Our six Commitments




We work with farmers, councils, and local communities to establish environmental limits for water and help farmers achieve them.

Our Challenge

Regional councils are in the process of setting environmental limits for water on behalf of their communities. They are doing this by looking at the land and water science and determining the social, economic and environmental expectations of their communities. Some councils have already done this; others are still working on it.

These regional environmental limits give some certainty to farmers around what standards have to be met to achieve healthy fresh water, and under what time frames.

This gives farmers the ability to make decisions about how we farm today, and where we farm in future.

In areas where new environmental limits are set at levels the catchment has already reached or even exceeded, we need a sensible timeframe in which to adapt to these expectations.

The outcome we're looking for

We want strong ecosystems that sustain healthy land and freshwater as well as supporting profitable and sustainable farms.

We want land and water to be healthy, resilient and capable of supporting the many needs of our communities – Kiwis being able to swim where they want to, farmers having profitable and sustainable farms supported by thriving communities.

How we’ll get there

We will work with local communities and councils that have yet to set environmental limits for water to get them in place.

We will continue to support farmers in our Co-op with advice, tools, and systems to help them manage water use and bacteria, sediment, and nutrient losses to meet new and future environmental limits set by councils and their local communities.

We support the setting of environmental limits for new development areas and robust assessments of environmental effects because we want to ensure growth in dairy in those areas will be sustainable.


2. encourage strong environmental farming practices

We support all the farmers in our Co-op to use the best environmental farming practices available.

Our Challenge

The cumulative effects of some farming practices impact our waterways. For example, heavy rain and over-irrigation of paddocks can flush the nitrogen in our cows’ urine into groundwater, and poor winter grazing practices can increase sediment, nutrient, and cow excrement run-off into waterways.

Some of this knowledge is new, some of the solutions are new, and none of this is a “one size fits all” approach. Every farm is different – soil type, climate, water catchment, farm set up, and many other factors. What could be okay for one farm may not be for another.

In order for our farmers to make changes to their farms means they have to be aware of the latest available science and solutions. It also requires time and money. Some solutions can cost tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars which need to be planned and phased in over several years if we are to keep our farms viable.

The outcome we're looking for

All Fonterra farmers will have the understanding, tools and support to operate in a way that reduces our environmental impact while delivering sustained economic returns.

How we’ll get there

We’ll expand our network of Sustainable Dairy Advisers (SDAs) to 30. This team will provide advice to our farmers through Tiaki —Fonterra’s Sustainable Dairying Programme.

Every one of our farmers will have a tailoredFarm Environment Plan, using digital mapping and other technologies to show them what’s happening above and below the ground and to help them identify opportunities to improve both the economic and environmental efficiency of their farms.

We will encourage our farmers to use water efficiently through technology and best practice so that by 2020:

100% of our farmers in regions reliant on irrigated water will have water meters installed on their farms; and 80% of our farmers in other regions will have water meters

We will introduce a new national award recognising the country’s most responsible dairy farmers to incentivise and celebrate farmers leading the way on environmental farming practices.

We will continue to have clear standards in our supply terms, and support any farmer who is having difficulty consistently meeting these standards.

We’ll monitor, measure and report on our progress towards using the best environmental farming techniques available and show how these are making a positive difference to our waterways and our communities.

We will work with others in the agricultural industry to share our learnings and amplify efforts to promote best environmental farming practices across New Zealand.


3. reduce water use and improve wastewater quality at our manufacturing plants

We will improve the way we manage the water in our manufacturing plants and invest in resource-efficiency.

Our Challenge

Our factories depend on water. We use water to clean our plants, so we can continue to meet the high food safety and quality standards our customers and consumers expect from us. We also use water to cool our milk products. Total water use across our 26 sites is significant – efficiencies in water use will benefit the environment.

We also need to manage the wastewater from our sites. In some cases, it can be recycled for use back in the factory. In others, we have water that gets used on our factories’ farms for irrigation. And in some locations, we treat it and then discharge it into rivers or the ocean. This is done under consents from regional councils and is similar to what happens to wastewater from towns and cities.

The outcome we're looking for

We will continue to achieve a reduction in the amount of water our factories need for both cleaning and cooling, leading to a reduction in the volume of wastewater we need to treat and manage. And we will meet industry-leading standards and improve the quality of our wastewater, making it as clean as possible so it has minimum impact on the environment.

