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For Sandra Martínez, CEO of Nestlé Oceania, the commitment to sustainability is personal as well as professional. Growing up on a cocoa farm in Venezuela, and decades later witnessing the deforestation and destruction of the land, she is keenly aware of the urgency of climate action.​


In 2019, Nestlé announced its ambitious commitment to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, driven by a strong belief that “doing the right thing for people and our planet is also good for business,” Martínez told the RESET audience in her presentation A Brave New World: The Journey to Net Zero. 


Like other speakers before her, Martínez acknowledged the growing consumer expectation for brands and businesses to combat climate change.


“They expect us collectively to take action,” she said. Yet, at the same time, consumers are increasingly sceptical about sustainability promises and claims, with greenwashing singled out by the ACCC as “rife” in Australia.


Martínez argued that to counter consumers’ mistrust, brands and businesses must take consumers along for the journey. “We must be factual and share our whole journey with them. If we share only a part of the story, we’re being disingenuous.


“Sharing the entire journey can help. It’s not easy, but if we take consumers with us and educate them on what it means, we will build that trust.”


She said the findings of a survey by Southpaw Insights, showing that one-quarter of businesses wouldn’t share their net zero emission plans for fear of being criticised and scrutinised, and having to deal with green washing allegations, was actually the wrong attitude.


“Sometimes companies make mistakes not because they want to make mistakes, but because they don’t understand what is involved,” Martínez said. Her advice to RESET attendees was to keep striving to be better, and to find the right partners to collaborate with. 


Last year, Nestlé created a KitKat wrapper that used 30% recycled plastic, wrapping 40 million bars across Australia and New Zealand and saving around 250,000m2 of virgin plastic.


Creating the recycled wrapper took collaboration with nine other companies, Martínez said, adding that collaboration is the only way to tackle climate change.


“We can’t do it alone,” she said. “We started by sharing our vision and finding others with the expertise we don’t have. Sharing our purpose created a sense of urgency.”


In another initiative, Nestlé has partnered with Greening Australia, Canopy and One Tree Planted to plant 10 million trees around Australia by 2025 – as part of the company’s Global Reforestation Program, which aims to plant and grow 200 million trees globally by 2030. 


The three key takeouts from Sandra Martínez’s presentation were:


Make bold commitments

It will take bold commitments, like Nestlé’s zero emissions target, to save the planet, according to Martínez. “It is imperative and urgent that we all take action now. I hear talk of the high cost of climate action, but the truth is that inaction and even hesitation will cost us more.”


Collaboration is critical

“It doesn't matter what sector you’re in, to tackle climate change we have to collaborate,” she said. “For agency partners in the room, collaborating has never been more critical.”


We must act with courage

Creating food packaging from recycled plastic had never been done before because of safety concerns, and there were many who said it couldn’t be done. “It takes true courage to invest for the future in something untested,” Martínez said. 


“The Kitkat prototype wrapper was the spark that created the enthusiasm to establish an industry-wide plastic recycling scheme,” Martínez said, referring to the The National Plastics Recycling Scheme (NPRS) project, expected to come into effect by mid-2024.

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