Wouter van Tol likes zeros

Tuesday 6th November 2012 - Posted in Business
By Wouter van Tol, Head of Sustainability Communications at Nestle

Wouter van Tol is Head of Sustainability Marketing & Communication for Nestlé UK & Ireland. Based in York, he is responsible for sustainability strategy, responsible sourcing, communication and public affairs. Ever since moving to the UK from his native country The Netherlands he has lived and worked in Yorkshire.

…Any business trying to create value especially in the economic downturn should consider a few targets beginning with Zero. Let me explain with a story…

Nestlé’s York site is one of the largest confectionery factories in the world. It produces one billion Kit Kats a year, 183 million Aeros, and many products besides. The factory is highly efficient, but inevitably it produces packaging and product waste. In fact, we paid £120,000 of landfill tax per year until recently. For many years we had tried reduced to reduce waste incrementally, under the header of ‘resource efficiency’. But then something special happened. Employees ‘got it’, and within 2 years the results were there for all to see. 97% of the site’s waste is recycled, 3% goes to energy recovery, and nothing goes to landfill. We don’t have to pay any landfill tax anymore; in fact we’ve created a new revenue stream from 800t of recovered materials.

What had happened?

We framed the goal as ‘Zero to landfill’, simple as that. ‘Zero’-targets are easy to understand and motivating. If you called it ‘resource efficiency’ and aimed for a 5% reduction per year, you wouldn’t get the same excitement and dogged determination from employees to solve the issue.

Now think of the value this single Zero target creates for our business as we roll it out across all 14 Nestlé sites in the UK (of which 2 are in Yorkshire). Think of the environmental benefit of moving away completely from landfill. And we didn’t have to sell a single extra case of Kit Kat to achieve it.
No matter the size of your enterprise, Zero-targets can be used many areas. Parts of your water and energy consumption could be reduced to zero. You probably already know about ‘zero defects’ in manufacturing.

How about zero accidents in health & safety?

The idea appeals to many. John Elkington, a sustainability expert, has recently written a book about it: ‘The Zeronauts’. I don’t think I will read it, because I’m simply convinced by seeing the effects of a good Zero target in reality.

I hope you too can create some good Yorkshire value with Zero.

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