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Member Spotlight: Nespresso

BCA speaks to Nespresso about its 30-year sustainability journey.



Mary Child, Sustainability Lead, Nespresso UK and ROI

Founded in 1986, Nespresso is the iconic pioneer of high-quality portioned coffee. In the UK & Ireland, the brand operates 45 boutiques, alongside its e-commerce platform, delivering barista-level coffee experiences to both at-home and professional customers. From sourcing through to recycling, sustainability is at the core of Nespresso’s business – cemented further by its recent certification as a B Corp™.

We spoke to Mary Child, Sustainability Lead, Nespresso UK&ROI, to understand more about the business’s 30-year sustainability journey and its future ambitions. Mary also shares insight for other BCA members keen to accelerate their sustainability efforts.

Can you tell us about Nespresso’s sustainability journey to date?

BCA Quote

Our firm belief that coffee can be a force for good is something that is central to how we operate at Nespresso. Sustainability is at the heart of our business model and has been for more than 30 years.

The development of the Nespresso AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, in partnership with NGO the Rainforest Alliance has played a huge part. Launched in 2003, our program supports more than 120,000 farmers in 15 countries across the world, in reducing the environmental impact of coffee farming and safeguarding their land for the future. We source 93% of our coffee through the AAA Sustainable Quality™ Program, with almost half certified with Rainforest Alliance or Fairtrade.

In the UK, we’ve also been working to recycle coffee pods for over 10 years. Nespresso capsules are made of aluminium, an infinitely recyclable material that is recirculated into the aluminium supply chain. Aware of the challenges involved with recycling, we’ve worked in partnership with manufacturers and circularity experts to address these. Setting up our own dedicated recycling scheme has allowed us to use our expertise to contribute to the wider coffee industry too, and we’re now proud co-founders of the Podback scheme, the UK’s first industry-wide coffee pod recycling project.

We know there’s more progress to be made, but our recent B Corp certification is clear recognition of our commitment and the many important steps Nespresso has already taken. Being a B Corp will guide our future actions, inspiring us to go further, do more and scale our impact, aided by the passion and dedication of our teams, both in the UK and around the world.

Tell us about some of the exciting projects in the UK that have contributed to Nespresso’s sustainability achievements?

Reflecting our 30-year commitment to sustainability, transparency and responsible business, we have always embraced the ethos of doing business the right way.

Focusing solely on the UK and Irish markets, Nespresso has been at the forefront of capsule recycling – starting with the launch of the brand’s dedicated recycling scheme in 2010, through to co-founding Podback in 2021 with Nestle and JDE.

Following Podback’s first year of operation, used capsules from 11 different coffee capsule brands can now be easily recycled via a nationwide Collect+ drop-off service, as well as kerbside collection in seven local authority areas – already reaching over 1.25 million local residents. The scheme is going from strength-to-strength, with Morrisons becoming the first retailer to come onboard. Consumers can now access free Podback recycling bags from the supermarket’s 497 stores across the UK. And from Spring/Summer 2022, Podback bags will be available in all 462 Pret A Manger stores nationwide.

Globally, we also launched Reviving Origins in 2019 – a programme designed to restore coffee farming in regions where it is under threat, due to conflicts, economic hardships or environmental disasters.

As part of this programme, in 2021, we launched two new coffees in the UK. From the Democratic Republic of Congo, we introduced KAHAWA ya CONGO, the first organic blend in this range, and the first Cuban blend under the programme, named CAFECITO de CUBA for the Original range and CAFÉ de CUBA for the Vertuo range.

These rare coffees are virtually unknown and have been slowly disappearing for decades. As a result of Nespresso’s investment and the commitment of our partners, coffee farmers in these regions are now starting to rebuild sustainable livelihoods, restore their local economies and bring much-needed development to their rural communities.

Nespresso UK & ROI is also supporting global efforts to achieve carbon neutrality by the end of 2022. Our offices in Gatwick and York are powered by 100% renewable energy, as well as all boutiques where the energy supply is managed by Nespresso.

What does B Corp certification mean for Nespresso, and for customers?

