Lineke Roberts

Global Sustainability Integration Manager, 
Nestlé Nespresso

Leveraging her legal and data background, Lineke led Nespresso’s B Corp certification process. She is powered by Master Origins Colombia and the conviction that everyone can make a positive impact. 

Susana Reber

Global Brand and Sustainability Strategy Manager, 
Nestlé Nespresso

Hailing from Colombia, Susana is passionate about the impact coffee can have on the lives of farmers. She’s enjoyed numerous sustainability roles over the past 14 years and is excited by the B Corp movement’s potential to enhance the way companies do business.

HOW DID NESPRESSO’S JOURNEY TOWARDS B CORP CERTIFICATION START? 

SUSANA

It all started with an email from Guillaume Le Cunff, who is now our CEO. We were working together through the Nespresso Sustainability Innovation Fund. Its aim is to catalyse innovation and impact, and he felt it would be a good idea to seek certification for this particular entity.

But we soon realised that this would actually mean certifying the entire Nespresso business. Which really made us think. Could we comply with the undoubted rigours of B Corp certification? This led to many, many discussions but we continued our exploration in 2019, with an initial deep dive into the certification and pre-screening process. Once this was completed, we realised we had both the desire and the possibility to seek full B Corp certification.

LINEKE

Of course, 2020 was the first year of the pandemic. So whilst we didn’t make much progress on the actual certification, we started preparing the organisation by laying some foundations. Then in February 2021, once we had senior agreement across both Nestle and Nespresso, we kicked off the process in full force. The first half of 2021 with the assessment and the second half with the verification. Then, the certification phase took place over the early months of 2022. And now, we’re a certified B Corporation.

SUSANA

That’s a long time!

LINEKE

Yes, it’s been a really, really long journey. We knew it would be a huge undertaking but even then we underestimated the true scale – both in the breadth of topics and in their depth.

 

WHAT DID YOU DISCOVER ABOUT PEOPLE’S DESIRE TO PARTICIPATE?

SUSANA

I remember when we first started out, there being a lot of curiosity and excitement.

LINEKE

Yes. And even though it was so resource intensive and we asked much of our colleagues, everyone was happy to contribute. That was truly inspiring. I can’t ever remember working on something with so many people from so many different areas, where everyone really championed the process.

I don’t think we appreciated the enthusiasm it would mobilise and the pride people would feel. That’s a really powerful thing we can harness moving forwards to further embed sustainability into our business. And because the certification is so broad, everyone can find a role to play.

WHAT WERE THE MAIN CHALLENGES YOU FACED OVER THE JOURNEY?

LINEKE

The scale was sometimes overwhelming. We are a large multinational with over 14,000 employees spread across many different geographies. Even finding the right person to answer a specific question could be tricky. I mean, there were 350 questions to be answered 40 times. That’s 14,000 unique data points with someone responsible for each one. So just managing that immense amount of data was quite something.

SUSANA

I knew it was incredibly comprehensive but I didn’t realise there was that much data to be provided.

Map of world BIA

LINEKE

Yes, that covered the assessments across our five zones. Once all this evidence was consolidated, it was submitted to B Lab for the verification stage to begin. Which then meant more data, more questions, more phone calls and more in depth discussions with B Lab, who showed a real desire to understand exactly how our business works.

The focus on impact became immediately apparent. Saying something is not enough. It is about doing. Take a flexible working policy, for example. The policy itself is not enough: you have to have measurement criteria to show how many of your employees are leveraging this benefit, which in turn says something about your company culture.

SUSANA

It’s like talk the talk and walk the talk too.

LINEKE

Yes, it’s exactly that.

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST SURPRISES ALONG THE WAY?

LINEKE

I think questions about how impact is embedded into our business and the way we make decisions. It’s not just about the sustainability department, it’s about the entire leadership team: do they have specific responsibilities where they need to consider the environmental and social impacts of our operations?

And that’s really powerful. In the same way, how do we recognise the contribution of our employees? Because we really want to move to a model where everyone in the business has elements of sustainability integral to their job. And certification showed me how this could be possible and what that journey could actually look like.

SUSANA

I completely agree. Senior management has to be actively engaged for this level of integration to become the norm. And I think this process has reinforced to a lot of people that sustainability isn’t only about agroforestry or reducing carbon or recycling capsules. It is all this and also about how you treat the people you engage with, the purchasing decisions you make and so on.

LINEKE

Yes. And we’re already evolving our employee benefits and rewards scheme so that every employee will have something directly tied to sustainability. I think this is testament to how serious we are about translating our convictions into action.

WHAT WAS THE MOST MEMORABLE PART FOR YOU PERSONALLY?

LINEKE

It’s probably right now! Achieving certification is something I’ll never forget. But there were many other moments I’ll cherish. These assessments were incredibly hard. There were times when, if I’m honest, it was difficult to just understand the questions being asked. I remember one call with colleagues where I had to admit to not having all the answers and it was a difficult moment.

But later that day someone reached out to say, ‘thanks for supporting us.’ And then again, a few days later, someone messaged to say, ’you’re doing a great job.’ And it was really overwhelming. So, the trust placed in me and the camaraderie I experienced has made the journey especially worthwhile.

SUSANA

Even in the pre-screening it felt like something special was happening, something that would move us as employees and people. And those supportive messages are part of the B Corp philosophy: standing for each other, taking care of each other, and nourishing the right values.

LINEKE

It’s about embedding this philosophy into the hearts of employees. If people understand at a deeper level what this means, you can drive the changes that are needed. I think as a business, you should never underestimate the power of collective action.

WHAT ARE TWO KEY POINTS OTHER COMPANIES THINKING ABOUT JOINING THE MOVEMENT SHOULD CONSIDER?

LINEKE

It’s definitely all hands on deck, so don’t underestimate what is required. Automate your data collection as much as you can, as you will need to go through the exercise again in three years. And secondly, make sure you have strong and committed senior leadership. Without this, you’ll really struggle.

SUSANA

It was key for us. Having our CEO say, ‘this is what we’re going to do’, really drove the process and the journey we’ve been on.

LINEKE

Especially when you consider that there is not a clearly tangible ROI. You embark on this journey because you fundamentally believe it’s the right thing to do and it aligns with your longer term ambitions, not because you hope for some financial outcome at the end. If purpose is peripheral to your goals, then B Corp is probably not for you.

NOW THAT CERTIFICATION HAS BEEN ACHIEVED, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?

LINEKE

It might seem as though this is the end, but really we’re just getting started. In the short term, there’s an improvement plan that we’re rolling out. But engaging with people is equally important. How do we take what we’ve learned and ensure accountability moving forward while also improving our impact?

And we’re now part of the B Corp movement, so it’s about finding our place in this too. That’s exciting – the chance to collaborate with other B Corps, to learn from them and to share what we’re learning too.

I sometimes get people from other companies asking what consumer perceptions might be. And I say, if that’s why you want to get involved with B Corp, you’re missing the point. The logo and having something to write about is just the cherry on top.

Nespresso-B-the-Change-groupe-photo

SUSANA

What we need is a mindset shift – from companies that want to grow to companies that are mindful of how they grow and that consider how they can bring everyone along on the journey. And I mean employees, stakeholders, suppliers, and consumers too.

LINEKE

As I always say, purpose and impact doesn’t need to be at the expense of profit. But the way that you achieve that profit is different – it respects people and the world we live in. It’s simply a better way to do business.