Making Climate Neutral Cheese with CONO

CONO Cheesemakers is the first climate neutral guaranteed dairy organisation in the Netherlands. And therefore the most sustainable cheese factory in our country!

The makers of the well-known Beemster cheese (among other things), follow a triple strategy: save as much energy as possible, generate as much green energy as possible and offset the last bit of emissions. “We have premium farmers who supply premium milk. Only a premium cheese factory fits in with that,” says Grietsje Hoekstra, Sustainability Manager at CONO Cheesemakers.

Climate Neutral Cheese Dairy

The production process at CONO has been climate neutral since 1 January 2020. CONO is the first dairy organisation in our country to be certified by Climate Neutral Group (CNG) as a climate neutral organisation (cheese factory). Attention is paid to people, animals and the environment throughout the entire supply chain, not just in CONO’s cheese factory. Together with partners in the chain (such as livestock farmers, transporters, customers) and civil society organisations, CONO is working towards sustainability. The leading sustainability program Caring Dairy is aimed at making dairy farming more sustainable. CONO rewards their farmers with a premium for participating in the program and also for achieving impactful results.

An Energy-Intensive Process

Cheese making is an energy-intensive process. It is impossible to consume no energy at all in a cheese factory that processes about 400 million kilograms of milk annually. Since ‘every little bit helps’, the cheese makers at CONO make smart choices every day. CNG is monitoring this progress. This makes it possible to ensure that the energy used is green, from renewable sources. Agreements have been made with farmers who are members of the CONO cooperative. Anyone who supplies CONO with the overproduction of electricity from solar panels on the roof of the farm will receive compensation for doing so. There are 440 dairy farmers who are members of the dairy cooperative. More than 34% of these companies now generate their own green electricity. “Our ambition is to eventually generate sufficient green electricity for the entire cheese chain through the members of our dairy cooperative,” says Grietsje Hoekstra.

CO2 Offsetting in Collaboration with Climate Neutral Group

After all the reduction, the cheese factory is still emitting CO2. Using gas for the cheese factory and the necessary fuels for mobility is unavoidable. CONO therefore uses CO2 offsetting to be climate neutral certified as a cheese dairy. For this, CONO works with CNG. Grietsje: “We are now doing that with a VCS REDD+ forest conservation project in Brazil, among other things. This project creates jobs, improves the environment and reduces CO2 emissions.”

The Challenge Lies in the Chain

Even more steps to reduce impact on the climate can be taken within the supply chain. For example, a large part of the CO2 emissions is in milk production. This is mainly due to the fact that cows are ruminants and natural processes such as rumination release methane. The Carbon Footprint, the carbon LCA, of dairy farming is calculated annually per company. Reducing this footprint is a complex task with many different measures. The Caring Dairy program is working on this by providing tools for reducing methane emissions, among other things. With a lower footprint or an annual improvement, a CONO Caring Dairy participant is rewarded with a result premium on the milk price received. In this way, CONO is actively working with its farmers on future-proof dairy farming.

Grietsje Hoekstra: “We are proud of the steps we have already taken to reduce our CO2 emissions and are committed to doing more every year. The CNG Climate Neutral standard helps us in monitoring and adjusting our reduction measures in line with the Paris Climate Agreement.”

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