For Zespri Chief Grower, Industry and Sustainability Officer Carol Ward, the opportunity to lead a critical part of the business during a period of considerable growth is proving incredibly exciting.
Since joining Zespri in 2002, Carol has tackled a variety of key portfolios within the business, including marketing, innovation, global supply chain, stakeholder and grower engagement, and of course – sustainability.
The recent integration of the sustainability portfolio alongside the key grower and industry relations portfolio was important to Carol, and her move into the role in late 2020 reflects Zespri’s commitment to reaching both the ambitious sustainability goals it has outlined and its desire to deliver strong returns to growers and local communities.
“Sustainability really does sit at the core of what we do and that’s reflected in both our purpose at Zespri of helping people, communities and the environment thrive through the goodness of kiwifruit, and our values like kaitiakitanga and making sure we’re looking after the land and environment,” says Carol.
“I’m extremely proud to be supporting our growers and wider team as we share our fresh and nutritious fruit with an increasing number of consumers around the world and continue to innovate including with some of our on-orchard practice.
“In my role, each day is incredibly varied. On a typical day I’ll be connecting with growers and our wider industry, working across our sustainability initiatives, making sure growers and postharvest have the tools and information they need and supporting our New Zealand and global teams.”
For Carol, announcing Zespri’s key sustainability goals and targets last year demonstrated Zespri’s commitment to respect and enhance our natural resources and the environment, as well as improving health and wellbeing.
“Our commitments include our packaging becoming 100 percent recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025, Zespri becoming carbon positive by 2035, and developing an industry climate change adaption plan by 2022,” says Carol.
“We also want to make sure ours is an industry people want to work in, and that’s achieved by ensuring we’re continuing to look after our people.”
She says while it’s still relatively early, Zespri has made good progress on their climate change strategy and is continuing to implement the industry’s water strategy in partnership with New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc (NZKGI), Maori Kiwifruit Growers Inc (MKGI), and Hort NZ.
Zespri was also making good progress on implementing changes to its packaging and has developed a range of solutions across its global markets.
“As a team, Zespri works hard to live our commitments too, and we’ve been weaving sustainability into our business practices for many years.
“During the process of building our new head office in Mount Maunganui, we made sure we embraced sustainable design practices. That’s illustrated in the building’s solar roof panels, energy efficient sensor lighting, grey water storage, electric vehicle charging stations, ability to charge 16 electric bikes and improved recycling options.”
Zespri has also signed up to Tauranga City Council’s Resource Wise programme, committing to reducing its office waste to landfill by 85% by the end of 2021 – and as at February, the company had reached platinum status in reducing office waste.
In August last year, Carol was appointed to the Sustainable Business Council Advisory Board.
“As a grower myself, it’s a role I feel really privileged to have and I’ve enjoyed sharing my insights into the role New Zealand’s fantastic primary sector can help play in growing a sustainable future.
“Our ability to grow a more sustainable future relies on all of us working together and I’m proud of the progress Zespri is making on our long-term goals and looking forward to seeing the progress we make over the coming years.”