Fonterra announces its Climate Roadmap
Learn about Fonterra's Climate Roadmap in this interview with Fonterra's Director of Sustainability; Charlotte Rutherford
13 Nov 2023
Watch the full interview with Charlotte or read key Q&As from the interview below -
Q&A with Charlotte Rutherford – Director of Sustainability, Fonterra
Q: Welcome, Charlotte. Can I ask you to please introduce yourself, and give us an indication of your role in the Co-op?
Sure. I'm Charlotte Rutherford, I'm the Director of Sustainability at Fonterra and that means that I'm responsible for end-to-end sustainability at the Co-op. Obviously there's many, many people with individual day jobs relating to their aspect of where they work in the business, I'm the one that has to put it all together right from our farmer shareholders producing the milk, right through to our customers, and their ambitions, and what they may be wanting from us as a supplier. I've been at the Co-op 21 years, but it's been a fantastic place to build a career in sustainability, and I feel really fortunate to have had the opportunities I've had.
Q: And what's your personal view on sustainability?
Sustainability for me is about intergenerational resilience, it's about finding the balance between all aspects of sustainability and making sure that we can be here and thrive as people and communities, from generation to generation. That generally means change, and sometimes change can be pretty tough for people.
Q: Why is it important that Fonterra has a Climate Roadmap?
It's important we have a climate roadmap to be able to show our customers where we are at in terms of our climate journey, and what our ambitions are in terms of our climate journey. We've been doing a lot of work in the climate space for many, many years, but our climate roadmap is a way for us to document, in a credible and really compelling way, and show our customers how we can be part of their journey and their ambitions that they have in the climate space.
So, that's pretty exciting because we do believe we hold a position that will be really useful to our customers as a supplier, not only currently in terms of where we sit with our climate footprint, but this roadmap shows our commitment into the future. 2030 targets, 2050 ambition, that really shows customers how we can partner with them to achieve their ambitions and what they've set, and being asked for in the climate space.
Q. So when setting climate actions and targets, how important is the role of science?
Science is critical when we're setting actions and targets, for a couple of reasons really. Number one is transparency, it enables our customers and other stakeholders to see exactly what we're doing and why. It also allows it to be credible, one way that we're making sure our targets are credible is that we're aligning to SBTi, so Science Based Target initiative, that is global best practice. So that should give a lot of comfort to customers in terms of what we're doing and what we're saying is aligned to best practice.
We're also seeking accreditation, so we're in the process of seeking accreditation for those targets. That can take a little while, but that is definitely what our intent is, so that, exactly as you asked, science is really the base of everything we're doing in this space.
Q: Are you able to share what Fonterra's climate ambition is?
Sure. We have a 2050 ambition of being net-zero. Our 2030 targets are SBTi aligned, so that means we align to a 1.5 degree future. But for our 2030 targets, we have:
- A 50% absolute reduction to GHG emissions in terms of scope 1 and scope 2, from a 2018 baseline, which is a build on our previous targets for those two scopes.
- And we have a new target, which is to reduce our Scope 1 and Scope 3 FLAG GHG emissions from dairy by 30% per tonne of Fat and Protein Corrected Milk between 2018 and 2030. Our 2030 FLAG target aligns with the SBTi Forest, Land and Agriculture Guidance (FLAG). Fonterra has selected the commodity approach pathway which means the target is intensity-based and specific to dairy.
There is a lot that we have put into that, but we're pretty excited about the level of ambition that we have, and the future for our Co-op working towards those.
Q: That's a new target for Fonterra?
It is a new target. So, in our full emissions footprint, 93% of our emissions are scope 3, and 86% of our emissions are on-farm. So that means our farmer owners, hold the responsibility for the majority of both our emissions footprint, this roadmap and that commitment for that new on-farm target.
So it's going to take a big change program for us to be putting in place to help drive that change on farmers' farms - their individual businesses. But that's the nature of a Co-op, our farmers own this Co-op, their commitment to roadmaps and doing these things, we've done it before, and they've done it before, so it's gonna be big, but we're confident we can do it.
Our farmers have already done a lot of work in terms of managing their impact on water quality within New Zealand, and the New Zealand domestic environment for that. They've already embraced environmental change on-farm, and this is really just the next step for them on that journey. A lot of it will be about driving efficiency within their farm businesses and all farmers are looking for that, and usually are pretty good at it already, it's about being an efficient business.
Q: So what advantages does Fonterra have on this journey?
New Zealand dairy farmers are amongst the lowest emission producers of dairy in the world. So that puts us at the start of the race and all we have to do is keep improving, keep driving to those targets we want for 2030, and our ambition out to 2050, and we stay at the front of the pack. That's really important for our customers because it means we can partner with them on their journey, and be delivering what they need in terms of net-zero ambition out to 2050.
Some of the ways that we do that is because of how we farm in New Zealand. We're pasture-based, our cows are outside, they're grass-fed, and that means a really low input type of system. We rely on sunshine, we rely on rain to grow grass, and that's what our cows are eating almost all of the time.
Q: Can you talk to us about Fonterra's wider sustainability responsibilities?
Part of our strategy is to lead in sustainability, it's actually, one of the three key components of our strategy. In order to define that, we had to prioritize what areas of sustainability we would look at. They are climate, obviously, the climate roadmap coming out now, animal wellbeing, water, and sustainable value. So these are all components of sustainability that are very important to us as a Co-op but link right back to our shareholders on their farms as well.
What are we doing on-farm in terms of protecting water quality, which is really important to New Zealand, the New Zealand public, and globally to many of our stakeholders. Animal wellbeing, this is a place where we win already, in terms of farming within New Zealand, and the pasture-based system. Our cows are outside, they're grass-fed, they're exhibiting natural behaviors in terms of the way they interact and move about the farm during the day. So this is a very natural way for milk to be produced, in terms of what we do here in New Zealand.
Q: So what does this mean for customers?
Having a target now that covers all of our scopes means we're giving a fulsome response to what our customers need. So I think we become this credible partner in terms of the reductions that we will deliver into the future. In 2030, the achievement of our target would see Fonterra’s New Zealand footprint reduced to 0.78 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalents per tonne of fat and protein corrected milk. It's quite a mouthful, but I think the key bit in there is the 0.78, is what we will be looking at in 2030.
Q: So what does the future look like for dairy?
I think that dairy's future looks really bright. Part of that for Fonterra is the regenerative mindset that we're applying to dairy into the future. Having that kind of mindset means you're looking for change, you're looking for opportunities that will allow that change in terms of sustainability, and that resilient intergenerational outcomes to really shine through. That's going to be pretty easy for us in terms of our pasture-based system and our farmers' commitment to change. We've got the right people to support our farmers, so we have a large team of specialists that work one-on-one, and we also have a really unique offering for our customers is that we have individual farm data. So we have bespoke data for individual farms that will measure their emissions, and we can use this to measure change over time. That's pretty unusual and certainly unusual for a Co-operative of our size, meaning that we've got thousands of sets of that data that can speak to not only what's happening individually on-farm, but more importantly it can speak to their overall target and ambition of where we're going.
Q: So what does the future mean for customers?
We're hoping that their future will be to partner with us as the supplier of choice in terms of low emission dairy. This roadmap and our targets into 2030, and our ambition out to 2050, can give our customers confidence in terms of our ability to deliver them what they need, and coupled with our regenerative mindset in terms of how we approach sustainability in general, means a pretty bright future, for us, our farmers, and customers that we work with into the future.