A better world begins with us, says Suresh Narayanan of Nestle India

Plastic waste is becoming a big menace. A large contributor to this is packaging, which ends up as waste in landfills, rivers, oceans and waterways. Nestle India’s Chairman and Managing Director, Suresh Narayanan says, “Plastic waste management is one of the biggest issues that India is facing. Our ambition is to achieve 100% recyclable or reusable packaging by 2025.” He says, “Sustainability is cultural, and at Nestle we have it embedded in our purpose and values. Our Swiss origins and philosophy of creating shared value have empowered us to make 41 public commitments around all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The commitments, most of which feature specific objectives to 2020 will enable the company to meet its ambitions for 2030, within the time outlined in the SDGs. Essential to achieving these goals is a robust approach to sustainability, human rights and compliance.”

In the area of plastic waste management, Nestle India is working with its research labs to eliminate complex combinations of their packaging materials and exploring simpler ‘mono-materials’ that do not compromise food safety and do not have a negative impact on the environment.

The plastic waste management laws in India now talk of extended producer responsibility, i.e. the producer is responsible for the waste that they generate. Until now, Nestle India has launched projects in 12 states and is helping create an efficient collection, sorting and recycling system that can be scaled-up.

The quantity of plastic waste that India generates is enormous, and so is the magnitude of the task. Hence, the company is also focusing on a collective approach to tackle this. At one level it is engaging with state governments, municipalities and NGOs, at another, it is working with an over 30 member consortium of like-minded companies consisting of Pepsi, Perfetti Van Melle, Tata Global Beverages, Dabur, Abbott, Godrej, Haldiram and more to address this problem.

Nestle realises that the power to change needs a social movement. A movement that can only emerge if it has the support of millions of consumers for its powerful brands. Suresh says, “The new generation, which is now called the millennials, can help create a transformation into a cleaner, greener future. Millennials are constantly connected through technology and interested in what they consume. They want to engage with brands that can do more for people and the planet.”

Nestle’s millennial linked strategy works at two levels. The first step is to focus on brand communication on the environment and to connect consumers to these causes. To this effect, Nestle India has launched a pilot project, “2 minute safai ke naam” (2 minutes for cleanliness) in Dehradun and Mussoorie. Spearheaded by brand MAGGI, the campaign seeks to educate people and aims to bring about a behavioural change about the need for disposing of waste responsibly and incentivises them by giving them a packet of MAGGI for every ten empty MAGGI noodles packets. This initiative is supplemented with a strong communication campaign through print, social media, billboards and community engagement programs to inform the public about the initiative and sensitise consumers and food vendors to dispose waste responsibly. Additionally, the company has developed a holistic end-to-end sustainable waste management plan in Mussoorie by engaging with urban local bodies, NGOs, waste management service providers, to reduce the amount of waste going to the landfills. The project is envisioned to develop Mussoorie as the first hill station in Uttarakhand to be relieved from the problem of Solid Waste Management involving citizens, local authority, tourism industry, state authorities, ensuring a 360-degree participation of all stakeholders.

The other part of Nestle’s millennial strategy is to focus on health and nutrition. Nestle’s ongoing research reveals that people are extremely interested in what they eat. The company is now working with Google to create an artificial intelligence powered chatbot that will be able to answer questions on food, healthy eating habits, diets, and nutrition.

“Brands can play an important role in transforming habits and creating a better world, but brands alone are not the answer. A transformational educational system is. Schools, colleges and the families need to lead the change. Change will begin if we teach the younger generation not to waste, to work with empathy and to lead with values. A better world begins with us.” says Suresh.

Based on a conversation with Suresh Narayanan, Nestle India’s Chairman and Managing Director

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