Why we're transitioning to a zero emissions future


If you live in New Zealand, you probably already know Fonterra is the country’s biggest business. Our scale is important. It helps us compete on the global stage, against some of the largest and most efficient companies in the world. 

In Global Operations, the part of Fonterra I’m responsible for, our milk tankers travel over 100 million km per year, collect milk from a farm every nine seconds, deliver that milk to a factory every 24 seconds and we close the doors on a shipping container of product every three minutes. Product that goes to millions of consumers in more than 100 countries around the world.

Because of Fonterra’s size, we have a significant carbon footprint. That’s something we acknowledge and take extremely seriously. We know we have an obligation to be efficient in our own operations, as well as playing a leadership role in helping New Zealand transition to a low emissions future.


We’ve only got one chance to get this right, and we’re up for the challenge.

Globally, there is growing demand from our customers and consumers for more transparency through the supply chain, from grass to glass. They want to know how the products they use and consume are made, processed and even distributed. A recent global study by Unilever found one in three consumers are choosing to buy from brands based on their social and environmental impact.  And that number is only going to increase. 

As a key step toward becoming a low carbon business, last week we announced we’re transitioning from coal to renewable energy with the electrification of our Stirling site in Otago. By moving to electricity, coal use will be reduced by just under 10,000 tonnes per year (the equivalent weight of 122 Boeing 737 800’s).

Underlining our commitments to having net zero emissions by 2050, we also surrendered our mining permit at Mangatangi in the Waikato and divested nearly 50 percent of the land acquired there for coal mining (296 hectares). Our Brightwater site near Nelson will switch to co-firing biomass in November, helping reduce CO2 emissions by 25 percent, or about the same as taking 530 cars off the road.

As the country’s largest exporter and a key player in the agriculture sector there is much more for us to do to help the country meet its obligations to the Paris Agreement. We are unwavering in our commitment to that. With the scale of our operations, getting out of coal is going to require a staged approach.

Today, roughly a third of our sites rely on coal as a primary source of energy. With no gas or feasible alternatives available in the South Island, we have relied on the use of coal in our plants to process our farmers milk, a perishable product. Making the change isn’t as simple as flicking a switch, but through innovation, dedication and a genuine commitment we know we can get it done.

Fonterra’s, and New Zealand’s continued success on the world stage is reliant on a clean, sustainable environment and continuous improvement in the production and transportation of our products. 

We’re proud to be one of the most emissions efficient producers of dairy in the world, and we’re up for the challenge of doing better. 


Robert Spurway

Chief Operating Officer Global Operations

Robert Spurway joined Fonterra in 2011. As Chief Operating Officer Global Operations, Robert leads Fonterra’s global operations business, responsible for the Co-operative’s manufacturing and supply logistics operations in New Zealand and around the world. In his previous role he was responsible for overseeing milk collection, manufacturing and logistics for the Co-operative’s New Zealand milk supply.