The corporate fleet environment is increasingly being called upon to encompass greater safety and greener practices. Recently garlanded for its safety efforts at the Fleet Europe Awards, Nestlé continues to lead by example. Ross Davies meets global fleet solutions manager Andrzej Sacha to find out the secret behind the group’s success.
In its 2013 global status report on road safety, accounting for 182 countries, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that the total number of road traffic deaths "remains unacceptably high at 1.24 million a year".
Furthermore, WHO forecasts that road accidents will be the third most common cause of premature deaths across the world by 2020.
It makes for chilling reading, not least for businesses with global fleet operations, where road safety laws and regulations often vary from country to country.
When Finance Director Europe last caught up with Andrzej Sacha, Nestlé's global fleet solutions manager, he made reference to his company's ongoing drive to improve the safety of its car fleet, with the aim of "bringing down accident rates to zero".
These efforts have seemingly not gone unnoticed. In November of last year, Nestlé was awarded the International Fleet Safety Award at the Fleet Europe Awards. Sacha himself was on hand to pick up the prize at the event hosted in Prague.
Since then, Nestlé, the world's largest food and drink maker, has been busying itself further consolidating its safety policy on a macro scale. Given the group's pervasive market presence - presently divided into three 'zones': the Americas, Europe and Asia, and Oceania and Africa (AOA) - such implementation is no small undertaking.
According to Sacha, the importance of fleet safety is now visible across the entire cultural and operational infrastructure of Nestlé, from boardroom to shop floor.
"There is a strong focus on road safety leadership across the entire company," he explains. "It is something that has trickled down from the board, particularly over the last three years. While safety has always been a priority, today it is a lot more vocalised and is one of the top priorities of the business."
Road safety has been hardwired into Nestlé's cultural DNA through a combination of several measures instilled by CEO Paul Bulcke. As well as encouraging drivers to undertake training programmes, the company has invested in innovative technology able to track, trace and provide analysis of driver performance.
"Regarding fleets, we have just revamped our internal systems," says Sacha. "This allows us to track accidents on a monthly basis. These are then documented in an accident report that is fed into a larger database."
Perhaps Nestlé's biggest boon in this area has been its use of online software, known as Virtual Risk Manager (VRM). Pooling data on a variety of metrics, such as crashes, license information and roadside inspection and combined with telematic information fed from the vehicle, VRM creates a risk score for each driver.
Consequently, Nestlé is then able to indentify high-risk drivers and offer suitable training and support services. By Sacha's estimate, 32,000 personnel across the entire business, have gone through and benefitted from the programme.
"It's a great product for reinforcing safety behaviours, and it's accessible to everybody," says Sacha. "It is engaged with driver training and telematic information, although that can vary from country to country. However, I would say telematics is more applicable to our larger truck fleets as opposed to car fleets."
To ensure complete visibility of its sizeable fleet, which covers networks of highways across multiple international borders, Nestlé's approach is notably decentralised, operating on a local level. This is particularly pertinent in the AOA zone, where it has teamed up with local communities and police agencies in order to gain a more rounded insight into factors around respective driving environments beyond the group's traditional purview.
In West Africa, for instance, it has held discussions with Ghana's Ministry of Transport concerning road safety.
"In regions like Africa and Asia, we need to take into account the needs of our third-party logistics providers," says Sacha. "We, Nestlé, understand that we are just one component of it, so we try to work with local bodies so as to influence external factors. It needs to be holistic, because, at the end of the day, these people on the ground are our consumers."
Stay on target
Safety and sustainability make for natural bedfellows, so it comes as little surprise that Nestlé has made considerable inroads in its green agenda. In 2007, it laid out a five-year target to cut the CO2 emissions of its European fleet to 130g/km; another phase was implemented last year, with the aim of achieving 99g/km by 2018.
How feasible is this? Very, according to Sacha, who believes the group is already well on the way to meeting its environmental objectives.
"The signs look good," he says. "Over the last year, our average was 116 to 117g/km for renewed vehicles, which gives a strong indication that we will at least come within spitting distance of the 99g/km target for 2018."
Stateside, Nestlé is also readying itself for the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standard, as mandated by President Obama. Due in 2016, the directive requires car fleets to have a fuel efficiency of 35.5 miles per gallon (by US measurements).
"In the US, total cost of ownership is a big driver," says Sacha. "And with the new legislation, we might need to bring in new fleet so as to improve our fuel efficiency performance."
Elsewhere, however, green performance - to be precise, measurement of green performance - poses a greater quandary. While Europe and North America have long prioritised the need to cut carbon emissions, Asia, Africa and Latin America are still considered laggardly in their efforts.
As a result, Sacha has recently been charged with the responsibility of liaising with Nestlé's AOA management teams on ways to tackle sustainability.
"Dealing with CO2 in these areas is far trickier," he says. "The concept of CO2 in Asia, for example, is not very well defined at all. So we are going to have to work very hard with local authorities in order to influence them to buy better-quality vehicles. This requires much more visibility on carbon footprints so as to create targets for future reductions.
"There are a number of factors that need to be taken into account in these markets when it comes to fuel, too. For example, petrol is much more popular than diesel with drivers in Asia, so we need to work within these restrictions. In Mexico, one of the big challenges we face is the quality of fuel there - you can have the most efficient vehicles in the world on the road, but poor fuel will always wreck engines."
Returning to fleet safety, Nestlé's approach appears to be underscored by pragmatism and progressiveness. Sacha is quick to point out that, since he last spoke to Finance Director Europe, the group has further bolstered its safety, health and environment department, and has filled a new management position specifically geared towards corporate fleet safety.
"This appointment only goes to show that we are putting more resources behind fleet safety - at the top and at a local level, on a country-by-country basis," he says. "Safety is no longer just a side topic; instead, it's something that's being spoken about all the time. It's an ongoing journey that, in all honesty, will probably never end."