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The authority on gender empowerment in business for nearly 20 years.

Nestlé is committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women in all aspects

Written by Staff Writer

March 20, 2023

By Sinazo Mkoko

At the 2022 Standard Bank Top Women awards, Nestlé was awarded the Standard Bank Top Woman Business of the Year award – a prestigious award that is given to an organisation that has a track record of championing gender empowerment and transformation. The winner of this award has proven skills development successes and a strategy to advance women within the business.

The Chairperson & Managing Director of Nestlé East & Southern Africa Region, Nicole Roos, shares what the company is doing differently to set it apart from its competitors. 

Nestlé was awarded the Standard Bank Top Woman Business of the Year 2022 and Standard Bank Woman Business in Youth Development 2022. What do these accolades mean to the company?

Our purpose is to “unlock the power of food to enhance quality of life, for everyone today and for generations to come”. We do this by unlocking the power of food through good: good living, good communities, good planet and good business. Doing good for us is about Creating Shared Value.

It is about using our resources to enable better nourishment and health, protect our natural resources, help build resilient communities and impact consumers’ lives with brands driven by purpose. 

2022 was yet another year that allowed us to demonstrate how we can sustainably meet shareholder expectations while helping to address global and local societal challenges. This is at the heart of Creating Shared Value, as we become a force for good that enhances the quality of life for everyone. As a business, we focused our energy and resources where we can make the greatest positive impact on people and the planet. 

Nestlé is striving to co-create a resilient future for the planet and its people. This means supporting the development of food systems that aim to protect, renew and restore the environment, improving the livelihoods of farmers and enhancing the resilience and well-being of farming communities. 

We know this is an ambitious journey that we cannot do alone and we thank each of our partners for recognising our potential!


The Standard Bank Top Women awards entries are open 



What is Nestlé doing differently from its competitors?

Nestlé is committed to promoting gender equality and empowering women in all aspects of our business operations. One of the key ways that Nestlé differentiates itself from our competitors in the region is through our “Women’s Empowerment Module,” which is a part of our “Creating Shared Value” programme. This module is designed to address the unique challenges faced by women in the workplace and supply chain and to provide them with the support and resources they need to succeed.

Through this module, we are providing training and development opportunities for women in our workforce, including leadership training and mentorship programmes. We are also working closely with our suppliers to ensure that they are promoting gender equality and providing safe and empowering working conditions for women in their own operations.

Additionally, we support women entrepreneurs and help them to grow their businesses. We are providing financial support, training, and other resources to help these women succeed and become leaders in their communities.

Overall, Nestle’s approach to women empowerment in the East and Southern Africa region is holistic and comprehensive, and we are committed to making a positive impact on the lives of women in the communities where we operate.

Please touch on the company’s commitment to using global scale, resources and expertise to contribute to a healthier future for people and the planet. 

Nestlé has shown its commitment to contributing to a healthier future for people and the planet through various initiatives and actions, including:

Nutrition, Health and Wellness: Nestlé is committed to providing consumers with healthier and tastier food and beverage options. We have set global nutrition and health targets for all of its products, which include reducing salt, sugar, and saturated fat while increasing the amount of essential nutrients like vitamins and minerals. For example, we have developed products tailored to local tastes and preferences, such as Maggi Mchuzi Mix, which is a seasoning mix that is popular in East Africa.

Sustainability: Nestlé is focused on minimising its environmental impact across its value chain. We have set ambitious sustainability targets to achieve zero net greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and are actively working to reduce the use of water, energy, and waste. For example, in 2020, Nestlé launched a program to plant 3 million trees in Kenya as part of our efforts to combat deforestation.

Responsible Sourcing: Nestle is committed to responsible sourcing of its ingredients, including improving the livelihoods of farmers and promoting sustainable agriculture practices. We have established various initiatives and partnerships to support responsible sourcing, including the Nescafé 2030 Plan, which aims to improve the lives of coffee farmers and ensure the sustainability of coffee production.

Corporate Social Responsibility: We have established various initiatives and partnerships to support social and economic development to improve livelihoods through a water and sanitation project in Kenya, which aims to provide access to clean water and sanitation facilities to over 10,000 people.

