Danone's facility in Wexford is the first baby formula production site in the world to be certified carbon neutral by the Carbon Trust, an independent global climate change and sustainability consultancy.

The food group employs 350 people at the site producing baby and infant formula brands such as  Aptamil and Cow & Gate for consumers in 41 countries.

At peak production, as many as 100 cans of baby formula are produced per minute - more than 100 million units per year from the Wexford site alone.

The plant sustainably manufactures its baby formula by curbing carbon emissions, implementing digital technologies for efficiencies and sustainability performance, supporting the local economy and achieving zero-waste to landfill.

It has saved 10,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide - equal to a 70% reduction in its greenhouse gas emissions compared with ten years ago. This was achieved while doubling the production of baby formula at the plant.

Danone said the milestone achieved at Wexford is a step towards achieving the company's goal of zero net carbon emissions by 2050.

The company said it is also committed to reducing the climate impact of its other baby formula production site in Macroom, Co Cork which relies on natural gas for its energy needs. 

The Environment Health and Safety Manager at Danone said the company had invested €10m in its baby formula production site.

Deirdre Hannon said the plant wanted to build on Danone's global vision which is to "think global but act locally".

A decision was made and a commitment was given almost ten years ago to start by investing in a biomass boiler, meaning 100% of its electricity comes from renewable sources.

The investment happened in 2012 and the boiler went into operation in 2013. Danone secured a local supply of woodchip by partnering and developing an ecosystem project with Kilkenny LEADER Partnership and Irish Wood Producers.

The second stage in the plan saw the replacement of heavy fuel oil boilers with modern, efficient natural gas boilers.

The company also switched to a 100% renewable wind-powered electricity supplier and worked to achieve environmental management system certification.

The new biomass boiler supplies six tonnes of steam per hour which is used for drying out milk powder before it is transformed into infant formula. However, the gas boiler is required as a back-up in case something goes wrong.

Danone works with the Carbon Trust to calculate the emissions produced by the gas boiler and buys credits to offset these emissions. The credit payments are invested in the Carbon Trust's 'Livelihoods Fund' and used to fund stoves for use in African and Asian communities where they are capable of reducing cooking emissions by as much as 60%.

In 2017, Danone achieved zero waste to landfill, so it reduced where it could, re-used, recycled and the remainder was sent for incineration.

Ms Hannon said the company works in the world's leading sustainable grass-fed dairy sectors and work with suppliers focused on reducing CO2 admissions.

The company is also taking account of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with its employees travelling to work by car to offset their carbon footprint and encourages car pooling and cycling, as well as the use of public transport.

Mark Power, Plant Manager at Danone Wexford, confirmed that the switch to carbon neutrality has significantly reduced the operating cost at the high tech site.

"We didn't lose competitiveness. If anything it is the opposite. It has delivered a reduction in day-to-day operational costs."

The Programme for Government commits Ireland to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 51% over the next ten years. The Danone facility has delivered a 100% reduction in emissions in ten years - twice the national target.

Emmanuel Faber, Chairman and CEO of Danone, said that at extraordinary times like these, it is more important than ever to protect the local ecosystems where it operates and create sustainable value for everyone.

"The carbon neutral certification of Danone Wexford is an excellent illustration of implementing climate action to protect health of the planet and of the people," Mr Faber said.

"It is also a step towards realising our commitment to achieving zero net carbon emissions across our entire value chain by 2050 and I truly want to congratulate our people in Wexford for realising an ambitious vision set more than 10 years ago," he added.