International experts met in the United States last week to take part in a global Nestlé workshop to advance sustainability in product design and packaging.
The five day event at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California—one of the world’s leading design schools—brought together college academics, independent sustainability specialists and members of Nestlé’s Global Research and Development (R&D), Brand Communication and Product Design networks.
The aim was to embed sustainability into designers’ thinking from the beginning of the design process.
Topics ranged from current sustainability initiatives at Nestlé, to the challenges facing the consumer goods industry as a whole, and the latest design practices.
In addition, experts examined how current consumer and design trends might lead to opportunities for the Company to develop more sustainable products, services and systems.
Gordon Lane, Head of R&D Global Industrial Design for Nestlé, explained the workshop’s focus on sustainability and said: “Sustainability is part of the overall business solution and something that designers must consider from the outset.
“By using ‘life cycle assessment’ tools, developed in collaboration by our scientists at the Nestlé Research Center in Switzerland, we have the opportunity to consider the total social and environmental impact of our designs.
“In this way, we are connecting science and design to responsibly support Nestlé on a global basis.”
Nestlé’s life cycle assessment approach—led by its R&D network and conducted by independent external consultants—systematically examines the environmental impact of its products; from ingredient sourcing, to processing, manufacturing, consumer use of the product and its packaging.
The Company also uses a selection of simplified eco-design tools—such as the Packaging Impact Quick Evaluation Tool (PIQET) developed by the Sustainable Packaging Alliance—to produce relevant life cycle data much earlier on in the product development process.
These can quickly provide Nestlé’s designers with the information required to create new product designs, or to renovate existing ones to reduce their environmental impact.
A recent example is Nestlé NaturNes babyfood, which was initially packaged in a glass pot. This has now been replaced with a more energy efficient plastic one to significantly reduce CO2 emissions across the value chain.
Developing a visual language
Linking almost 30 designers based worldwide in countries including France, Germany, China, Singapore and the United States, the Nestlé Global Product Design network is unique for a food and beverage company of its kind.
Appointed to the Company through R&D, designers are also often assigned to a specific product category, such as ready-to-drink beverages, or confectionery.
As Mr. Lane explained, it is a structure which enables the Company to connect design not only with the science of sustainability but also with important insights into consumers’ understanding of it.
He added: “We are working with Nestlé’s Brand Communication specialists, as well as experts from the Art Center in Pasadena, to develop new ways of visually communicating the benefits of sustainability to consumers.”
“Through the language of design, we can transform complex science into something friendly and easy for consumers to understand.”