Interview with Andy Griffiths, Sustainability Manager, Nestlé UK
Here’s the latest in a series of interviews I have carried out with key industrial sustainability practitioners. Andy Griffiths is Sustainability Manager at Nestlé UK’s Newcastle site which is the test bed for sustainability across the business. You can see the rest of the interviews here.
Hi Andy, how did you personally get started in sustainability?
I’m an engineer by trade so I’ve always been interested in engineering and technology but also I’ve a strong interest in self build and off-grid properties and how it would affect us in terms of lifestyle and where we would sit in our local community. When I came into this role two years ago, it was my first formal environmental management job.
My role covers safety, health, environment and security. From an environmental perspective, because we identified our Newcastle site as a ‘lighthouse’ site for sustainability, we have been looking at how we could structure an appropriate model to deliver that. So a lot of my time and focus, particularly in the first 18 months, has been establishing that model and the core activities within it.
What does the lighthouse status mean?
The lighthouse concept was developed a few years ago to pick one site which we could use as a sustainability model. This could be blueprinted and shared across our other sites.
We’ve got six pillars within the model: energy, water, waste, biodiversity, value chain and, most importantly, people and community. We identified early on that different things float different boats for different people. So instead of having an overall environmental message for everyone to buy into, we have those individual pillars with an aspirational ambition against each one. This allows individuals to tailor their preferences, so if someone is particularly interested in biodiversity, for example, they can really get hold of that. Someone else may be much more interested in energy so they can work on that instead.
Why was Newcastle picked as a lighthouse site?
There were two very important reasons:
First the variety of processes. This is a very complex site and covers a wide range of confectionary so anything we do here is as transferable as possible to other sites.
Secondly, the age of the site. Some organisations have developed really good principles and protocols for green field sites but it is much more challenging on pre-existing sites. This site has been here 56 years so if you can do it here, there’s no reason why you can’t do it anywhere else.
What is the business case for sustainability at Nestlé?
Nestlé globally has a real focus on environmental sustainability. The model that we use that sits above that is Creating Shared Value. This is very much about how we can work with the communities and markets that we operate in for maximum joint benefit. Clearly as a food manufacturing business, our supply structure is core to how we operate. At the end of the day if we don’t focus on environmental sustainability then we won’t have a supply chain.
Availability of resources has been shooting up the agenda. At a global level, one of our primary focuses has been on water availability. We’ve been driving that for a couple of years now.
We don’t align our sustainability efforts to the branding of our products. We want to do sustainability properly and the last thing we want is to be accused of greenwash.
What’s the overall message you’re trying to communicate to employees?
The overall message has been around ‘what’s in it for me?’ So we’ve found that a lot of people don’t engage in the environmental messaging directly. It’s about how we can make that message relevant to them. We’ve tried to structure our whole engagement programme around ‘what is in it for me as an individual.’ Why would I want to engage? What does it deliver? And once people have started to engage, leveraging the environmental messages behind that when they have a much more open mind to hearing that messaging.
What are the best examples of your employee engagement?
The best example we have is our engagement with electric vehicles. So we first started talking to our employees about electric vehicles as part of the development of our green transport plan. The initial feedback was pretty much “you’ve got to be joking if you think I’m going to pay a fortune to drive around in a milk float.”
So we did a big piece of work with some external partners to help educate and engage our employees in what electric vehicles were actually about. Initially we gave them more facts and figures, but we followed that up with the opportunity for them to try them. We brought a demonstration vehicle on site for a couple of months. Employees could take it out for a number of days at a time and get real life experience of how it operated and how it delivers in terms of both the vehicle, how they could save some real money and how concerns around range anxiety where not as challenging as they had anticipated.
We ran that opportunity over a couple of months and we saw a number of those early adopters say “yes, this is something that would interest me.” It was the practical experience of EVs that tipped us over into really getting people interested.
We’ve been verified as a zero waste to landfill site for the last two years. Looking at how we can practically drive waste down at the sharp end is really important so that is the next priority for us.
We have done a piece of work mapping the stakeholders who can help us drive this forward. A key aspect of what we are trying to achieve is to have a regional influence – who can help us in each region to push the models forwards – and ideally share them as well.
What advice do you have for others?
Get it right first time – for a lot of people it’s a matter of once bitten, twice shy.
Make it relevant to the audience – it sounds obvious, but you need to look at what are the trigger points for your employees first.
If you can provide a balanced model which gives different individuals different opportunities to engage in a different way which suits their personal outlook or preference, that really helps.