Nespresso: ‘Every cup of our coffee will be carbon neutral by 2022’

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Nespresso: ‘Every cup of our coffee will be carbon neutral by 2022’

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Nestlé coffee giant Nespresso commits that every cup of Nespresso worldwide will be carbon neutral by 2022. In order to achieve this, it has initiatives in three key areas: reducing carbon emissions; planting trees in coffee farms; and investing in high-quality offsetting projects.

While Nespresso’s model may appear to pose some big hurdles for achieving carbon neutrality – all products are shipped from its production sites in Switzerland; while coffee capsules have long attracted the wrath of environmentalists – the brand is confident it can achieve its 2022 goal.

“Climate change is a reality and our future depends on going further and faster on our sustainability commitments,”​ said Guillaume Le Cunff, CEO of Nespresso. ​ “That is why we are accelerating our commitments to offer our consumers a way to drink a carbon neutral cup of coffee by 2022. A coffee, made from the finest and rarest beans, sustainably sourced. I truly believe that both our business and the coffee industry can be a force for good in the world by tackling this pressing issue.”

Nespresso achieved carbon neutrality in its business operations in 2017. It is now tackling emissions that occur in its supply chain and product life cycle.

Coffee capsules

Nespresso champions the use of coffee capsules saying that they do, in fact, compare favorably to other coffee options - in part due to waste reduction of coffee, water and energy. 

Although it seems counterintuitive, the precise consumption of portioned coffee, like the Nespresso system, means that it has a similar environmental impact than filter coffee and mocha, and a better one than bean-to-cup machines," ​a Nespresso spokesperson told BeverageDaily.

“The 2018 Life Cycle Assessment* based on the situation in Switzerland concluded that the Nespresso Original System, the drip filter and the mocha coffee systems all have similar environmental impacts resulting in a similar carbon footprint which is around 100 g CO2-eq per cup of coffee. The bean-to-cup coffee system appears to have a 30% higher carbon footprint than the Nespresso system.

“Packaging is not the main impact driver of a cup of Nespresso coffee. Green coffee supply (35%) and home consumption (45%) are the largest impacts. Consequently, making sure coffee is not wasted is important. The Nespresso system uses a precise amount of ground coffee, water and energy to make one cup, which minimizes food, water and energy waste.”

Need to improve recycling rates

Nespresso uses aluminium capsules because it considers it the best material for preserving freshness and quality of its coffee, plus it is recyclable.

Since 2014 ​the company ​has invested over 185m CHF ($203m) in recycling infrastructure globally with over 100,000 collection points in 57 countries.

“We estimate that 91% of our customers worldwide have a ‘convenient’ recycling option: this means that they can recycle their capsules wherever they buy them (either at home, in a boutique or via their pick-up point) or within 5 km of their delivery address. This includes municipal waste collection points that accept aluminium capsules. We also offer free of charge home collection services in 23 countries.”

However, the company estimates that only 30% of Nespresso capsules globally are currently recycled.  

“We continue to work to find the best solution wherever people are enjoying our coffee to ensure that all our customers have a convenient recycling option for their capsules.”

How to make every cup of Nespresso carbon neutral

Nespresso will achieve carbon neutrality through the reduction of carbon emissions; the planting of trees in and around coffee farms where it sources coffee (insetting); and through support and investment in high quality offsetting projects.

Carbon emission reduction

A crucial element of Nespresso’s vision is to decarbonize its value chain. These immediate initiatives include:

• Sustainable energy usage within Nespresso’s operations: Driving towards 100% renewable energy in all Nespresso boutiques and increasing the use of biogas within the manufacturing process.

• Expanded circularity of Nespresso products and packaging: Increasing the use of recycled plastic within Nespresso machines, as well as of recycled and low carbon virgin aluminium within coffee capsules.

Planting trees in coffee farms and the surrounding landscapes (insetting)

Trees are the best way to capture carbon from the atmosphere while investing in nature and building a regenerative agricultural system.

Planting trees provides the shade needed to improve the quality and quantity of a coffee harvest.

The roots also help protect against soil erosion and landslides and promote soil regeneration.

With its partner Pur Projet, Nespresso will triple the capacity of planting trees (with insetting) in coffee producing countries such as Colombia, Guatemala, Ethiopia and Costa Rica.

Accelerate to make an immediate positive impact (offsetting initiatives)

Nespresso will invest in projects to support forest conservation and restoration as well as implement clean energy solutions within farming communities.

coffee plantation getty
Coffee plantations. Pic:getty/Alfribeiro

Further initiatives in coffee capsules include addressing the aluminum materials used: by using recycled aluminium and by using low carbon virgin aluminium.

Earlier this year Nespresso introduced capsules made using 80% recycled aluminium, claiming a first in the coffee market. By the end of 2021, Nespresso aims to have the Original and Vertuo ranges of coffee capsules made using recycled aluminium.

“Aluminium is infinitely recyclable and is one of the most widely recycled materials in the world,"​ explained the Nespresso spokesperson. "Recycled aluminium requires 95% less energy to produce than virgin aluminium, so it is well-suited to use in a circular business model. Aluminium is also a perfect barrier to oxygen, light and humidity and to protect the freshness and aromas of high-quality coffee. Composed now of a thinner aluminium foil, each capsule requires 9.2% less aluminium material than in their previous composition and is 8% lighter.

“Due to the composition of the aluminium alloy required to produce Nespresso capsules, 80% is the current maximum amount of recycled aluminium we can use today. However, we will continue to look for opportunities to increase that percentage.”

Nespresso products are all produced from three production sites in Switzerland. However, distribution - including retail and boutique activities as well as transport activities such as postal deliveries and transport to and from boutiques - stands for only 2% of the total carbon footprint of a cup of coffee, ​according to the company.

“Nespresso operations have been carbon neutral since 2017 and we are continuously working towards driving a positive impact on society and the environment. Becoming fully carbon neutral is a big step towards achieving that goal.”

* The LCA study assessed the impact of a lungo cup of coffee prepared using the Nespresso Original system in Switzerland compared with three other coffee preparation systems commonly found in the Swiss market: a moka, a drip filter and a full-automat system.

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