World Environment Day: Working together to turn things around


World Environment Day is a chance to highlight the state our environment is in and the critical work that’s needed to make sure it thrives.

Trish Kirkland-Smith, Fonterra’s General Manager Group Environment, looks at the importance of collaboration to turn things around.

This World Environment Day, I can’t help but reflect on some serious statistics that have been released over the past year.

  • 1 million species threatened with extinction (IPBES Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, May 2019)

  • 730kg waste produced by each New Zealander per year - one of the highest levels in the OECD (NZ National Resource Recovery Taskforce, May 2019)

  • 90% of wetlands drained (MfE Environment Aotearoa 2019 Report, April 2019)

  • 45% reduction in C02 levels required by 2030 to limit climate warming to 1.5 degrees (IPCC Special Report: Global Warming of 1.5 degrees, October 2018).


These numbers are a stark reminder of the need for urgent action. 

Tackling complex issues like climate change, improving biodiversity and freshwater health and addressing plastic waste will take a collective effort by government, local and regional councils, the business community, scientists, iwi, community groups and consumers. But by working together and focusing on ambitious common goals, the power of collaboration can be used to find solutions.

At Fonterra, the principles of collaboration underpin our Co-operative and our growing environmental efforts.

Trish Kirkland-Smith, General Manager Group Environment, Fonterra

I see this every day when our sustainable dairying advisors work alongside our farmers implementing farm environment plans, and when our scientists work on new low-carbon solutions with our manufacturing teams. 

Collaboration is also at the heart of our sustainable catchments programme. This work started in 2013 with the establishment of a 10-year Living Water partnership with DOC, which involves our sustainable dairying staff and DOC rangers working in five freshwater catchments trialling solutions to enable farming and healthy ecosystems to thrive side-by-side.

We have recently expanded this work and our Co-operative is now collaborating with communities in catchments up and down the country to help rebuild the health of New Zealand’s waterways. In the Selwyn District, we’re part of a ground-breaking project with Environment Canterbury, DOC, Taumutu rūnanga and landowners to protect the nationally threatened Canterbury mudfish.

In Auckland, we’re joining forces with the Auckland Council to focus on waterway and catchment improvement projects. Based on the positive outcomes in collaborating around catchments, Fonterra and Auckland Council have also established an Environmental Leadership Group to work together on other issues such as biodiversity, climate change, sustainable farming and waste. Senior representatives from both organisations will meet regularly to identify opportunities for collaboration, with the first meeting being held today.

At a national level, Fonterra is part of the Climate Leaders Coalition, the Sustainable Business Council, the Aotearoa Circle, and many other ‘NZ Inc’ sustainability initiatives. We also utilise collaborations to develop new innovations, like Future Post™, who are turning milk bottles into fence posts, and Z Energy, who we worked with to introduce biodiesel to New Zealand.

These kinds of collaborations are critical to us, and to New Zealand, because the job of reversing the negative impacts on the environment that have happened over many years will take a collective effort. But don’t be fooled, collaborating isn’t easy. It takes commitment, at all levels, and it takes courage.

Trish Kirkland-Smith, General Manager Group Environment, Fonterra

Courage to come to the table with others who are not necessarily like you; courage to share your challenges and failings; and courage to say you don’t have all the answers. So, on this World Environment Day, I want to say thank you to everyone who collaborates with Fonterra. Together, I think we can have a positive impact here in New Zealand and globally.



Achieving a healthy environment for farming and society.