Nestle Waters North America Inc. has issued an ambitious first corporate citizenship report in which it outlines nearly 30 goals, many of them scheduled for completion in the next three years.
The report, put out Oct. 23, addresses everything from the quality of bottled water compared with municipal water, the feasibility of using recycled content or bioplastics to make Nestle's bottles and the company's planned elimination of the catalyst antimony in the manufacture of PET by 2011.
In the report, Nestle which claims to have a 30 percent share in the bottled-water market also reiterates its goal of more than doubling industry recycling rates for PET bottles to 60 percent by 2018,
In addition, the Greenwich, Conn., company said its goals include reducing the carbon footprint across its full value chain by 20 percent by 2013, and developing and producing a ``next-generation bottle'' made entirely from recycled materials or renewable resources by 2018.
The goals, particularly committing to an industry PET recycling rate of 60 percent compared with the current industrywide rate of 23.5 percent got kudos from Conrad MacKerron, director of the corporate responsibility program at San Francisco-based nonprofit organization As You Sow.
``It is the most ambitious goal of any beverage company because it is an industry goal, not just a corporate goal,'' MacKerron said by telephone, adding that he hopes the 10-year time frame can be reduced. Both Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. have pledged to recycle 50 percent of all the plastic and aluminum containers they sell by 2015, he said.
The statistic-filled report includes data on water use, the reduction of greenhouse gases and lower fuel consumption in transportation.
According to the report:
* Nestle Waters uses 0.0003 percent of the fresh water used in North America on an annual basis.
* Water consumption in its 24 factories in the U.S. and Canada declined by 1.3 percent in 2007, even as production volume rose 10 percent.
* Nestle used 140 million fewer pounds of resin, reduced PET greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent and estimates it will have avoided 260,000 metric tons of GHG emissions in both 2007 and 2008 by lightweighting and developing its Eco-Shape half-liter bottle.
* In-house production of 98 percent of its bottles saves an estimated 6.6 million gallons of fuel and keeps 6,200 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions out of the air because the company is not transporting empty bottles.
* Maximizing delivery routes for its home and office bottled-water deliveries has reduced fuel consumption by more than 167,000 gallons.
* About 86 percent of the solid waste at its plants things like cardboard, rejected bottles, bottle preforms, low-density polyethylene films, shrink wrap and pallet strapping is recycled. That rate is up 28 percent from 1999.
Nestle also tackles several other controversial issues in its report, outlining in detail its 10-step quality and safety process for packaging bottled water. It further asserts that its internal standards for testing more than 50 constituents in bottled water ``meet or are more stringent than regulatory standards in all cases.''
``We test for bromate daily on every production line in every factory, whereas municipal water suppliers are only required to test monthly,'' said the report.
With regard to packaging materials, Nestle has set a goal to convert its virgin PET bottles to antimony-free resin by 2011, even though its internal studies show that any trace amounts that may migrate into bottled water are ``well below the regulatory limits for drinking water'' set by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the World Health Organization.
Currently, two-thirds of Nestle's bottles use antimony as a catalyst.
Nestle also said starting next year, it will include storage and shelf-life information on its case packaging and on its Web site, and that it will have full-source labeling for all its bottled-water brands by the beginning of 2009.
The report also addresses Nestle's possible use of bioplastics or recycled content and the challenges involved, and questions whether the best use of recycled PET is to make bottles.
``We face two challenges in utilizing [recycled] PET,'' said the report. ``First, we have been unable to identify an adequate high-quality supply of [recycled] PET at affordable and predictable prices for the entirety of a packaging line, due to insufficient consumer recycling programs in the U.S. and rising demand for [recycled] PET from China. As a result, supplies are inconsistent and the price is substantially higher than for new PET.
``Second, further life-cycle assessments are needed to determine if [recycled] PET resin is best utilized in new bottles, or instead for other plastic applications such as clothing or park benches.''
The report said, ``We still face significant supply, cost and quality issues, but Nestle Waters' goal is to develop and put on the market a bottle that incorporates up to 25 percent [recycled] PET by 2013.''
The report further questioned the wisdom of using current bioplastics for bottle manufacturing.
``The cost, energy use, water use and even post-consumer capture challenges associated with some first-generation bioplastics have limited their appeal,'' said the report. ``Moreover, many of these are made from food sources, which we view as problematic when almost 1 billion people globally are not getting enough food.''
The company said it will ``seek opportunities to invest in second- and third-generation bioplastic technologies from nonfood sources.''
Nestle also set forth additional objectives with regard to sustainability and the climate:
* To measure the full life-cycle impacts of its products from extraction of raw materials to manufacture and distribution and end-of-life by 2011.
* To recycle 90 percent of in-factory waste by 2009 and 95 percent by 2010.
* To reduce particulate-matter emissions from its home office delivery (HOD) fleet by 36 percent by 2013 and to reduce nitrous oxide emissions by 40 percent.
* To introduce 32 hydrogen fuel-cell forklifts and hybrid trucks for its HOD fleet by the end of 2008.
* To introduce a zero-emissions HOD and service center delivery vehicle by 2015 and upgrade all of those vehicles to zero emissions by 2020.