Fonterra has reported its "most encouraging sustainability results since starting its annual reporting four years ago", according to the Kiwi co-op's latest sustainability report.

However, it was noted that focus must stay on "what still needs to be done" to reach its long-term targets.

Commenting following the release of Fonterra’s 2020 Sustainability Report today (Tuesday, November 3), Fonterra CEO Miles Hurrell said: "The progress we’ve made this year towards our three interconnected goals of healthy people, a healthy environment and a healthy business show that our strategy and customer-led operating model are delivering."

According to Fonterra, its report noted that the New Zealand co-op has improved all three of its core environmental metrics around greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, water use and solid waste to landfill for the first time since launching its first stand-alone Sustainability Report in 2017.

Among other highlights in the report, Fonterra has become the first dairy company in New Zealand to have its emission reduction targets endorsed by the UN-backed Science Based Target initiative.

This means that the co-op’s 2030 target of 30% reduction in 'Scope 1 and 2' GHG emissions, which are the emissions it directly creates and those from the energy it uses, "has been approved as being in line with what the latest climate science says is needed to limit global warming to well below 2°".

Continuing his comments, Hurrell said:

“Our farmer owners have a carbon footprint of about one-third of the world average, and we’re continuing to support them to adapt to change.

Setting science-based targets is important and so is the concrete action we’re taking today – like providing farmers with farm-specific emissions profiles, which will help them identify opportunities for improvements, and switching our Te Awamutu site to wood pellets, which will reduce our coal use by almost 10%.

Meanwhile, in terms of improving the energy efficiency of existing assets, it was noted that this year the co-op hit its longest running target of 20% reduction in energy intensity across its New Zealand manufacturing sites between 2003 and 2020.

As part of the plan to reach a 30% reduction in emissions by 2030, and ultimately net zero emissions by 2050, Fonterra is developing site-specific ‘Greenprints’ that outline the roadmap to decarbonisation.

The report also highlights areas for improvement including the need to achieve better gender and ethnic diversity at leadership level and accelerate progress towards key 2025 targets such as having 100% reusable, recyclable or compostable packaging.