain—a critical foundation for moving forward on our Forest Positive strategy. With the right data, we can understand current and potential drivers of deforestation. Now, we are using the same satellite monitoring systems to not just react to deforestation events after they happen, but also to monitor where forests need protection. To support our suppliers to protect and restore forests, we have committed to increase our investments in sustainable landscape initiatives and to plant 200 million trees by 2030.

2. Right collaboration, right time

Business incentives make a big difference. In 2015, Grupo Palmas, based in Lima, had an opportunity to expand into the Peruvian forest for palm oil production. They even had government permits. But the Grupo Palmas team had begun their own sustainability journey and took a closer look.

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As a Nestlé palm oil supplier, an expansion into the forest would have breached our no-deforestation commitments. The value of preserving an important commercial relationship was one incentive that helped Grupo Palmas decide to go in a bold new direction. Grupo Palmas became the first Peruvian company to commit to no deforestation, and they chose to protect the 15,000 hectares of forest down the Maniti River as a forest reserve. With co-investment from Nestlé and the support of Earthworm Foundation, they assessed the land and developed new conservation strategies. The collaboration ultimately resulted in not just conserving this forest reserve but also more direct smallholder farmer engagement with 240 local farmers on forest conservation in the broader region. Grupo Palmas is more than doubling the smallholder contributions to palm oil by 2025.

As illustrated in Peru, the partnership goes beyond the no-deforestation commitment itself to also co-invest in setting a shared goal and then working together to get there. It's this kind of relationship that accelerates Forest Positive efforts from setting expectations with buying power, to aligning commitments, to ultimately co-investing in forward-looking approaches.

3. Broaden the lens to look to the future

When our team approaches key forest-related work, we used to ask about whether deforestation happened in the past, but we now ask about the drivers of deforestation – not only on how and where raw materials are grown, but also about what does it take to protect the forest for the future. These questions show us the way forward to collaborating holistically with governments, companies, farmers, and communities on forest protection and restoration.

community

One example is a Nestlé co-funded smallholder project in Indonesia under Earthworm Foundation's Rurality Initiative. In Langga Payung, North Sumatra, we invested in and worked with one of our direct suppliers, Golden Agri Resources, to transform our shared palm oil supply chain. Through this on-the-ground partnership, we uncovered key issues impacting local farmers and creating risk for long-term forest and community well-being. The project centered on addressing critical concerns like farmers' legal land status, long-term forest conservation, agricultural practices, and the ability to grow household income. Working with the local government, the project secured proper land titles for the farmers. Working with farmers, the project saw increased farmer income from livelihood diversification activities by more than 10%. And working with communities, more than 15,000 hectares were designated for conservation. Many of these farmers may not even be part of our supply chain right now. We know that supply chains are dynamic, and to truly achieve both a positive ecological impact and a positive impact on people, we need to be broad and inclusive in our approaches across our sourcing regions.

To set the way forward for the future, we must embrace complexity – not fear it.
Emily

Bringing this kind of program to scale is a huge undertaking. I cannot understate how intensive the work is. There is no one-size-fits-all solution – every community is different, which is why we pair a bird's eye view from satellite monitoring with boots on-the-ground. Ultimately, our work at Nestlé has taught us critical lessons over the past decade: to achieve a Forest Positive future, we need to leverage tools that look across the entire landscape – across sectors, industries, and land uses beyond our own supply chains - and work with partners on forward-looking actions. To set the way forward for the future, we must embrace complexity – not fear it. Engaging with every dimension of a complex environment is what will unlock the true impact we can have on forests, food, and climate.

  
Towards a Forest Positive Future