Countering climate change by protecting wetlands
What we know
Wetlands support exceptional biodiversity, act as natural flood defences, and remove carbon from the atmosphere into the ground through water systems and wetter soil.
Alarmingly, wetlands are being lost three times faster than the destruction of forests.
Danone’s infant nutrition site at Macroom in southwest Ireland is one of the biggest supply points in the company’s network.[i] The site is also just 300 metres from one of Ireland’s key wetlands – The Gearagh, a protected nature reserve.
A 2019 site inspection by The Wetland Surveys Ireland found Danone’s impact on The Gearagh was already nature positive. But risks and recommendations were also highlighted.
Danone site’s close proximity to The Gearagh made it likely to be visited by protected species, such as water birds.
The importance of protecting and preserving native treelines on the site and, also, the potential to ensure food and habitats for visiting wildlife by minimising grass mowing and introducing pollinator-friendly flowerbeds were also apparent.
As a founding member of the One Planet Business for Biodiversity (OP2B) coalition, which was launched at the UN General Assembly in September 2019 to protect and restore cultivated and natural biodiversity, Danone takes its environmental responsibilities seriously.[ii]
It also runs One Planet Champion, an annual Dragon’s Den-style internal competition through which staff in Macroom are invited to pitch sustainability ideas.
So in response to the The Wetland Surveys Ireland’s Macroom findings, Danone knew it had to act.
What we’re doing
Working in partnership with the All-Ireland Pollinator Plan (AIPP) – an initiative to create an Ireland where pollinators can thrive and survive – Danone created a wildflower zone on-site to be mown just once a year, each autumn.
Wooded areas on the site were also enhanced and an insect hotel was constructed.
Bare patches of land were rewilded with flower seed – a process undertaken with the help of local schoolchildren. Company employees were involved in planting wildflower gardens and 700 new native Irish trees in 2020.
What it’s worth
The 700 new native Irish trees, wildflower gardens and woodland area maintenance have further increased biodiversity and created new habitats and food.
The combined actions help to support local protected species and increase the area’s pollinators. The woodland now also serves as a wellness space for staff.
Danone now plans to rewild further areas of the Macroom site with the support of the AIPP. It also has a broader ambition to produce healthy food which contributes to protecting biodiversity through regenerative agriculture practices in various countries around the world.
As a people-powered company, getting our staff involved in our biodiversity efforts has been the key. The changes we made not only benefit biodiversity, but also make the factory a nicer work environment for our staff. We know that reversing the decline in pollinators cannot be achieved overnight, but by spreading awareness about the biodiversity challenges we face and encouraging others to make small changes in our own gardens and local areas, to improve our habitats and ecosystems, together we can make a big differenceMichael Herlihy Health, Safety and Environment Manager, Danone Macroom