Reducing our footprint

On-farm greenhouse gas emissions. 
The main contributor to our overall carbon footprint is the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from dairy farm production systems, primarily from cows. 

As ruminant animals, dairy cows produce methane during digestion, emitted mainly through burping. Nitrous oxide is emitted from dairy pasture too, as the urine and faeces produced by the cows and the fertilisers applied are broken down. Both methane and nitrous oxide are significant GHGs, making up the majority of the emissions in the production of dairy products.

Other sources of on-farm emissions include use of energy and electricity in farm operations and milk cooling, and emissions relating to farm inputs such as feed and fertiliser.

Riparian management

Riparian management is a key activity to improve water quality, enhance ecosystem health and improve biodiversity. Fencing defined waterways prevent cows excreting directly into waterways and protects river and stream banks from cows grazing on them, which helps limit erosion. Planting along river and stream banks also help with erosion by filtering sediment. It also filters nutrient run-off, provides shade for the water for cooling and encourages increased land and water-based biodiversity.

At the end of May 2017, our farmers have essentially delivered on the targets to keep stock out of all permanent waterways on their dairy farms, through fencing 98.4 percent of the entire length of these waterways and installing bridges or culverts for 99.8 percent of all crossings. This work is independently inspected and verified. A specific process is now being followed by the few remaining farmers who have work outstanding.

We are working with our farmers to have documented riparian management plans in place for 100 percent of farms by the end of the 2019-20 season. Within the plan key activities are identified specific to each farm’s location and waterways and include planting decisions and the approach for ongoing protection and maintenance of the plants to deliver long-term benefits for waterways.

We have not made as much progress in this area as originally planned – at the end of FY17 four percent of our farmers had a documented plan in place. However, through the additional SDAs and the services they will be offering, including Farm Environment Plans, we expect accelerated progress over the next three years.

Soil health

Soil is vital for food production and underpins the success of the dairy industry. Globally, soils are under pressure from increases in population, higher demands for food and competing land uses. Already approximately 33 percent of global soils are degraded¹ and significant global effort is required to address this issue.

Soil faces different challenges in different countries and regions. In New Zealand, compaction, erosion, and changes in soil carbon are the key challenges. Given the complex interaction between soil and the whole farm system, we need to take an integrated approach to improve soil health. 

Our current work to support farmers with nutrient and riparian management, to reduce our impact on water quality, is also how we will make the biggest difference to soil health and reduce erosion. Through work with industry partners, we are also helping to increase the adoption of farm practices which reduce soil compaction. Most of this effort focuses on restricted grazing practices and appropriate stand-off infrastructure during periods of soil saturation, for example, grazing in winter.²

¹  FAO, 2016


Raw milk from our supplying farmers is our largest input material. To maximise the nutritional value we deliver to our customers and consumers, we focus on minimising food loss across our supply chain. This also helps us deliver the maximum return to our supplying farmers and minimise our impact on the environment.

In our manufacturing operations our food safety and quality standards aim to deliver products right-first-time and our processing steps seek to capture by-products that were previously considered waste, such as whey, and make them into new valuable products.

The majority of our solid waste is a by-product of manufacturing practices; for example, packaging, damaged product and personal protective equipment that cannot be reused or recycled.

Minimising our solid waste to landfill is part of our long-standing environmental efficiency programme across our New Zealand manufacturing sites.

We achieved our previous target of 90 percent of solid waste diverted from landfill several years ago. This was an important achievement, but we can do more; so, therefore we have set a new target for a 20 percent reduction in solid waste to landfill by 2020 from a FY15 baseline.

Waste to landfill (tonnes)


FY15 New Zealand Waste to Landfill


FY17 New Zealand Waste to Landfill


FY17 Global Waste to Landfill

This target applies to our New Zealand sites only at this stage, but the aspiration behind it extends to all of our operating markets. Our waste performance data is incomplete for many operating markets over past years.


We collected and reported our global combined waste to landfill for the first time in FY17. We intend to use this information to set a robust baseline in order to build a global reduction target.

Fonterra's New Zealand targets
Indicator Target Performance Commentary 
Length of defined waterways with dairy cattle permanently excluded
100% by 31 May 2017
Essentially completed to plan and a focused effort now underway for the remaining small number of farmers
Regular crossing points on farm have bridge or culvert
100% by 31 May 2018
Essentially completed one year ahead of plan
Farms with waterways have documented riparian management plan
100% by 31 May 2020
Progress is better than can be reported because not all data is currently available; however, progress is slower than planned. Effort has been prioritised elsewhere. New tools and services like Farm Environment Plans will accelerate progress from now
Farms with water meters on significant water intake
85% by 2020
On track
Farms participating in nutrient management reporting and benchmarking
100% by 30 Nov 2015
The effort required to achieve this was initially under-estimated but adoption has grown rapidly and is now approaching target
Farm Environment Plan
100% by end 2025
NEW FY18 This is a new initiative and starts with a target for 1,000 during FY18