CFO Bradley Wentzel is shepherding Douglasdale Dairy’s unique ESG journey

How Douglasdale Dairy is changing the narrative for a traditionally non-sustainable industry.

Operating in the basic foodstuff industry, which predominantly packages in plastic and is traditionally a large emitter of greenhouse gases, Douglasdale Dairy’s ESG journey has been quite unique.

CFO Bradley Wentzel explains that the dairy has to consider its ESG impact across three main aspects: sustainable sourcing, sustainable operations, and sustainable customer and staffing mindset – “much like the fabled ‘Triple Bottom line’ approach”.

The triple bottom line
Douglasdale Dairy’s main operations all rely on cows, known to be one of the most prominent greenhouse gas emitters. Brad explains that the dairy has worked with its farmers to assist in reducing its carbon footprint through subsidised government initiatives.

“Plastic and bottles are also heavy pollutants in the environment and, when it comes to packaging our products, we have a responsibility to our customers and the rest of the world to actively assist in reducing waste in these areas,” he says, adding that the dairy constantly works with its bottle producers to create the most efficient and least harmful bottle for its products.

Brad explains that Douglasdale Dairy has taken an active approach to encourage the recycling of plastic and bottles that its products come in, and has implemented reverse vending facilities at major retailers. “With these facilities, we hope to drive a culture of change with the South African consumer where they return a plastic bottle when purchasing a new bottle of our milk, and earn rewards and benefits while doing so!”

The Douglasdale Dairy vision is to “fight hunger and malnutrition by creating an affordable product for as many people as possible”, Brad says. This mindset, he explains, is at the forefront of all the dairy’s staff and in everything it does daily. “As an executive team, we make sure we breathe this into all our contacts and team members to make sure they fly the same flag in all their interactions.”

An ESG culture inculcator
And, as the CFO, Brad is an integral part of the culture inculcators in the organisation. “Firstly, we work with our farmers and tax authorities to understand the government initiatives available to them. Then we educate and implement these GHG-saving initiatives with all our suppliers,” he explains.

Secondly, he says, they do this through understanding the use of water, electricity and other consumables that would impact the environment as a result of the dairy’s operations, and how Douglasdale Dairy can play its part in reducing its use of these critical resources for the betterment of the country as a whole.

“Lastly, we do this through constant communication with the staff, customers and suppliers on the topic of sustainability, and championing the topic internally,” he adds. Brad is the chairman of the social and ethics committee in the business, which means ESG is even more prevalent in his day-to-day operations and interactions. “In these regular meetings, I assist in the facilitation and implementation of the strategic ESG initiatives that the business undertakes and make sure we are staying true to our ethos as a sustainable producer.”

Wax lyrical about food waste
Brad explains that he is well-versed in food waste and can “wax lyrical” for hours about it. “My doctorate is on the reduction of food waste in the retail channel, as 30 percent of all food that gets produced gets wasted. In a country with 46 percent unemployment, imagine what we could do if we repurpose that!”

In fact, as part of his doctoral studies, Brad wrote a proposal to reduce the supply chain waste of eggs, meat and dairy products in South African production, distribution and retail, which would in turn prove beneficial for society.

“We all operate in the same ecosystem, all utilising the same resources, which are limited,” Brad notes. “It is therefore incumbent on each of us to respect and repair where we can. The world is currently using more resources than the Earth has the ability to regenerate, meaning that if we don’t all act in unison, we will be causing significant problems for our children, grandchildren and their children.”