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Lofty ambitions

Auckland food manufacturer Loft Foods started out wanting to reduce waste, but that goal quickly evolved into a widespread focus on sustainability – now they’re carbon neutral, and have some key tips for other businesses just getting started.


Based out of South Auckland, food manufacturer Loft makes premium sauces and other convenience products for both the food service industry, and for retail sale.


To stand out in a competitive industry, Managing Director Michael Wafelbakker has increasingly put sustainability at the core the business.


“I’ve always hated wasting anything, and as the business has progressed, we’re increasingly focused on how we can do things in a more sustainable way,” he says.


“While the main driver for us is being part of the solution, and contributing to improving the lives of our people, our customers, and our community, I also think that environmentally sustainable practices will become increasingly legislated, so businesses will need to incorporate them.


“It’s also a good fit with our brand, which is all about delicious, healthy, fresh products.”




The team at Loft knew they wanted to be more sustainable, but also that they needed help to come up with a strategy.


They engaged a sustainability consultant to help plan their approach, which “provided the direction we needed and challenged us to work towards a bigger ambition,” Mr Wafelbakker says.


They decided to work towards The Living Product Challenge framework, which guides manufacturers to create products which are healthy, inspirational and give back to the environment.


“It’s something that might take a business 15 or so years to achieve,” Mr Wafelbakker says, “so we broke it down into achievable steps – the first step for us was to be carbon zero.




To become carbon zero, Loft engaged Toitū Envirocare, which gave them advice on collecting emissions data, and on how to measure their greenhouse gas footprint reliably.



Loft’s Oliver Paterson took on the challenge of leading the process, and he admits the data collection wasn’t easy, at first.


Mr Paterson meticulously went through all of their invoices and supplier bills to collect and calculate freight distances, as well as waste data.


But soon, they hit a speed bump – they realised that, in some areas, they didn’t have data going back far enough to formulate an annual emission return.


It’s an issue that Toitū sees often, and Dr Belinda Mathers, Toitū’s General Manager, says there are ways around it for businesses.


“They need to understand what’s acceptable to use for averaging and what isn’t,” Dr Mathers says.


 “Averaging methods can be used to get that baseline emissions reading established - from there, it’s constant sourcing and refinement of the data.”


Toitū carbon assess is a simple online tool that helps businesses measure their carbon footprint, helping them understand which parts of their operations have the highest impacts, how their footprint has changed over time, and allowing them to benchmark themselves against competitors.

ANZ business customers can receive a 25% discount on the tool by using the discount code ANZDISCOUNT.

Find out more here.




The experience taught Loft that data collection is paramount in an endeavour like this, so upped their data collection to monthly intervals to avoid a large workload at the end of each year.


“Having recent transactions and invoices fresh in mind means that if there are any issues with the data we can resolve them quickly, rather than trying to remember what happened 10 months ago,” Mr Paterson says.


Loft had already done a lot of work in understanding and managing their waste output, so that part of the process was eased by the company already having a Toitū-certified waste management company.


Dr Mathers says carbon emissions measurement has accelerated this year, growing from niche to mainstream, and predicts that trend will continue, “given increasing pressure from regulators, supply chain and customers”.


In November last year, all of the work paid off, with Loft achieving their goal of official Toitū CarbonZero certification.


ANZ New Zealand Managing Director of Business Lorraine Mapu says the bank is proud to have customers like Loft.


“We are in a unique position, through our lending decisions, to support customers and projects that reduce emissions as well as support economic growth,” Ms Mapu says.


“More and more customers are demanding goods from companies that are doing the right thing by the environment, and are increasingly willing to seek out those that are, so Loft’s efforts make excellent business sense.”




Loft are now working to simplify and streamline their measurement processes, including a new IT system which will increase the accuracy of order weights – a key metric for measuring freight emissions.


Longer term, they are looking to extend their sustainability goals into new areas, and are excited at the possibilities.


“Right now, we’re just reducing carbon,” Mr Wafelbakker says, “and that’s critical – but what if we could find ways to sequester carbon?


“We’re just at the start of the journey and people are working on solutions all the time – imagine a world where driving a car actually absorbs carbon from the atmosphere.


“It’s like trying to envision the Internet in 1940 – who knows what the future will look like.”


The key message from Loft, to other businesses looking to reduce their impact on the environment is simple: get started now.


“It’s not just about ticking the boxes,” Mr Wafelbakker says.


“For us, it’s about a journey of continuous improvement – and I don’t think we’ll ever be finished.”


This story features in ANZ's Measuring Your Emissions Insights Report - read the full version here.


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