Executive Update

Perspectives from Industry “Sustainability Gurus”

Sustainability is a topic every company cares about, but not every company knows how to begin addressing. This session featured a panel of leading retail and supplier executives that shared their experience in taking sustainability to the next level.

Christy Consler, vice president of sustainability at Safeway explained when they first started out with their formal effort they came up with “CSR - Meeting in a Box,” which was a presentation that was short, to-the-point and talked about what this effort means, why it matters, and how someone can personally get engaged.

They delivered this presentation to their cross-functional team of senior leaders and built in a discussion piece that focused on why it matters and how can you contribute. “It was a good thing right out of the gate, just to get buy-in and a broad understanding of what it was about. But you have to keep communicating it, to continue to circle-back and talk about how it helps, why it’s important to your business, and what’s a simple action you can take to keep it all personally connected,” explained Consler.

The panel agreed that communicating sustainability issues is of continued importance, whether it is to the public in general, or agricultural partners such as farmers.

“Most people don’t know the dooming story, and while we have a younger generation coming in who is aware of the issues, we still need to go back and keep communicating their importance,” said Consler.

“We also need to redefine agriculture in the supply chain to include the farmer down on the farm all the way up to each person in the company, and begin a discussion with real farmers, because they think of things differently than we do,” suggested Dennis Treacy,senior vice president of corporate affairs and chief sustainability officer at Smithfield Foods.

William Sweet, vice president of Engineering and Construction at Price ChopperSupermarkets explained that engagement was also a key component to success. “Engagement at any level, store level and up, is critical to the success of any sustainability program.”

To increase and maintain this engagement, the most common suggestion is providing incentive. Treacy discussed his company’s internal competition. “Internal competition set the bar at corporate, and gave the power to individual parts. The tangible is employee morale. If you liberate the employees to take part in business decisions relating to sustainability in a meaningful way, it’s a winner.”