Certified B corporations are verified to meet high standards of social and environmental performance, transparency, and accountability, and we’re proud to have joined this community of purpose-driven, like-minded businesses that are striving to do business the right way – for the people who work for their businesses and in their supply chains, and for the communities where they operate.

For our customers, it is our actions, not the certification itself that is the most important. Becoming a B Corp highlights the positive impact we’ve made in the coffee industry and beyond since Nespresso was founded and gives our customers confidence that they are buying from, and working with, an ethical, transparent brand.

Building on the sustainability work that has been pivotal to our business, the B Corp™ certification will inspire us to do more. It strengthens our commitment to our vision that every cup of Nespresso coffee can be a force for good.

What advice would you give to other BCA members looking to improve their sustainability credentials?

Within the coffee industry, there are two primary climate challenges we face – one is how we source coffee and manufacture our products, the other is how we encourage customers to dispose of our products in the most responsible, circular way.

I’d encourage members to recognise the importance of collaboration when tackling these challenges. These are big issues, and we can be more effective if we seek solutions together.

Podback is a clear example of this, and it’s been fantastic to see the programme develop as more brands, retailers and local authorities get on board. Whether for spent coffee grounds or recycled aluminium, the move towards a more circular economy provides endless opportunities for innovation.

We must all play our part to protect the vital ecosystems coffee sources, and coffee farming communities rely on. Mitigating against the impacts of climate change is key, whether that’s working together across the industry to find solutions to bigger problems or advocating within your business to turn words into action, we can all take steps, big and small, to positively impact the environment and drive real change.

What does a typical day look like for you?

I am responsible for driving the brand’s sustainability agenda forward in the UK & ROI – from developing Nespresso’s roadmap towards carbon neutrality and beyond to net zero, to leading Podback on behalf of Nespresso.

As part of this, I get to work with so many different teams across the business to support them in implementing sustainability practices across their operations. Some days this may mean advising on how we bring a sustainability project to life or ensuring that it ties into wider global Nespresso programmes, like our project with Pur Projet to implement agroforestry in coffee producing regions, to ensure the biggest impact. Other days I will be liaising with our partners or the global Nespresso sustainability network, working together to plan out our next steps and ensure we meet our commitments.  The B Corp certification has also played a big part in my role as it’s a rigorous process and one that we started in the UK at the beginning of 2021.

How long have you been a member of the BCA and what is the benefit to being a member?

The business has been a member for a long time as it plays such a crucial role in the coffee industry community and we really value being a part of that. We need organisations like this to bring the industry together, create awareness of the key challenges we face and help all aspects of the coffee industry to thrive.

Being part of an organisation that brings together the industry, shares knowledge on how we can provide the fairest view of coffee with key stakeholders, while working together to ensure the long-term resilience of coffee is a crucial reason to be a member.

I’m also a representative on sustainability for the British Coffee Association and would encourage members to use the BCA network, its resources and events it provides to expand your knowledge, learn from what others across the industry are doing and to get support with your own sustainability journey.

What do you love most about working in the coffee industry?

The elements that really stand out for me are collaboration and innovation. The growth the industry has seen in the past decade has been phenomenal and the whole industry has embraced not only the consumer demand, but the love for coffee we now see in the UK.

While the popularity of coffee remains consistent, the industry is listening and adapting to strive to meet changing consumer priorities. Everything from ensuring we continue to implement the highest standards for sustainable and ethical coffee to a demand for solutions for coffee pod and cup recycling, consumers expect more from the coffee industry and we’re not afraid to listen and make changes.

What we’ve discovered in the past few years is that we know we must come together as an industry to achieve these wider goals. Podback is only successful because it is a cross industry collaboration and without bringing together the knowledge of industry experts, we wouldn’t be able to achieve our ambition of ensuring every coffee capsule enjoyed is given a second life.

Having recently joined the B Corp movement, which brings together innovative and passionate businesses, collaboration continues to be the watchword for Nespresso. We’re looking forward to working with and learning from others and create new partnerships that can inspire change and seek to transform the world for the better.

Our thanks to Mary Child, Sustainability Lead at Nespresso UK & ROI and all at Nespresso.