Kellogg Company’s Kimberley Sundy Shares Their Philosophy Of Even Better, If... | Convoy
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Kellogg Company’s Kimberley Sundy Shares Their Philosophy Of Even Better, If…

Companies implementing sustainability measures need to set goals in order to measure progress. Of course, the desire for success toward sustainability efforts may mean a company will set easily achievable goals in order to demonstrate to stakeholders and shareholders they are indeed moving the needle. But do easily achievable goals motivate an organization to do something really innovative and amazing?

Kimberley Sundy, Director, Corporate Sustainability at Kellogg Company works in an environment of inspiration, innovation, and vision. This American multinational food manufacturing company — which produces everything from frozen foods to the iconic corn flake — has a team culture where giving one’s best and inspiring each other to go one step further is the order of the day. The Kellogg Company sets lofty goals and then goes one step further by exploring the motto “Even better, if…” 

Kimberley takes us on a deeper dive of how sustainability and philanthropy look at this all-American company, why they inspire themselves to keep reaching for something better, how they get everyone involved, and what inspires them to initiate change on so many levels. Her key takeaways follow. 

  • How Driving The Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile Led To A Career In Sustainability: My first job out of college was driving the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile. I had the opportunity to travel the country conducting marketing events at stores and we also did a lot of philanthropic marketing. I just fell in love with the philanthropic aspect of marketing and throughout my career I really looked for opportunities to think about how big companies can be impactful and change the world. It’s been really wonderful to build a career where I can lead with purpose and participate in big companies’ initiatives and visions in changing the world. (00:48)
  • What Philanthropy Looks Like At Kellogg: Our Better Days Global Purpose Platform embodies our philanthropic strategies, which come to life through our growth business strategy. The foundation of this strategy has four tenants: 1) We are committed to nourishing people with our foods, 2) feeding people in need, 3) nurturing our planet, and 4) living our founder’s values. These priorities really matter to our employees, but this work also really matters to investors and to the people who enjoy our foods. I work with stakeholders to ensure we are keeping our eye on the ball, ensure we are trying to see around corners, thinking about risk and climate and all of our responsibilities as a good corporate citizen, and ensuring we’re advancing our commitments and collaborating with our partners to do so because there is so much work to do in this space and it’s impossible to do it alone. I collaborate with stakeholders across the board and across the value chain to make sure Kellogg is living its commitments to people and the planet. (2:28) 
  • How We Share Our Goals And Our Progress Against These Goals: Not only do we always feel like we could be doing more, but we also set really high standards for ourselves. In 2019 at the Sustainable Brands Conference, our CEO unveiled our next generation of commitments. One of the things that we all like to say at Kellogg is, “Even better if…” and I think that has been one of the most inspirational environments for me to work in because people at Kellogg love to give their best, but they also love to think about what even better would look like. Every year we publish our corporate social responsibility report in the spirit of transparency and collaborate with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development to make sure our report showcases the best of our goals and our ambitions as well as our progress against our goals. (4:34) 
  • One Of The Current Projects We Are Most Proud Of:  At Kellogg we are really dedicated to people-focused outcomes and so the work we do with farmers — our commitment is to support a million farmers and workers — is really demonstrative of that. We are helping farmers do things like conserve natural resources, think about how they can meet science-based targets, etc. We responsibly source our ingredients and we collaborate with farmers to do that too. We are also doing really important work to help support farmers from a climate perspective and to improve climate resiliency. We work with real people throughout the value chain. Real farmers on real farms and a lot of real farm families to get that work done. (7:01) 
  • How Stakeholders Become Involved In Our Sustainability Efforts: One of the awesome things about working in sustainability is that you work with people all throughout the organization. It is one of the most interconnected experiences you can have as an employee. Everybody is essentially responsible for our commitment to nurturing our planet whether you work in packaging and you are a part of the Bare Naked granola team responsible for the recyclable standup pouch, you work in corporate affairs and help us with reporting, you work with our customer teams, or you are responsible for thinking about how you can bring our sustainability work to life with our key customers for shoppers in the stores. Go Green, our employee champions, are really instrumental in changing the way we collect waste around the office and make sure we have more options to recycle and had centralized waste systems so we were being more responsible even with things like using plates in the cafeteria and having compostable materials as takeaways, and no straws on campus. Go Green is something which has been a really big part of making sure we live our founder’s values. W.K Kellogg was an early conservationism philanthropist and sustainability is a core principle here at Kellogg and certainly part of the culture. (10:53) 
  • How We See The Business Value of Sustainability: Working at a food company is a wonderful gift because you work with people and families and we keep food at the center of all that we do. In terms of seeing the corporate value, we know that consumers and people want to live their values through their purchases and this has become all the more apparent during COVID. Kellogg has purpose-driven brands and we’re really committed to making sure that our purpose-driven brands deliver for consumers and the planet. We really try to make sure our portfolio resonates with consumers the entire world over. We know that sustainability is a reputational driver. Our portfolio at Kellogg is 86% plant based, and when you think about the value of sustainability, it plays a really critical and important role and it really does touch consumers at every level and everyone across the business. Shoppers are demanding transparency and accountability. They want to know where their foods come from. And they know eating plant-based foods is better for the planet so they’re looking for plant-based options and we’ve got those. Customers have been really aggressive in setting aspirational goals for themselves from a corporate perspective and we’ve been really aggressive in setting aspirational goals for ourselves. It’s been nice to be able to collaborate with them and find out where these ambitions overlap and how we can create value together. When you think about value and really continuing to deliver ongoing value to investors or shoppers or consumers or customers, we really do a great job of thinking about our role and our ambitions and the strength of our portfolio and how it can really benefit people and the planet. (14:11) 
  • What Everyone Should Know About Kellogg: We recently updated our vision and our purpose. Our vision is to have a good world where people are not just fed, but they’re fulfilled. When we introduced the new vision, everyone was so excited about it and it’s just such a part of our culture. What I would want everybody to know is this is our corporate ambition and we really, really, really are doing our very best to live that vision and to make sure it’s in everything we do whether its sustainability or philanthropy or even well-being — everybody from the top down is committed to that. Kellogg is a company with heart and soul and, at our core, it’s that vision. (17:58)

