29 Nov 2018

More effort needed to reduce environmental impact of dairying, Fonterra says

3:57 pm on 29 November 2018

The dairy giant identifies climate change, water and waste as areas for improvement in its annual sustainability report.

Fonterra milk truck

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

New Zealand's largest company Fonterra says it has some work to do to reduce its environmental impact.

Fonterra has just published its second annual sustainability report covering its economic, social and environmental impacts for the 2017/18 dairy season.

The 98-page report covers a wide range of topics including animal welfare, biosecurity, water, climate change and community development.

Fonterra's director of sustainability, Carolyn Mortland, said its environmental ambitions and targets required the most effort.

"This report shows we've got some work to do to reduce our environmental impact, and a great role to play in providing people with natural and nutritious food," she said.

"We really need to reduce our environmental impact... that's the hard stuff... and our focus is on climate change, water and waste," Ms Mortland said.

The report shows in the season just ended more farmers had their milk collection suspended because they did not fence off waterways: up from 78 in the 2016/17 dairy season to 90 in 2017/18.

A further eight farmers were handed notices for not meeting farm effluent requirements.

Ms Mortland believed this showed the company was getting tough on farmers who weren't meeting their environmental obligations.

"We think this actually reflects where we stand now and where most farmers are asking us [to be,] which is to be tough on those who haven't quite completed the requirements that most other farmers are at," she said.

She added that 99.6 percent of farmers now had fencing in place excluding their dairy cattle from permanent waterways on their farms.

In other environmental matters, Fonterra's 2019 target of having 30 percent of its commercial car fleet comprise electric vehicles has been pushed back - with the company citing other priorities for capital.

The amount of solid waste Fonterra sent to landfill was up 14 percent in New Zealand and 2 percent globally this season - rising to 15,430 tonnes.

Fonterra's interim chief executive Miles Hurrell discussing the annual results.

Fonterra chief executive Miles Hurrell Photo: RNZ / Dan Cook

Fonterra's chief executive, Miles Hurrell, said the report was one of the ways Fonterra could show where it was sitting and where it needed to get to in sustainability.

"There are areas where we're leading our industry thanks to the hard work of our farmers, people and partners. But there are also areas where we've tried and haven't hit the mark yet, and the report doesn't shy away from that," Mr Hurrell said.

Fonterra appointed an independent Sustainability Advisory Panel earlier this year, chaired by Sir Rob Fenwick.

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