Q&A: How One Leading Company Supports the Circle of Life

The CEO of the Nespresso Sustainability Innovation Fund points to the future of sustainability.
Feb 9, 2017 12:00 PM ET

Guillaume Le Cunff | Nespresso 

The circular economy is a shift from the current take-make-waste approach to a more resource-friendly, use-recover-regenerate model.

Here, Guillaume Le Cunff, president of Nespresso USA and CEO of the Nespresso Sustainability Innovation Fund, explains why sustainability is important to the company and how UPS helps contribute to the movement.

Why did Nespresso choose to be involved with the circular economy and a higher degree of sustainability? How has that choice impacted Nespresso’s business?

Our sustainability approach is unique in that it is completely embedded across our operations. This holistic approach, driven together with many business and NGO partners, reflects our vertically integrated business model, ensuring sustainability from the sourcing of the coffee through to the end of life of our products.

The choice to place sustainability at the heart of our business aligns with our “Creating-Shared-Value” approach. We are deeply committed to finding ways to safeguard farmers’ welfare, a consumer’s cup of coffee and our company’s future.

We recognize we cannot solve the challenges of the complex coffee supply chain in isolation, so we engage with partners that have different skill sets, experience and knowledge to drive relevant impactful projects.

The result has been a successful and growing business in which our consumers can count on us to always deliver a quality coffee experience.

Can you talk about how UPS enabled Nespresso to expand its circular economy efforts?

Through our collaboration with UPS, we are able to bring capsule recycling options to more consumers throughout the U.S. In fact, with the recent expansion of our collaborative efforts, we now have 100 percent collection capacity for used capsules in the contiguous United States.

Nespresso offers pre-paid recycling bags for consumers to mail back their used capsules to be recycled. Consumers can bring their bags to more than 88,000 drop-off locations or to any UPS driver.

They can also recycle used capsules at over 500 collection points at Nespresso Boutiques across the country and at drop-off locations at select retail partners. I’ll add that UPS made sure that the recycling bags are compliant to ship used capsules — and helped us design the bags.

Have you faced any challenges adopting sustainability practices to a nationwide program? How did you overcome them?

We are constantly looking to innovate and offer new options for consumers to recycle their capsules. Finding the right partners to help us do this takes time.

While we would like to enhance our programs as quickly as possible, we also must ensure that we take the time needed to design the best options for our consumers. We believe this is exactly what we have done with our collaboration with UPS.

What lessons in sustainability and logistics have you learned over the last few years that you plan to apply to the next few years?

We have learned that we need to consistently evaluate our programs to ensure we are providing the best solutions possible. When we do this, we discover new opportunities to broaden our sustainability efforts, like expanding our engagement with UPS.

Thoughts on how to motivate other businesses — and consumers — to increase participation in a circular economy?

As shifting consumer behavior is not an easy task, we continue to work to encourage more consumers and businesses to recycle their used capsules through education and outreach.

Recycling is a shared responsibility, so we engage with consumers and businesses but also with governments and recycling and waste companies.

Guillaume Le Cunff is the president of Nespresso USA and CEO of the Nespresso Sustainability Innovation Fund.

This article first appeared on The Wall Street Journal and was republished with permission.