How we’ll get there

By 2020, we will make a 20 percent reduction in the water we use across our 26 manufacturing sites, maximising opportunities to recycle water where it makes sense.

We will invest more than $250 million over the next nine years to make changes to our sites that will see us meet leading industry standards for wastewater discharge. In doing this, in many cases, we will exceed regulatory standards for wastewater quality.

We are changing our practices for irrigating farms and implementing best management practice on our factories’ farms, by applying leading industry standards for nutrient management.


4. work together on waterway health

We will work with our communities to help rebuild the health of our waterways.

Our Challenge

All the actions we take on our farms and at our factories can only go so far in rebuilding the health of our waterways. Every waterway is part of a catchment, usually with more than one land use. There may be a forest in the upper catchment, a local town taking water for drinking and putting wastewater back in, sheep and beef farms in the hills and dairy farms on the lowland. It’s only by looking at the catchment as a whole, that we’ll find solutions for the whole catchment. It’s also important to understand what communities value in a specific catchment.

There are certain environmental standards we want for all our waterways. But there are also unique values or expectations that individual communities put on some specific waterways due to their location or cultural significance. Some communities want to encourage spawning whitebait or protecting eel passage to the sea, other communities want to protect or restore swimming holes, and others want to see more native planting along waterways to improve birdlife as well as enhancing water quality.

There is a huge amount of work going on already at water catchments throughout the country to improve water quality and these efforts will need to increase.

The outcome we're looking for

We will work with others in the community to find catchment-wide solutions that build on the progress already made, to continue rebuilding the health of New Zealand’s waterways.

He taonga te wai.


How we’ll get there

We will develop and share the catchment-wide learnings we gain from our partnership with the DOC – Living Water.

We'll work with local communities and regional councils to develop action plans for 50 water catchments, setting targets and working alongside others to help achieve community aspirations for healthy fresh water.

We will support riparian planting on our farms by using technology, such as our GIS mapping, to guide us on where we should plant and what plants are the most suitable for each catchment.

We’ll work with partners to put wetlands back into the landscape and measure the impact they have on water and wildlife quality.


5. invest in science and innovation to find new solutions

Digital disruption and new technologies are re-defining the world we live in. We will invest in research and innovation to accelerate new solutions for sustainable farming and healthy waterways.

Our Challenge

The issues and answers are complex.  We’ve been using the best available science to guide our actions to improve water quality. But in some rivers, we need new scientific thinking and associated tools so we can continue to make the waterways clean enough for swimming. We need a better understanding of water and nutrient systems in each region; new ways to monitor and measure the differences our actions are making to water quality; new tools to fast-track adoption of good practices; and new ways to fund some of these changes.

The outcome we're looking for

Drawing on clever thinking, disciplined research and the latest technology, new water science breakthroughs will be achieved. We will also work to identify new ways and accelerate the commercialisation and adoption of known and yet-to-be found solutions for improving our waterways.

Some will build on the significant work already underway in finding new mixtures of pasture plants that can capture nitrogen, selective breeding of cows with lower nitrogen emissions and developing technology that applies fertiliser more precisely. Others could lead us to completely new solutions.

How we’ll get there

We’ll continue to support new and existing solution-focused science programmes delivered by DairyNZ, research institutes, universities, entrepreneurs and private companies.

We’ll demonstrate the latest science solutions in our Living Water catchments and actively promote them to our 10,500 farming families.

Through Fonterra Ventures Co-Lab, we will work with others to identify other solutions and support their commercialisation and implementation.

Through partnerships, we will support real time, interactive monitoring of rivers and lakes.


6. make the products people value most

The future of food relies on a healthy planet and a healthy living for farmers. We will make the high quality products that people need the most, and in a way they value so we can create sustainable value for our Co-op.

Our Challenge

Consumers globally are demanding safe and nutritious food, produced responsibly.  New Zealand has long been considered a great source for this. The quality of New Zealand’s waterways needs to support this competitive advantage our country has on the world stage.

The outcome we're looking for

We want a healthy natural environment in New Zealand that supports the ‘natural goodness’ story of all New Zealand food.

How we’ll get there

We’ll promote our Trusted Goodness™ seal we place on our products. It seeks to gain more market share and value from promoting the high levels of care we take at every step of our supply chain, from farm to the final product.

We’ll offer ‘Certified Grass Fed’ ingredients and report on our sustainable practices to our large global customers who place a value on being able to make these claims on their end products.

We’ll continue to develop products that can attract a price premium.