The stakes couldn’t be higher for global food corporation Danone. With our world population predicted to reach 10 billion people by 2050, it is essential that sustainable food production systems are established to ensure global food security. Danone is tackling this challenge head on by prioritising planetary and human health right across its supply chain. The company’s Karicare product is an example of its wholistic approach to sustainability.
Karicare is a baby formula made in New Zealand that is working towards circularity in three ways:
Reducing CO2 emissions and designing out pollution by using renewable inputs such as biofuel produced as a by-product of local sustainable forestry. The entire Karicare range will be 100 per cent carbon neutral by 2030 with the brand’s Gold+Organic product set to reach this milestone next year.
Making 100 per cent of Karicare packaging recyclable by 2025 so that valuable materials are kept in use. Danone collaborated with the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) to evaluate the recyclability of Karicare product packaging using the Packaging Recyclability Evaluation Portal (PREP) tool. The company is also working with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation to ensure all of its packaging is recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
Exploring regenerative agricultural practices that support soil and ecosystem health. When the company was unable to find a credible grass-fed certification in New Zealand, they partnered with an independent organisation to develop their own.
Karicare’s Head of Marketing, Ximena Ramirez, talks us through the process of developing the Karicare range and embedding circularity in Danone’s business.
“My name is Ximena Ramirez and I head up the Karicare marketing team at Danone. Danone’s mission is to bring health through food to as many people as possible. We have different areas of business encompassing childhood nutrition, adult and medical nutrition, essential dairy and plant-based products and waters.
At Danone we have a philosophy that rules what we do known as ‘One Planet: One Health’, which reflects a strong belief that the health of the people and the health of the planet are interconnected. That’s why with our Karicare milk formula brand, we are committed to preserving natural resources, while providing a high-quality product to help nurture the growth and development of little ones.”
“Circularity as a broad concept is pivotal to the four pillars of sustainability at Danone, which are water stewardship, CO2 emissions, packaging and regenerative agriculture.
It is important that these ideas manifest through concrete actions that we take each day and are embedded into the purpose or our brands.
If we take Karicare as an example, we committed last year to become carbon neutral by 2030. We expect to have our first independently certified carbon neutral product on the market during the first half of 2022, with more products progressively certified shortly after. Karicare will be the first product of its kind from Danone to achieve carbon neutrality, which is something the ANZ team is very proud of.
Regarding packaging, we are working hard to ensure that 100 per cent of our components are fully recyclable, which is also consistent with Danone’s overarching commitment to recyclability, reusability, or compostability for all our packaging globally by 2025. To further embed circular economy principles both inside and outside the company, we have formed a three-year strategic partnership with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
Thirdly, although a more emerging aspect of circularity, Karicare continues to invest in and explore regenerative agricultural practices. A good example within our Karicare portfolio is our Grass Fed Certification, which we co-developed with New Zealand government body, AssureQuality. Independent certification by such a well-regarded expert in food standards, safety and quality provides the highest level of assurance to our customers and consumers on the provenance of our certified grass fed Karicare products.
We are in the most critical time to change the course of our actions to preserve our natural resources. So, working in a linear or ‘business as usual’ way simply doesn’t contribute to this outcome. Our planet needs us, now more than ever.
At a macro level, it is critical to ensure that planetary health is maintained in order to preserve the Earth’s ability to continue to produce healthy food for a global population that will one day soon reach 10 billion people. This represents an existential threat to the entire system of food production, not to mention human health.”
“The initial step is to identify the areas where you can have an impact. For Karicare, these areas include decarbonising manufacturing, transitioning fully to 100% recyclable packaging and continuing to support expansion of regenerative agriculture practices.
Needless to say, each of these is incredibly complex, requiring significant knowledge, expertise, resources and funding. Thankfully, these topics are not new to Danone and therefore we have a lot of IP within our global teams that we can unlock to help power Karicare’s ongoing transformation.”
“Many of these challenges we face require very technical solutions. Some of these we can address from within Danone, but for others we need to enlist specialist help from external providers who are experts in their respective fields.
When we look specifically at the Karicare example, the stakeholder ecosystem we work with across the sustainability agenda is expansive. We’ve also learned that external stakeholders that have a complementary vision add a lot of value.
For example, through our packaging circularity program we identified a weakness in how we were assessing packaging recyclability, with too much focus on technical recyclability and not enough on local capability. Through working with APCO, we identified the PREP tool as a valuable mechanism to address this deficiency. We have now formally incorporated PREP into our packaging assessment processes, including to influence design and materials.”
“The key for us is to embed circularity at the very core of the Karicare brand and to take a leadership position not only at an industry level, but also within Danone. What we’re starting to see is that Karicare is being seen as a beacon of possibility and opportunity that is also beginning to unlock other sustainability programs within Danone by changing the way people think. A good example of this is a recent recycling initiative in one of our key Oceania offices that will all but eliminate soft plastics from our waste stream.
Importantly, our people are at the heart of our operations and it’s therefore vital they not only understand the shift but are also empowered to influence it. To this end, we have cross functional ‘Nature’ committees within our respective business units that help to drive our circularity and sustainability agendas.”
“One of the interesting aspects is the extent to which Karicare has become a beacon internally at Danone of what is possible and an inspiration to other brands.
From an employee perspective, this is incredibly powerful as people want to be associated with brands that are at the cutting edge of purpose and making a difference in the world. From a consumer perspective, although it is relatively early days, we are excited about being able to provide people with the ability to make a choice through their purchasing decisions.
As much as we have been able to achieve, our greatest milestones are still ahead of us! Much of the work to date has been about laying solid foundations. And again, you have to play the long game. There is no such thing as a quick win.
I’m particularly looking forward to when we have an independently certified carbon neutral Karicare product on supermarket shelves for the first time. All being well, this will be in the first half of 2022.”
“The shift from linear consumption to circularity is one of the key challenges of the twenty-first century. The planet needs us now and the time to act is today. Each of us has an important role to play in driving this change not only through our work and the companies we represent, but also at a personal level, as individuals and as parents.”
You can learn more about Danone here.