Sustainability and solidarity as an answer to health crisis

July 20, 2020 | 08:00
Not losing sight of its sustainability objectives even amidst the vagaries of the global pandemic, Nestlé Vietnam has been placing top priority on helping employees, partners, and communities to weather the storm. Binu Jacob, CEO at Nestlé Vietnam, talked with VIR’s Hoang Anh about the corporation’s efforts to promote sustainability on all levels.
sustainability and solidarity as an answer to health crisis
Binu Jacob, CEO at Nestlé Vietnam

Since the outbreak of the global health crisis, how are big businesses like Nestlé Vietnam combating COVID-19?

Since the outbreak, Nestlé has placed priority on protecting our employees, ensuring that they remain safe, healthy, and supported. At the same time, we doubled-down on maintaining business continuity to provide the food and beverages people need while reaching out and giving a helping hand to business partners and the communities where we operate to make sure no-one is left behind in these difficult times.

To this end, we strengthened safety measures at all our factories, offices, and distribution centres. Nestlé Vietnam has provided nearly 22,000 face masks and 3,000 face shields to our employees. We have also rolled out a reward programme for our employees who work to ensure the continuity of nutritional product supplies to the communities in need.

We have also actively been working with the government, local authorities, and partners to implement various programmes since mid-March. This included the donation of VND12 billion ($521,700) in products and cash to government authorities, to the communities that needed it, and to hospitals and frontline workers who dealt with the COVID-19 pandemic. We provided 88,000 medical masks to the Ministry of Health and centres for disease control in five provinces.

In addition, Nestlé Vietnam donated more than two million Nestlé MILO products to school children nationwide on the day they returned to school.

What initiatives does Nestlé Vietnam have to navigate through challenges caused by COVID-19?

While we continue to offer high-quality and nutritious food and beverage products to Vietnamese consumers, we have been closely monitoring the market and consumer behaviour so that we can quickly respond to any changes.

In addition, to keep up spirits we launched the #StayHealthyStayOptimistic campaign to encourage our consumers and communities to adopt a healthy habit and lifestyle. To complement these efforts, several of our brands such as MILO, Nescafé, and Maggi implemented campaigns to connect with and to lift the spirits of thousands of consumers. For instance, if consumers are likely to stay at home more often, then Nescafé is looking to encourage them to become their own home baristas by educating them on making café-style beverages at home.

We have maximised our online and digital presence and have been ensuring that our products are available in other distribution channels.

We have also reviewed our portfolio strategy and are prioritising new launches that make sense in the new normal, such as the newest Dolce Gusto capsule line-up.

How are you helping economic recovery after social distancing?

After the lockdown, when out-of-home customers are slowly operning up, we realised that the people who are hurt the most are the small business owners. Large companies like us can usually survive because we have enough cash to play the long game.

The crisis has had unprecedented impacts on small out-of-home customers as the majority of small restaurants, street food vendors, and school canteens were temporarily closed. To help these businesses weather the crisis and support them in reopening and welcoming back customers, we supported them around 22,000 of our out-of-home partners with free Nestlé products worth around VND22 billion ($956,500) in total.

We feel very proud that during this time we were able to manage the safety of our people, the business, and at the same time give back to society.

In addition, we have been working closely with the Vietnam Business Council for Sustainable Development (VBCSD) and could share our experiences related to the fight against COVID-19 with other stakeholders. We have also kept in close touch with the media and business community to communicate our progress towards our sustainability goals, thereby inciting others to follow.

Nestlé Vietnam has recently taken co-chairmanship of the VBCSD for the year 2020. What issues are you focusing on in this industry-wide leadership role?

The VBCSD is among the most reputable organisations in Vietnam, and consistently takes an active role in encouraging the business community to do their part in setting the country on a solid path to sustainable development. It has been a great pleasure and honour for both me and Nestlé Vietnam to have a chance to collaborate with VBCSD members to share and learn best practices to broaden our contribution to such a meaningful journey.

This ties in wonderfully into the role we would like to take up in the business community: Nestlé Vietnam aims to be a catalyst of change. We cannot change the world on our own, but we can show good example and encourage our suppliers, partners, and consumers to follow suit.

This is our philosophy of creating shared value. When we do business, we want to make sure everybody benefits. We have conducted more than 230,000 training sections in the Central Highlands over the past 10 years, sharing our hard-earned research and development results to increase yield without pesticides or fertiliser.

The more we work with them and train them, the more farmers will be able to realise increased output and grow richer. The government will also see more tax revenue, while general livelihoods will improve as the whole region grows more prosperous – and we will get the quality and quantity of coffee we are looking for. This is a win-win-win situation for everybody.

Nestlé Vietnam and La Vie Ltd. have recently teamed up to help shape a zero-waste future on the occasion of Packaging Recycling Organization Vietnam’s (PRO Vietnam) first anniversary. How are the two companies promoting a zero-waste future?

Nestlé Vietnam and La Vie were among the founding companies of PRO Vietnam and we are extremely proud to be an integral part of this industry-wide force for good.

We are also taking leadership in reducing the environmental impact of our products and have committed to making 100 per cent of our packaging recyclable or reusable by 2025. This we will achieve mainly by building on the innovations being produced at Nestlé Group’s Institute of Packaging Sciences which was established in 2019.

The institute is dedicated to the development of functional, safe, and environmentally-friendly packaging solutions, which we believe will become essential not only in our operations but for entire industries that rely on packaging.

However, shaping a waste-free future is not entirely a new initiative at Nestlé Group or Nestlé Vietnam. As early as 2015, we achieved our first target of zero waste from our six factories in Vietnam ending up on the landfill.

In fact, we were the first ever company to adopt paper straws for our ready-to-drink products in Vietnam. We first adopted these straws for our Milo Breakfast and Nesvita products in March, which we expect to help reduce plastic waste by more than 10 tonnes a year.

In addition to this, we have also partnered up with mGreen, a social enterprise and mobile app developer, to implement a waste collection and segregation project at schools and residential buildings in Ho Chi Minh City. The project has been implemented for two years in four primary and secondary schools with the participation of 10,000 school students, teachers, and parents.

The foundation of Nestlé’s growth revolves around sustainability – internationally and in Vietnam alike. We understand that our future is the future of mankind and that the only way forward is equitable and sustainable development. To this end, Nestlé Vietnam is transforming not only ourselves but the entire industrial world and the communities that are the bedrock of our existence.

By Hoang Anh

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