Why we’re not moving climate change from our agenda


Chief Operating Officer for Global Operations Robert Spurway talks about the changes our manufacturing sites are making to improve their environmental footprint. Small changes can add up to big impacts.  

As the 24th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change drew to a close in Poland last week, it was clear the world isn’t on the same page when it comes to taking action on climate change.

The latest science is pointing to worsening impacts of global warming, and the Washington Post reported that the surge of optimism that came with the Paris Agreement in 2015 has faded slightly. Global greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise.

What hasn’t faded, is Fonterra’s commitment helping New Zealand contribute to international climate change action.

Reflecting on 2018, I’m proud that we’ve made some good progress across Fonterra’s operations. 

Last month we officially opened our converted boiler at Brightwater in Nelson which will co-fire on wood biomass. The resulting 25 per cent reduction in emissions at the site is the equivalent to taking 530 cars off the road annually.

To some it might appear a drop in the ocean in terms of the need for change, but the benefits of the conversion are wide reaching. We’ll take what we learn at Brightwater and apply it to other sites as we work to reduce our reliance on coal and hit our carbon emissions targets - 30% reduction by 2030 and net zero by 2050 across our operations.

Brightwater also proved what can be achieved when we work collaboratively. The conversion was partly funded by an EECA grant and we worked with local engineers and wood biomass experts to complete it.

I’ve always said that tackling climate change and global temperature rises requires a combined and collaborative approach between government, business, science and NGO’s.

Co-operation within Fonterra is just as important when it comes to identifying and solving environmental problems.

Recently our Pahiatua team received a judge’s commendation at the 2018 NZI Sustainable Business Network Awards for their water recycling initiative. They joined forces and made some fairly simple engineering adjustments. As a result, the site now saves half a million litres of water a day – that’s the equivalent to 18 tanker loads.

Similarly, combined and cumulative efforts across our operations have enabled us to continue to reduce manufacturing energy intensity. To date we’ve saved enough energy to power a city the size of Tauranga for 43 years and are within a stone’s throw of reaching our 2020 target to reduce energy intensity by 20% (from a FY03 baseline).

As we head into 2019, I know we’ve still got a lot of work to do when it comes to tackling climate change and supporting New Zealand’s contribution to keeping temperature rise to a minimum. Our latest sustainability report highlights some areas where we need to step up, so it’s important we hit the new year with our eye on the ball.