Alpro joins Coca-Cola, TetraPak, Johnson & Johnson, Sony and Volvo as members of the 25-member scheme born in 2000 which seeks to, ”catalyse leadership in the business community and [lead] by example in terms of innovation, ambitious targets and policy engagement”.
NutraIngredients attended the announcement on Friday at Alpro’s Belgian headquarters where Alpro CEO Bernard Deryckere expressed satisfaction at becoming a WWF Climate Saver after two years of WWF assessment of its processes and forward commitment to carbon targets.
“We have sustainability in our DNA and we want to inspire other companies really to go for it. We have to rebalance our diet,” Deryckere told NutraIngredients, referencing the challenge of increasing carbon, land, water and energy-efficient soy and vegetable protein consumption. Yet soy drinks account for just 1.5% of European milk sales.
“The thing is our whole project is more sustainable because we are providing plant proteins which needs much less water and land and has less C02 than other proteins.”
The €270m company has committed to keeping carbon emissions below 2008 levels by 2013, despite expected volume growth of about one third. Its carbon output fell by 11% between 2008 and 2010 as volumes increased 11%.
“We have a programme to be carbon neutral in 2020,” Deryckere relayed. “We started the programme in 2005 and we just continue.”
While the company has not had to alter its production process too much to meet the WWF requirements, it has installed a new quay at its Belgian facility that will mean 1200 trucks will be replaced by a more energy efficient 50 barges delivering beans and materials.
Winners and dinosaurs
Also in attendance was the WWF’s acting head of climate and business engagement, Bruce Haase, who said increasingly there was a divide between sustainability business approaches.
“There are winners and dinosaurs in the low-carbon economy and we go through a due diligence process to determine if companies are eligible to join,” he said, adding that the fact Alpro was owned by the US dairy giant Dean Foods did not discount it from Climate Savers membership due to the independent operation that Alpro was.
Haase said WWF’s approach differed by region, noting that it may be possible for Dean Food’s US soy subsidiary, White Wave, to become a Climate Saver, as, like Alpro, it exclusively used non-GM soybeans for its yoghurts, drinks and desserts. But a firm that used GM crops would not necessarily be barred from attaining Climate Savers status.
About 80% of the global soy crop is GM, a fact that means non-GM operations like Alpro and white wave are typically forced to pay premiums of about 20-25% for its raw materials.
In a statement Haase said:“Alpro has proven that it can operate sustainably and still continue to grow. Moreover, Alpro produces soya-based products that have much lower CO2, water- and land-use footprints than animal-based products. One of the many recommendations in our Energy Report is a change in dietary habits, a shift from meat to plant-based food, so as to free up land. This report demonstrates that 100% renewable energy by 2050 is a feasible goal. So expanding our partnership was a logical next step.”
He drew an analogy that there would need to be three planet earths to fund European eating habits, six for US food consumption, if the whole planet ate that typical western diets.
A note on soy milk, sorry, soy drink regulation
Deryckere said it was time regulators revoked a European law that prevented soy drink makers referring to the products as ‘milks’.
“Despite the fact everyone refers to it as soy milk the legislation in Europe doesn’t allow us to use the denomination ‘soy milk’ – which is putting us in a kind of a legal dark room,” he said.
“There is almond milk and coconut milk so we think it is time that soy milk, which is at the same level of nutrition as normal cow milk once calcium is added, can be called by its rightful name. We continue to try to convince the people that make this kind of legislation.”