In Switzerland, dairy cows are part of a sustainable agricultural sector that is adapted to local conditions. As part of a biological cycle, they convert grass that cannot be consumed by humans into nutritious milk for direct human consumption. At the same time, the question arises as to how the dairy industry can further reduce its impact on the climate and ruminants can also be part of a sustainable and land-appropriate agricultural sector in the long term.
According to estimates by the United Nations, the dairy industry is responsible for around 3% of total global CO2 emissions*. This does not make it one of the largest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions; however, solutions do need to be found for the harmful methane emissions produced by cows in particular.
Further progress with respect to climate protection is also in the fundamental interests of local agriculture and the milk processors. After all, according to scenarios by the Federal National Centre for Climate Services**, even in Switzerland, the climate is likely to become even dryer and hotter in future, and will be characterised by even more frequent heavy rainfall, with noticeable to strong corresponding negative impact, depending on the region.
*UN Food and Agriculture Organisation: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and other Land Use 2014
**NCCS National Centre for Climate Services: CH2018 Climate Change Scenarios
A pioneering role in sustainability
“KlimaStaR Milk” aims to create a common basis for a more sustainable, resource-saving and land-appropriate Swiss dairy industry and thus position it for long-term success.
To this end, Nestlé, Emmi, aaremilch and ZMP – four major players in the Swiss dairy industry – have joined forces. Because the initiative aims to improve sustainability in the use of natural resources and its findings promise benefits and impact through the project, this project is also supported with financial assistance by the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG) as part of the Resource Programme for Agriculture (AgricA Art. 77a).
By joining forces, the initiators want to contribute towards further reducing the environmental footprint of milk and thus also of dairy products, and, in turn, also to meet a growing need felt by consumers. To this end, the initiative also starts at the very beginning of the supply chain: milk production itself. Around 300 farms are to be involved in the project and supported by research and milk processors.
20 percent less greenhouse gas emissions
With the help of various measures, the project partners aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from milk production by 20%. To achieve this goal, four key points are being addressed: feed, herd management, energy, and farmyard manure. To measure progress, scientifically based survey methods and specially developed analysis technologies will be used.
The project sponsors have also set ambitious reduction targets of 20% in the feed-food competition, i.e. the situation in which food that would also be suitable for human consumption is used to feed animals. This is the case, for example, when wheat is fed to cows. Land competition occurs when feed comes from cropland that could also be used to grow food. The aim is to reduce these undesirable interactions with the aid of resource-saving feed methods and roughage-based dairy farming.
Positive incentives for dairy producers
Interested producers can now find out more about the initiative and register to take part via a specially set-up website (klimastar-milch.ch). They receive a practical and farm-specific analysis of the carbonfootprint for their milk. This is then used to develop individual, land-appropriate emission reduction strategies. Dairy producers are free to choose what measures they take and receive positive incentives for implementation via an impact-oriented bonus model.
The innovative initiative is intended to run for six years. From the scientifically supported results obtained in this way, all those involved hope to gain partnership-based insights that will allow for implementation of targeted measures beyond the scope of the project and thus help to further reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of the Swiss dairy industry, which are rather moderate by international standards.
The “KlimaStaR Milk” project contributes towards the respective climate ambitions of Emmi and Nestlé, which are both aiming to become climate-neutral by 2050. Both Emmi and Nestlé are pursuing further climate protection targets of their own.
Gabriele Schachermayr, Assistant Director of the FOAG, comments on the initiative: “With this project, solutions for a more climate-friendly dairy industry are to be tested in practice and developed further together with the partners involved in the value chain. The aim is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in dairy production, and at the same time reduce land and food competition. We expect a very large increase in knowledge in this regard. This is important in order to achieve more sustainable, land-appropriate and productive agriculture.”
Marc Heim, Emmi Executive Vice President Switzerland, comments: “Only by working together will we be able to launch effective climate protection solutions. As Switzerland’s leading milk processor, we are aware of our responsibility to operate our business in the most resource-efficient and the most socially and ecologically sustainable way possible. I am convinced that the partnership-based initiative will help us gain a better understanding of complex interrelationships and provide fact-based insights, so that together we can strengthen the tradition of a sustainably oriented Swiss dairy industry also for generations to come.”
Daniel Imhof, Head of Agricultural Affairs at Nestlé Switzerland, says: “Climate protection can only be achieved by joining forces. We are therefore pleased to be able to pull our weight here together with Emmi and make a contribution towards sustainable Swiss dairy farming. Cow’s milk has been an important resource for us since the birth of Nestlé and remains indispensable in the manufacture of infant nutrition and other products at our factory in Konolfingen. We don’t want to replace our cows, but rather help to improve their environmental footprint.”
Thomas Grüter, President of the ZMP, explains: “To reduce greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture, the entire value chain must play its part – from consumption to raw material production. Our milk is produced in and with nature – our dairy cows are part of it. It is therefore in our own fundamental interests to contribute to the climate targets. Milk production here is already grassland-based and land-appropriate. With KlimaStaR, we want to gain further scientifically sound knowledge on possible conflicting targets and for impactful measures to effectively align our milk production in a sustainable way.”
