Sustainability Watch - Mondelez International
McGrath said strategy "very much tied to our growth priorities"
Like any area of business administration, the corporate sustainability arena has its own lexicon.
Those charged with championing the sustainability agendas of major companies will speak of the "triple bottom line", "stakeholder engagement", "low-hanging fruit", "win-wins" and, of course who could forget, "being part of the solution".
The ubiquity and in some cases overuse of vocabulary can result in the rhetoric around sustainability sounding a little hackneyed. From time to time, however, a company comes up with a turn of phrase with a new ring to it, and so it is with Mondelez International's Global Commitments to Well-Being, launched earlier this month.
In the launch announcement, Christine McGrath, Mondelez International's vice president of external affairs and head of the company's global well-being platform, spoke of bringing "an entrepreneurial approach to address the growing concerns around public health and the environment".
The choice of vocabulary is notable as it speaks to a number of critical elements in how companies make their work around sustainability both credible and effective.
Crucially, it embodies the idea that the new sustainability platform is tied to Mondelez' commercial raison d'etre and business objectives. When speaking to just-food about the new platform, McGrath points to how sustainability features within the company's five core strategies, which are to unleash the power of our people; transform snacking; revolutionise selling; drive efficiency to fuel growth; and protect the well-being of our planet.
Both in terms of underpinning credibility and effectiveness, tying in sustainability to a company's strategy for growth is now a prerequisite of any successful sustainability strategy. McGrath says Mondelez's new commitments represent a "holistic strategy that's designed to protect the well-being of the planet and its people, while driving growth for our business".
She continues: "This isn't just something we're doing for CSR and to have a story to tell. It's very much tied to our business, to our growth priorities."
The cost efficiencies that can be realised through better environmental stewardship around energy, carbon and waste are clear but McGrath adds that the company's pledges around better-for-you products will also bring commercial benefits.
Included in the Mondelez Call for Well-being strategy are undertakings to increase the share of revenue from Better Choices products to 25% by 2020, while also increasing sales of portion control products by 25%. The company has also pledged to reduce sodium and saturated fat levels in its products by 10% and increase the content of whole grains by 25%.
McGrath points out that better-for-you products are among "some of the fastest-growing in our portfolio", so the sustainability objective is "on trend in how consumers want to snack going forward".
McGrath also underlines the importance of incorporating both environmental and social elements in an holistic approach, stressing that this not only reflects commonalities in terms of mission but also synergies between how the company addresses its goals across the different areas.
Whether with regard to sustainable agriculture or health and wellness, "we're very focused on issues which are critical to our business and where we can make a really big impact", McGrath tells just-food.
Just as Mondelez can have a considerable influence on the dietary health of millions of people by encouraging its consumers to "snack mindfully" and marketing products to help them do so, the company can also have a huge influence on people's lives further up the value chain.
Securing sustainable agricultural supplies and reducing environmental footprint is one of the four primary action areas within the strategy, along with empowering consumers to snack mindfully; partnering with communities to promote healthy lifestyles; and keeping people and products safe.
Included in the programme is a ten-year, US$600m investment in the company's Cocoa Life and Coffee Made Happy programmes. "As the world's largest buyer of cocoa, we can make a really big difference in the cocoa supply chain and secure it, strengthen it, help tackle some of the very big issues it has, and while we do that improve the lives of millions of people," McGrath says.
McGrath also believes that within its holistic approach the company can bring experience from using metrics and setting targets on environmental criteria to bear regarding nutritional goals. "We've had a very strong track record as Kraft Foods on the sustainability side around different sustainability metrics, and some of that thinking we then applied to some of the health and wellness area, and now we have global nutrition targets for the first time as part of our new company and part of this platform."
The environmental progress is also to continue, with Mondelez committing to reduce energy and water use in manufacturing by 15% by 2015 and eliminate 50m pounds of packaging. Being "very transparent about what are goals are and what our progress is" will also be common to both environmental and nutritional targets, McGrath adds.
Working in partnership with outside experts is another approach that can be applied to all areas of the strategy, she continues. In driving transformation in the cocoa supply chain, "partnership is essential because these are really tough challenges", McGrath explains, and across all areas of the strategy the company is "looking to partner with outside experts who can help us come up with innovative solutions for these very difficult challenges".
McGrath also alludes to the choice of external partners when further elaborating on the idea of entrepreneurship in sustainability.
Embodied in this entrepreneurial approach, McGrath says, is the quest for "innovative new solutions and partners who can help us develop new solutions as well as implement them on the ground".
If the familiar vocabulary around sustainability reflects in some instances a lack of inspiration or tired ideas, then clearly thinking out of the box will be no bad thing.
Another possible reason why Mondelez places such emphasis on the entrepreneurial spirit may be linked to its keenness to underline its lineage. Under the heading of "Our Founders", the Mondelez website includes a vast array of portraits of the 19th and early 20th century entrepreneurs behind the original companies that make up the Mondelez of today.
In fact, such is the scale of this montage - comprising 16 men and one woman - that those of a cynical persuasion may think the company protesteth a little too much in promoting its heritage.
On the other hand, it may not be too fanciful to posit that companies which owe their existence to the innovation, creativity and entrepreneurialism of their founding fathers could do worse than to apply that same spirit when seeking to ensure a sustainable future.
Companies: Mondelez International
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