The case for good — Nestlé’s 100 years of continued success

Nestlé traces its sustainable business journey from 1867 to its future-focused purpose

16 October 2020 - 16:00 By Bruno Olierhoek
The case for good is clear: ‘At Nestlé, Good food, Good life is Good business’.
The case for good is clear: ‘At Nestlé, Good food, Good life is Good business’.
Image: Supplied/Nestle

According to a study by Credit Suisse, the average age of a company listed on the S&P 500 fell from almost 60 years in the 1950s to less than 20 years today. This is probably an accurate reflection of corporate longevity around the world.

In an environment of exponential change, evolving socio-economic contexts, volatility in geopolitics, and a convergence of various domains, it’s no surprise corporations are under pressure to balance the delicate periods between survival, thriving and extinction.

At Nestlé, we believe that for a company to be sustainable and create value for shareholders in the long term, it must create value for the society in which it operates. This is the tenet of our “creating shared value” business approach, which is built on the conviction that business can be a force for good, by simultaneously creating value for shareholders and for society.

Our ability to maximise long-term value by accelerating growth and consistently meeting and anticipating our consumers’ needs through innovation, is another reason we’ve managed to thrive for over a century. This has been our approach right from the start of Nestlé.

Inventor Henri Nestlé.
Inventor Henri Nestlé.
Image: Supplied/Nestle

The Nestlé story began in Vevey, Switzerland in 1867, when inventor Henri Nestlé learnt about a premature baby that could not be breastfeed. This was an era of high infantile mortality due to lack of breast milk alternatives. Nestlé decided to feed the child his newest formula creation, Farine Lactée, which was the only thing the baby could digest. The baby survived.

The story of Nestlé’s birth encapsulates the values of innovation and enhancing quality of life that have been the bedrock of the company’s continued prosperity. 

The Nestlé story began in Switzerland in 1867.
The Nestlé story began in Switzerland in 1867.
Image: Supplied/Nestle

Henri Nestlé’s success spread rapidly, and through determination, commitment and a pioneering spirit, he built a  business that continues to thrive all over the world today.

In SA, Nestlé has been in business for well over 100 years, delighting consumers with tasty and nutritious products.

We are proud to have been part of South Africans’ lives for generations. We have been invited into their homes, been part of their meal occasions, and our brands have become iconic heritage brands, well appreciated and loved.

When asked how we’ve managed to survive in a challenging market such as SA, the answer is simple: We have stayed true to our purpose and allowed this to be the guiding beacon of what we do. We have managed to build the case for good in our business.

The case for good is a clear case: “At Nestlé, Good food, Good life is Good business”.    

Good food helps children grow strong, pets thrive, parents age gracefully, and everyone live life to the fullest. Good food also respects our planet and protects resources for future generations. We constantly explore and aim to push the boundaries of what’s possible with food, beverages and nutritional health solutions, to enhance quality of life and contribute to a healthier future.

There is also a firm acknowledgment that what is good today will not be good enough tomorrow. Case in point is the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. This black-swan event has redefined the world without warning. This cataclysmic pandemic sent markets into free fall, collapsed economies and placed profound threats to our social and personal liberties. The aftermath has left us pondering what has happened to our world and when we will return to a semblance of normality — wondering what normal or the new normal means.

The pandemic forced many businesses to pivot their business models. It has fundamentally accelerated business transformations in a way we could not have imagined. The key way in which we have had to navigate the pandemic has been in entrenching resilience in our organisation. We realised early on that to ensure the survival of our business, adapting to this newfound reality would be part of the building blocks of the new complexion of our organisation beyond the pandemic.

We have had to embrace technology and digital transformation at a much quicker pace and adapt our ways of working to fit into a world of work that has gone almost completely virtual. These have become non-negotiable traits in managing businesses and future-proofing organisations for continued success

Having said that, being future-focused and inculcating a culture of learning where there is curiosity and desire for innovation, have been the hallmark of successful organisations.

Our purpose statement at Nestlé is: “We unlock the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for generations to come”. This will continue to be our guiding beacon. The case for good is one we will continue to embrace, bring to life and always strive for, because the case for good has been fundamental to over a century of continued success.  

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About the author: Bruno Olierhoek is chair and MD at Nestlé East & Southern Africa region.

This article was paid for by Mazda.