Sustainability Watch - Brian Shuttleworth, Heinz
Heinz's 'Grown, not made' slogan could spark interest of mainstream consumers in sustainability
In the first Sustainability Watch of 2012, Ben Cooper discusses Heinz's sustainability strategy with Brian Shuttleworth, the company's director of operational risk and sustainability, and looks at how Heinz's knack for creating catchy taglines is helping to communicate the sustainability message to consumers.
Advertising copywriters earn their corn by distilling an idea, whether it is a brand identity, a company ethos or a political message, into a single phrase that will somehow make a connection with the public.
When Heinz launched a revamped label for its iconic ketchup brand in the US in 2009, the tagline 'Grown, not made' was introduced.
Whether this phrase will ever establish itself in the consumer consciousness in the way that '57 Varieties' or 'Beanz Meanz Heinz' did remains to be seen. But as Heinz seeks to embed sustainability into its business 'from farm to fork', it is unquestionably a tagline for our times.
Only a year before, Heinz had unveiled ambitious targets across a range of sustainability criteria, such as greenhouse gas emissions, waste and water consumption. In its 2011 Corporate Social Responsibility Report, the company recorded strong progress against those aims.
Having adopted "a much more focused approach" to sustainability in 2007, Brian Shuttleworth, director of operational risk and sustainability, says Heinz is "on track to achieve or surpass" many of the goals announced in 2008.
Having a strategy "focused on the entire business" has been critical to this progress, says Shuttleworth, but just as important has been the level of engagement across the entire company "from top to bottom".
"It begins with our chairman [president] and CEO Bill Johnson. Bill firmly believes in this; he is supportive of it," says Shuttleworth.
Heinz has a Corporate Social Responsibility Committee, comprising at least three independent board directors, which has an oversight role, but Shuttleworth reports to the Office of the Chairman, a strategic council which reports directly to Bill Johnson.
Just as crucial as the engagement at board level, says Shuttleworth, is taking his work out into the company’s operations. "I don’t manage from an office in Pittsburgh. My staff travels around the world. We don’t do this in isolation from an office," Shuttleworth says. Driving "long-term sustainable value" into the business, he believes, depends on engaging all employees and every business function in the task, "not just a small select group in a corporate setting".
He continues: "We have hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands, of people engaged around the world implementing our processes and our strategies. You have to include everybody. All of our functional areas have to participate. I believe that all employees are responsible for sustainability".
Moreover, Shuttleworth, who has been with Heinz for 16 years, notes the "tremendous buy-in" by employees, and says staff engagement in sustainability issues has increased "tenfold" since the 2008 goals were launched. "It's getting further and further embedded in the business, and that's how you change the culture." The company runs kaizen events themed around sustainability, while the Heinz Cares programme tracks and measures employee participation in community projects.
Extending engagement into the supply chain has also been critical, and in its Global Agriculture Program, instituted in 2000, the company already had a programme suited to embedding more sustainable agricultural practices into its supply chain.
The training element to the programme is fundamental, Shuttleworth says. Under the programme, Heinz has around 60 agronomists engaged in training and development work with its agricultural suppliers across the world, focusing on areas such as water conservation and management; soil restoration; chemical application; pest management; crop rotation; food and worker safety; crop traceability; composting and biodiversity.
It is little wonder that Shuttleworth highlights the programme as the most important single component in the sustainability strategy in relation to agricultural supply chains.
In light of the importance Heinz attaches to agricultural sustainability, the relevance of the 'Grown, not made' tagline, which evolved from a 2007 UK ad campaign with the strapline 'No one grows ketchup like Heinz', could not be clearer.
Shuttleworth believes the slogan "underscores Heinz' commitment to quality and superior ingredients", while highlighting "the true hero of our iconic brand, the tomato".
However, Heinz appears cautious not to overplay the significance of 'Grown, not made' from a sustainability standpoint, possibly because it is only being used in certain markets and on select bottles and remains "just one facet of our ketchup marketing strategy".
Heinz, Shuttleworth says, recognises that "a growing number of consumers are interested in knowing more about where their food comes from and how it was made". But crucially, a marketing strapline such as this offers the opportunity to spark that interest in many more mainstream consumers for whom agricultural sustainability would be an entirely new idea.
Some would say that as part of the overall sustainability challenge, multinational food manufacturers have a duty to reconnect consumers with the agricultural origins of their products, as they bear responsibility for severing or at least undermining that association in the first place.
Heinz may have had, as Shuttleworth asserts, a strong sense of sustainability dating back to HJ's own "very strong environmental culture", but do the majority of consumers perceive Heinz brands as agricultural products? Tomato Ketchup, Baked Beans: the clue is in the name, surely? And yet, when processed foods reach that level of consumer recognition they take on an identity which transcends their basic material origins.
In other words, Heinz has added so much value to these products over the years that those values can eclipse the fundamental, intrinsic nature of the product. 'Beanz meanz Heinz' was not only another example of the ad copywriter's craft; it was a statement of fact.
Perhaps Heinz and others do have a moral obligation to rekindle that connection but such moralising risks missing the big picture.
It is clear that the drive for environmental sustainability being undertaken by governments and companies alike will only succeed if consumers at large become more aware of the environmental impacts that result from what they do and what they consume. With the mass appeal of its brands, Heinz is ideally placed to implant such ideas.
Moreover, in its own journey Heinz wants to take its consumers along. As it evolves its practices to meet pressing challenges, it surely wants its consumers to understand and appreciate what it is doing.
So, 'Grown, not made' may be as critical an element in Heinz' sustainability strategy as any of the programmes catalogued in its CSR report, in spite of the company's reticence to project it as such.
Perhaps it is entirely appropriate that a company with such a knack for taglines should bring this skill to the party. And it is equally fitting that, in an era of enhanced corporate transparency and accountability, 'Grown, not made' has a veracity the company cannot claim for its most famous tagline.
'57 Varieties' supposedly pertained to the number of products marketed by HJ Heinz, but in reality was chosen because HJ thought it a lucky number.
As successful – and undeniably lucky – as it was, it was inaccurate, and, although it has stuck in consumers' minds and helped to differentiate Heinz from its competitors for generations, when asked people often do not know what it means.
'Grown, not made', by contrast, is a simple, understandable and incontrovertible truth, embodying a vital message that is entirely in tune with the sustainability zeitgeist. If it captures the imagination and endures like '57 Varieties', it may not only be Heinz that benefits.
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