Your partner in British Dutch Business

On Tuesday December 3 the NBCC Sustainability dinner took place in London. Organised in collaboration with the Dutch Embassy, this working dinner was a follow up of the joint statement from the successful NBCC North Sea Neighbours Dinner on “Increase business opportunities in circular economy: Drive sustainable packaging - decrease the use of single used plastic”. 18 key food industry members plus government officials gathered for this session at the Rembrandt Hotel in London. 

After the welcome remarks of the NBCC Board Member Alexandra Kamerling, the dinner was kicked off with a speech from Rob Morren, Sector Banker Food at ABN AMRO on the importance of:

  1. Sharing best practices and learnings from multinationals with SME's to amplify the impact;
  2. Translating sustainable initiatives into financial results;
  3. Refreshing a company’s packaging strategy should be fully data driven and taking into account all relevant impacts on CO2 reduction. For instance: using less single use plastics may lead to more food being wasted.

Then Joe Franses, VP Sustainability of Coca-Cola European Partners explained the 4-pillar strategy of Coca-Cola regarding sustainable packaging to deliver a world without waste:

  1. To remove all unnecessary or hard to recycle packaging from our portfolio;
  2. Their target is 100% recycled or renewable content in all our plastic bottles- we will reach 50% by 2023;
  3. They support well-designed deposit return schemes where a proven alternative does not exist;
  4. They will publish our packaging footprint on an annual basis by pack type.

He explained their campaign “Don’t buy Coca-Cola, if you don’t help us recycle” in the Netherlands as one of the examples, implemented to increase awareness on the importance of recycling and the key role of the consumer in the collection and recycling process.

He finished his speech with the recent lessons learned from Coca-Cola’s plastic strategy: 

  1. Engaging with consumers to promote correct recycling and awareness on reuse is key;
  2. Cross-industry collaboration is crucial: we need to do it together and use the power of the brands;
  3. Increasing the percentage of collecting for recycling in the UK is key.

Cindy Tervoort, Head of Marketing at Heineken UK, shared some highlights on their packaging strategy including their recent initiative to replace single-use plastic rings and shrink wrap from millions of multipack cans by eco-friendly cardboard. Cindy spoke about the need to increase collective recycling in UK and underscored engaging with consumers to reduce plastic waste is key.

Eleanor Murphy-Sutton, Client Director at, shared learnings from their UK Sustainability research with the emphasis being put on knowing where your consumer is on their behavior change journey. She explained that the nr 1 answer on “Assuming you are trying to be more sustainable in how you live your life, which do you believe is most important to focus on?” was “Less plastic packaging”. She also said that supermarkets are the nr 1 organisation which consumers believe could do more to offer you more sustainable products or services 

Eleanor explained there are 5 sustainability myths which their research has debunked:

  1. That sustainability is about sacrifice: consumers are now looking for ways to live a normal lifestyle whilst being more sustainable;
  2. Consumers that demand plastic-free, live plastic-free: plastic still serves a functional purpose in consumers lives, especially when efficacy is paramount ;
  3. Companies become sustainable for the PR | younger generations in particular will invest time researching companies goals and initiatives;
  4. All consumers make environmentally friendly choices for the same reasons | increasingly consumers have more of a 360 view of what it means to be sustainable, from recycling to sustainable farming to water waste;
  5. Consumers expect brands to be perfect | just showing progress, commitment and passion goes a long way with consumers.

Eleanor explained that ease, peer approval, reward, transparency and reassurance are the key factors that consumers will respond to, to help implement consumer behavior change. Bundling these together will help create a stronger sustainability focused proposition.

She made the following suggestions to work on together:

  1. To develop partnerships with primary and secondary schools, working with the young students to educate around the use of plastics
  2. To create recycling ‘roadmaps’ for consumers to enable people to be more considerate with plastic e.g. bar codes on packaging giving recycling instructions and transparency of production
  3. To offer reward schemes for not using single use plastics inspired by incentives offered in Denmark

The guests present defined two concrete activities to work on together in project teams:

  1. Change consumer behaviour / Consumer education on decreasing the use of single use plastics/sustainable packaging
    Identify consumer barriers, define common barriers and address how to overcome: share best practices from corporates with SME’s. Aim will be to share all learnings during NBCC Sustainability Forum in March 2020 between multinationals and SME’s.
  1. Strengthen deposit and recycling system capacity
    Share knowledge between companies and local councils on well-designed deposit systems between NL and UK, identify barriers in legislation and educate local councils, lobbying to strengthen deposit and recycling system capacity.

By teaming up, the opportunities of sustainability for British-Dutch business can be fully ensured, and  the challenges can be dealt with collectively. In this way, we can all play our part in creating a better, sustainable world for everyone. 

The NBCC cordially thanks the Dutch Embassy for their hospitality and the great collaboration.

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