Sustainability Not Just A Trend, But A Business Imperative - Making The Cut With Lee Peilin & MINI
Updated: Oct 27, 2021
We speak to Lee Peiln, Head of Marketing at Nespresso, on how organisations can start to prioritise sustainability and why it's a business imperative, not just a marketing campaign or a trend.
Q: So Peilin, you are the Head of Marketing at Nespresso, share with us a little bit about your role and responsibility at the company.
So my role is to enable every single person in Singapore to know that they are able to brew this amazingly small, aromatic cup of coffee at just a touch of a button. It's like having a skilled barista in your own home or in the office. It's very, very easy and one of the parts of my job that I really enjoy, other than having a lot of different coffee to try, is that it's being part of a company that really sees coffee as a force for good.
And we do this through a lot of efforts with communities, especially the farming communities and our efforts in the environmental space both globally and locally.
Q: Now, how does Nespresso position itself as a company that prioritises sustainability?
Nespresso, we are known as like, the creators or inventors of what's called portion coffee and we like to call it precision coffee, and what, you know, being precise means, that there's little to no waste. So our Nespresso sustainability strategy is called The Positive Cup and it embodies the belief that every cup of coffee can have a positive impact.
Everything we do has a carbon footprint, from what we eat or drink to what we drive. Travelling, commuting, it's all carbon footprint. So when we look at the entire value chain, we start from how the coffee is grown and harvested to right at the end when we look at how we can reduce or recycle the packaging.
Globally the objective is really to, you know, minimise and optimise the resources we have and to make sure that the carbon emissions are as minimal as possible, and we do this globally through things like our regenerative coffee production, eco-design of our machines, agroforestry and even things like renewable energy.
Q: And you mentioned this very well, you talked about just looking at the entire process because it is a commitment, isn't it? When any organisation talks about sustainability, it is that commitment. So you see, a lot of organisations are coming out and they're saying this is a really important strategy for us. So why do you think it's important for organisations to push for sustainability?
It's important for companies to push for sustainability because companies have scale and impact, so just one change can bring about a difference that is multiplied by so many folds. Like for Nespresso, we also have a goal to be carbon neutral, that every single cup of Nespresso coffee will be carbon neutral by 2022.
And this is really, it's a very ambitious target. And initially, the goal was to be carbon neutral by 2030, but you know with all these conversations about climate change and you know, sensing just the urgency of this, we've decided to expedite a lot of these improvements so that to implement as many of these changes as quickly as possible.
Q: A lot of times we talk, especially now, the conversation on sustainability is really prominent and I also believe that it's never too late to be sustainable as an organisation. How do you think organisations can start to prioritise sustainability just like what Nespresso is doing?
I think, first of all, find that intersection between a company's objectives, what is operationally feasible and what consumers are looking for. And it's not easy to find this overlap because, especially when companies are often very used to doing things a certain way, you know, there's a lot of business goals but we really need to see that that shift is necessary.
And it's absolutely crucial for businesses to survive, so it's very important for brands and companies to look at sustainability not just as a trend, or as a kind of marketing campaign, but it needs to be a business imperative.
Q: Now, I know also that you work a lot with farmers because when we talk about sustainability, it's not just environmental sustainability. It's also sustainable communities, so working with people, making sure there's fair trade, looking along an entire value chain. So how are you working with farmers to ensure sustainability environmentally as well as socially?
Nespresso has a program that is called the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality program, and this is actually developed with Fairtrade as well as the Rainforest Alliance, and this program seeks to support coffee farmers with training, with tools, with infrastructure that will help them improve the quality of their coffee whilst being really climate-friendly.
So what this program does is that it helps farmers with even understanding the knowledge of topics like soil management, bio-control of pests and just helping their crops become more climate-resilient, because without the farmers, and if the farmers don't know how to do it best, then the coffee quality also won't be great, and that's why we are very invested in looking after the coffee farming communities.
Q: Now, you know Singapore has clearly prioritised sustainability. I mean we can see it in the Green Plan and many things that are coming up as well, right, the towns, how do you think Singapore has done so far in terms of us prioritising sustainability?
The Singapore Green Plan helps to make the priorities that the country has tangible, and I think that's really important because what we're talking about with companies is that you need to review that intersection, right? Like what are the primary objectives of the company or the country? What is operationally and economically feasible, and what is good for the people?
And when a country makes this kind of commitment, companies also take our cue from the country and with this cue, I think that's also a signal for us as individuals, that certain topics are really critical and that we as individuals also do need to play this part to support what the government is doing.
Q: Now, going from that point, what is your advice to all of us as individuals on how we can lead a more sustainable lifestyle?
Sustainability, for me, is not an all or nothing. I think just changing one habit can help when that one habit is accumulated. It can really help bring a much bigger impact, so for me, it's very simplistic. I go back to what I learned in primary school, which is the three Rs. It's like keep it simple, reduce, reuse and recycle. So let's go back to these three things. When we look at like reuse, Nespresso capsules, actually we reuse the aluminium in every single capsule. We like to laugh about it, we say that there's nothing new about your Nespresso capsule because we reuse 80% of aluminium in the capsules.
And when it comes to recycling, the aluminium is used to make many different items, like functional items like pens, coasters, even bicycle frames. Even this brooch that I have is actually made by a local artist and she made this because the intent was to show that we often think of waste as being very dirty or ugly but, you know, it actually can be something that's really beautiful.
And so with this program, the systems are in place right, you know, we have our local recycling plant, we have our systems of collection, but what we need is the participation from people. A lot of our efforts, we want to show that really, you know, the last sip of coffee that you take doesn't mean it's last use and that these things can have a second life, and that individuals can make a difference one pod at a time.
This content is brought to you in collaboration with BMW Asia.