Vegetables are an increasingly important raw material for us as we expand our portfolio of nutritious and plant-based products.
We purchase many vegetables, including carrots, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic, potatoes, horseradish, chickpeas and spinach. To ensure the vegetables we source are sustainably produced, we are working with farmers through our suppliers to develop practices that protect and enhance biodiversity and respect labor rights.
Our approach to sustainably produced vegetables
Our approach aims to promote respect for human rights, reduce the environmental impact of agricultural practices and enhance biodiversity within our vegetables supply chain, structured around our Responsible Sourcing Standard.
Reducing greenhouse gas emissions through key partnerships
To help us successfully design and implement our strategy, we have partnered with Fundación Global Nature (FGN), a Spanish nonprofit that has spent 25 years protecting nature and biodiversity. We are also working with the Sustainable Agriculture Network, which provides innovative agricultural solutions to environmental and social issues.
In the north of France, Nestlé has been working with farmers on regenerative agriculture methods since 2018. Our work is part of the Sols Vivants (Living Soils) initiative, involving partners such as Earthworm Foundation and supermarket chain Lidl. The initiative involves mainly wheat crops but also corn, sugar beet and vegetables. By the end of 2022, we had engaged 180 farmers and 10 suppliers under the Sols Vivants initiative covering around 15 000 hectares in different regions, resulting in 72 000 tonnes of raw materials.
In the United States, we are measuring the outcomes of regenerative practices used by pumpkin farmers in central Illinois supplying our Libby’s brand. By reducing tillage and planting cover crops across more than 70 fields and 6000 acres, soil erosion rates are 40% lower than the state average, and greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 732 tonnes compared with conventional practices.
Enabling transparency by supporting suppliers and farmers
Greater transparency helps us strengthen the links in our supply chains and gain a better understanding of our ingredients and how they’re produced. It also helps us initiate positive change across the farms supplying our vegetables. To hold our suppliers and ourselves accountable and drive industry-wide transparency, we publish the list of our tier-1 vegetables suppliers and corresponding primary processing sites, along with the countries of origin.
We mainly purchase processed vegetables from our suppliers. Behind these suppliers are large-scale farming operations as well as smallholder farmers growing vegetables on only a few hectares. We provide a toolbox that can be used to support all kinds of farmers to improve their practices and sustain their operations. Nestlé provides an operational framework and supports suppliers embarking on this journey with technical and material assistance.
With some farmers and suppliers, we go further than minimum levels of compliance and help them more carefully manage their impact on the environment and the communities around them. We support them on their way to regenerative agriculture by implementing key agricultural practices around water, soils, nutrients, crop protection and energy, which our partner FGN identified would provide the greatest impact. We also help them implement their own biodiversity enhancement roadmaps.
Setting sustainability standards
Through farm assessments conducted within our tomato supply chain, we realized that because the industry’s focus had traditionally been more on quality and food safety, some labor and environmental aspects had been overlooked. Since identifying these risks, we have worked with our direct suppliers to map our supply chain all the way to the primary processors that receive vegetables directly from farmers.
We ask these processors to organize farm assessments that provide a baseline for each sourcing location, leveraging the Farm Sustainability Assessment ethical standard from the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative Platform. By using the shared standard, other industry players do not need to request additional assessments from the same farmers. Each processor is then asked to develop and implement an improvement plan covering all farms that supply them.
To make sure our efforts are driven toward the right locations, processors located in low-risk countries (as per Maplecroft risk indices) are not requested to organize farm assessments, and the associated volumes are considered sustainably produced.