Rudolf Bigler, Chairman of the Board at aaremilch AG and an active milk producer: “Since 2014, aaremilch AG has been strongly committed to climate protection and has done some pioneering work. We do not shy away from tackling complex issues since we are convinced that Swiss milk is a very sustainable and healthy food staple.”
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Emmi is the leading milk processor in Switzerland. The company dates back to 1907, when it was founded by 62 dairy farming cooperatives around Lucerne. Over the past 20 years, Emmi has grown into an international, listed group with a leading market position and strong brand concepts, such as Emmi Caffè Latte and Kaltbach cheese. It has for many years pursued a successful strategy based on three pillars: strengthening its Swiss domestic market, international growth and cost management. Throughout its corporate history, Emmi’s keen awareness of its responsibility to society, animal welfare and the environment has been fundamental to its mission.
In Switzerland, Emmi manufactures a comprehensive range of dairy products for its own brands and private label products for customers, including leading exports such as Emmi Caffè Latte and Kaltbach. In other countries, its products – mainly speciality products – are manufactured locally. Alongside cow’s milk, it also processes goat’s and sheep’s milk. In Switzerland, the Emmi Group has 25 production sites. Abroad, Emmi and its subsidiaries have a presence in 14 countries, 8 of which have production facilities.
Emmi exports products from Switzerland to around 60 countries. Its business activities focus on the Swiss domestic market as well as western Europe and the American continent. Of the annual sales of CHF 3.9 billion – around 10% of which stem from organic products – just over 40% are generated in Switzerland and the remainder in international business. Emmi employs over 9,000 people worldwide, around 70% of whom work at locations outside Switzerland.
Über Nestlé Schweiz
Nestlé Suisse SA ist die schweizerische Tochtergesellschaft der Nestlé-Gruppe, die mit einem Umsatz von CHF 84,3 Milliarden im Jahr 2020 der grösste Lebensmittel- und Getränkeproduzent weltweit ist. Die Gruppe hat ihren Hauptsitz in Vevey VD und verfolgt das Ziel, die Lebensqualität zu verbessern und zu einer gesünderen Zukunft beizutragen.
In der Schweiz betreibt Nestlé 10 Produktionsstandorte sowie 5 Forschungs- und Entwicklungszentren und beschäftigt rund 9'000 Mitarbeitende. Für Konsumentinnen und Konsumenten in der Schweiz und ihre Haustiere stellt Nestlé innovative Produkte unter rund 40 verschiedenen Marken her. Das Portfolio reicht von weltweit bekannten Markenikonen wie Nescafé und Nespresso bis hin zu Schweizer Kultmarken wie Thomy, Cailler oder Henniez. Nestlé Schweiz leistet einen grossen Beitrag an die Schweizer Volkswirtschaft und engagiert sich für die Gesellschaft und den Schutz der Umwelt.
In 1907, the individual milk processing and cheese-making cooperatives around Lucerne joined together to form the Verband der Milchproduzenten von Luzern und Umgebung, the Lucerne and Regional Milk Producers Association, with the intention of creating a self-help organisation. In the first and second half of the 20th century, again for the purposes of self-help, the association entered the milk processing business. Its production facilities were among the most modern and innovative in Switzerland. In 1993, the Central Switzerland Milk Association (MVL) restructured its companies and founded Emmi AG.
By separating its association-related activities from its commercial activities and by forming divisional companies, the association organised itself in a more flexible and market-oriented way. This is how MVL laid the foundations for the Emmi Group, now a globally operating, listed corporation. During the course of the 1990s and in response to the new agricultural policy, the association transferred all operational responsibility for milk processing to the Emmi Group and reorganised itself as ZMP (Central Switzerland Milk Producers Cooperative), which holds the majority of shares in Emmi AG. In addition to its majority stake in Emmi, ZMP (via its wholly owned subsidiary ZMP Invest AG) holds further interests in major and/or regional milk processing companies.
Today, ZMP is a professionally organised cooperative featuring the business areas of milk marketing and services, milk advocacy, marketing and communication, human resources management and finance. With around 2,900 members and a milk volume of around 500 million kilogrammes, ZMP is one of the leading producer organisations in the Swiss dairy industry.
aaremilch AG is a market-oriented milk producers' organization. Around 1700 milk producers, 60 cheese dairies and dairies, mainly from the Bern region, are members and form the solid foundation. Founded on February 23, 2013, aaremilch AG consists of a highly motivated and dedicated team of professionals with in-depth agricultural knowledge and a profound understanding of the dairy industry. Satisfied producers and customers, a high-quality product and a competitive milk price are aaremilch AG's guiding principles.
The regional milk rings form the backbone of aaremilch AG. They are the main shareholders of the company and each member has a say. The contact persons on site are familiar with the respective regional characteristics and can thus optimally represent the interests of the producers in the regions. aaremilch is heavily involved in value-added programs such as Wiesenmilch IP SUISSE, Klimafreundliche Milch KLIR and A2-Urmilch, so that the added value of high-quality Swiss milk can be increased.
The association is a platform for knowledge transfer as well as a contact and information point for energy efficiency, renewable energies and climate protection in agriculture and developes projects and funding in the areas of energy efficiency and climate protection.