Overall, we are committed to using global scale, resources, and expertise to contribute to a healthier future for people and the planet is demonstrated through its efforts in nutrition, health and wellness, sustainability, responsible sourcing, and corporate social responsibility.

Please share some of the company’s milestones over the last two years.

Empowering gender is a vital part of our approach, and more specifically, women. Our goal is to ensure women feel supported, valued and respected. We have been working to balance the gender makeup of our workforce, and are actively creating a gender-balanced leadership, by increasing the proportion of women in managerial positions, including in our most senior executive posts. 

Outside our own operations, in the agricultural communities that cultivate and process our raw materials, we are also working to change the economic, social and cultural outlook for women through a host of different programs that aim to teach the skills required to increase farms’ productivity, build better businesses and improve livelihoods.

We are proud of the progress we have made so far to empower women, particularly within our own workforce. We are determined to maintain the pace of change. To help that purpose we also look to other companies, working in partnership to hold up a mirror to ourselves and ensure we can collectively progress. 

But we know there is more to be done, particularly within our supply chains. We have learned there is a clear link between higher levels of women’s education and reduced risks of child labour. Stressing the importance of remaining in education, providing literacy and numeracy courses and running tailored agricultural training programs are all part of our efforts to support women, their families and wider communities. We remain committed to furthering the prospects of women as key agents of change towards a regenerative food system.

We constantly review our policies and guidance documents to ensure they reflect the latest thinking on sensitive issues, evidenced by our Policy Against Discrimination, Violence and Harassment at Work, and ongoing training on unconscious bias. We have also put in place Global Guidance for Providing Support to Employee Victims of Domestic Violence or Abuse.

With 27.2% of our top senior executive positions held by women; we are on track to achieve our 30% target in 2022. Our pipeline of high-calibre females is strong, with 43.8% of managerial positions currently held by women. We have been working to balance the gender makeup of our workforce. As well as company-wide initiatives, we have tailored programmes to increase workplace diversity. In 2021, we rolled out training on unconscious bias and preventing sexual harassment in the workplace and we aim to train at least 90% of all our employees globally by end-2022. We assessed our 2020 Equal Pay Analysis with positive results and now plan to conduct this annually, supporting our 2018 pledge to accelerate equal pay for equal work.


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What are some of the hurdles the company has faced and how were they overcome?


Sheer determination and focus on our key priorities. Similar to other businesses, we have had to negotiate the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on our employees, the communities we operate in, our business partners and directly our business. We have navigated this by focusing on three areas, people, communities and our business. In 2020, Nestlé ESAR sent 306 healthcare workers on a course in paediatric nutrition offered by Boston University School of Medicine and supported by Nestlé Nutrition Institute Africa. In addition, In South Africa, we contributed R1 million towards nutritional content development for Lifestyle Orientation textbooks for high school learners, further strengthening our ties with the Department of Basic Education. We took part in the MPO (milk producers organisation) project, through which dairy farmers donated 1% of their milk or milk income to be converted into dairy products by their milk buyers. Products were donated to communities affected by covid-19. As Nestlé we have been intentional in overcoming these challenges and it is what continues to anchor us today.


How has the company implemented gender development in the workplace?


At Nestlé, we strive to make our business a great place to work – now and in the future. We want to foster an attractive and fulfilling environment offering exciting opportunities and varied careers. Every aspect of how we treat our employees is rooted in respect and we bring our purpose and values to life through our diverse and inclusive workforce. In addition, we recognise that employee health is fundamental to a strong business. Healthier employees tend to be happier, more engaged, higher performing and more productive. 

As stated by the International Labour Organisation, as much as being a public health crisis the COVID-19 pandemic has been an employment and social crisis. It has had unequal effects on different groups of people. Our approach to our people has since been realised through five key areas: 1) Attracting, developing and retaining talent while preparing our workforce for the needs of our future business; 2) Building a better business that is inclusive and equal for genders, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ communities and all races and ethnicities; 3) Inspiring and empowering our people to choose a healthier future for themselves, their families and our business while providing a healthy working environment; 4) Inspiring and empowering our people to choose a healthier future for themselves, their families and our business while providing a healthy working environment; and 5) Inspiring and empowering our people to choose a healthier future for themselves, their families and our business while providing a healthy working environment. 

