Letter from the Sustainability Advisory Panel


One year on, Rob Fenwick, Chair of our inaugural Sustainability Advisory Panel, reflects on the sustainability challenges facing the Co-op and how the panel is advising the Co-op’s roadmap towards a sustainable future.

Sustainability is an over-used and misunderstood expression.

For Fonterra, its sustainability ambitions are linked directly with consumer value on one hand and an intergenerational responsibility for land and what grows on it on the other. 

A determination not to exhaust the planet’s natural capital is a concept already well understood by Fonterra’s farmers.

For Fonterra, its sustainability ambitions are linked directly with consumer value on one hand and an intergenerational responsibility for land and what grows on it on the other.

Sustainability Advisory Panel

Today these challenges and opportunities, not constrained by national boundaries, are converging in a confluence of unprecedented velocity. 

To name a few of them: 

  • Can we provide healthy nutrition for growing populations in a way that regenerates, not depletes, our natural environment? 

  • Can we continue to farm and operate in New Zealand with the blessing and support, not the ire, of our communities? 

  • Can the farming sector re-build its reputation for being a revered and esteemed sector of New Zealand society? 

  • Through deeper engagement with iwi, government, the finance sector and communities, can it accelerate change and create enduring, value-adding and low carbon businesses? 

In a New Zealand context these represent the most complex set of challenges and opportunities a business may ever confront.

Sustainability Advisory Panel

It is my pleasure to introduce Fonterra’s inaugural Sustainability Advisory Panel, a group of independent experts who have agreed to advise the Board and senior leadership team on the company’s roadmap towards a sustainable future.

Fonterra is midstream in its most profound strategic reset since its inception and pressure on the company to improve financial performance is crucial.

Sustainability Advisory Panel

At a time of so much change for both company and sector, the Board’s decision to establish an independent and unrestricted panel was a bold and innovative approach. 

My Panel members and I thought very carefully before accepting this role. 

More important than its appointment, how seriously would the Panel be engaged? Can we make a difference? Can values of sustainability be fully integrated into commercial objectives and be at the core of Fonterra’s future strategy?

In its relatively short history, the Panel has been highly productive.

Sustainability Advisory Panel

The Fonterra Board, CEO and management team have openly and proactively engaged with the Panel on a regular basis and have sought guidance and fresh insights on the many strategic issues they face. Issues of climate change, and economic, social and environmental sustainability are urgent and command full attention at the most senior levels of every enterprise.   

With such open access to Fonterra’s decision-makers, the Panel has a unique opportunity to work alongside the management team to create value for all stakeholders. We have critiqued the company’s targets on several fronts and have brought an international perspective to a number of issues. 

For management and the Board, I am hopeful that the Panel will come to be regarded as a “critical friend” to them and the business. This will come over time and through the evolution of a trustworthy relationship based on a belief in Fonterra’s success. 

I thank my fellow Panellists, and I congratulate the work of Fonterra’s sustainability team who are doing a great job within the company.

Rob Fenwick

Chair, Fonterra Sustainability Advisory Panel


Sustainability Report 2019