Our Gender Balance Acceleration Plan aims to increase the proportion of women in our top senior executive posts. We carefully monitor our succession planning to ensure that we have the right pipeline for our most critical business roles and provide career support and guidance through our Senior Leader Development Roadmap (Corporate Mentoring Programme, Senior Leaders Development Assessment Center and Senior Executive Programme). 

In 2021, it became clear that continually adapting how employees work – physical versus remote working or other methods of physical distancing – has become an everyday reality. At Nestlé, we responded to this shift.

Please share the company’s youth development initiatives and how have they improved your organisation.


As we have seen, one major trend since the start of 2020 has been the negative effect on young people and employment. Nestlé’s focus on youth has meant this cannot be overlooked: we wanted to find a way to provide young people with training and employment opportunities during these difficult times. 

Much of our work in this area takes place through the Nestlé needs YOUth (NNY) programme, which provides the training and resources young people need to improve their employability and nurture their entrepreneurial talent. For several years, NNY has been helping secure the next generation of farmers in our supply chain by identifying and training young people as agripreneurs. Our work to create opportunities for young people is managed centrally by a youth project lead. It has three pillars of activity: Agripreneurship, Entrepreneurship and Employability, which aims to help young people gain access to apprenticeships, traineeships and job opportunities – to date we have created Over 500 job opportunities. In addition, we are bringing businesses together in support of youth. 

In Africa, Youth is a critical area due to 365 of young people aged 18-24 in Sub-Saharan Africa are of the youth are either in unstable employment, unemployed or looking for work. Therefore, Nestlé’s along with ABB, Nielsen, Adcorp Group and Publicis Group started the Alliance for YOUth – a business-driven movement which aims to promote a better transition from education and training to increase youth employment & employability for those below 30 years of age. Since the early 2019 launch, collectively, our alliance partners have offered more than 200 development opportunities for the youth in Sub-Saharan Africa. Our ALL4YOUTH International Youth Day (IYD) Celebration attracted over 1,541 ESAR youth registrations for the Gallup Coaching event on IYD. 

The Nestlé Hatcher is a ground-breaking, open-innovation platform offering innovators and start-up businesses opportunities to work with the food manufacturing company to collaborate, in solving some of the current business challenges by bringing different yet complementary skill sets. Our fundamental goal has resulted in over 500 start-up registrations, which will see the finalist proceed to pilot their proposed solution, with assistance from Nestlé along the way, which includes mentorship, business, technology support and industry expertise.

We continued working toward our 2030 commitment to help 10 million young people around the world have access to economic opportunities, and 1 million within Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2022, in our East & Southern Africa Region (ESAR) Nestlé ESAR collaborated with The Branson Center for Entrepreneurship in South Africa to launch the AgriPitch competition. The competition presented an opportunity for youth Agripreneurs to share their journey and business model to stand a chance to win mentorship and coaching opportunities through the Branson Centre’s IGNITE Investor Readiness and Go-To-Market Programme; 649 entries were received from young entrepreneurs across ESAR and the top 3 Winners were announced on 25th August 2022. 

For our Internal Youth Month series, we had 1,554 Gallup Coaching 1 ESAR youth registrations for the event on International Youth Day (IYD) on 12th August 2022; 100 youth in person and 30+ joined online attending the ALL4YOUTH International Youth Day Celebration – Creating a World for All Ages #TheCareerHookUp. With our additional youth platform, we had participation in the Youth Empowerment Platform (YEP) that showcased 2 events – SAR Entrepreneurship drive with Technicians & African Youth Day celebration.

Is the private sector doing enough to support and grow excellent women leaders? 

Every company and person has a role to play in accelerating the pipeline of future leaders. 

What exciting plans do you have for 2023? 

Watch the space!

The Top Women Leaders publication has been South Africa’s leading gender-empowerment publication, listing and celebrating visionary organisations that prioritise gender empowerment as integral to their growth and success. Read the 17th edition here: 



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