TRANSCRIPTION

Jennifer Wong: Today we have Kimberley Sundy, the director of corporate sustainability at Kellogg Company joining us for The Business of Sustainability. Welcome, Kim. 

Kimberley Sundy: Hi, Jennifer. Great to be with you. Thank you for having me. 

Jennifer: What led you to your role at Kellogg? 

Kim: I have been really lucky throughout my career. I’ve had progressively responsible cause focused jobs and my first job out of college was Buns of Fun. I drove the Oscar Meyer Weiner Mobile. And I had the opportunity to travel the country conducting promotional marketing and marketing events at stores and even Hawaii. We took the wiener mobile on a barge. And we also did a lot of philanthropic marketing as well with the wiener mobile. And I just fell in love with the philanthropic aspect of marketing during that first job and throughout my career I really looked for opportunities to think about how big companies can be impactful and change the world. And I’ve, you know, kind of raised my hand to work at big companies whether it was the Girl Scouts, you know, on the NGO side of the house, or Box Tops for Education prior to working at Kellogg. And it’s been really wonderful to build a career where, you know, I’ve had the opportunity to, you know, lead with purpose and, you know, participate in [2:00] big companies’ initiatives and visions in changing the world. And so, today, I am director of sustainability at Kellogg, and I help bring our Better Days strategies to life from a sustainability perspective. 

Jennifer: What does that mean in terms of your role and responsibility in bringing that program to life? 

Kim: At Kellogg, we have what we call our Better Days Global Purpose Platform and its really how we refer to our philanthropic strategies. And so, those strategies come to life through our actual deploy for growth business strategy. And the foundation of the strategy has four tenants. We are committed to nourishing people with our foods, feeding people in need, nurturing our planet, which is the work that my team is responsible for, and then living our founder’s values. And these priorities really matter to the people on my team who are responsible for delivering this work and of course, to our employees. And not only does that really matter to, you know, us as an internal constituency, but this work also really matters to investors, to customers, and to the people who enjoy our foods, you know, shoppers and customers too. And so, my responsibility specifically is I work with stakeholders to ensure that we are keeping our eye on the ball, making sure we are trying to see around corners, thinking about risk and climate and all of our responsibilities as a good corporate citizen. And then obviously, making sure that we’re advancing our commitments and then collaborating with our partners to do so because there is so much work to do in this space and its impossible to do it alone. So, I really collaborate with stakeholders across the board, across the value chain to make sure that Kellogg is living its commitments [4:00] to people and the planet. 

Jennifer: How do you know when you are making progress against some of these key initiatives? How do you know when you’ve had a good month in your world versus you could have been doing more? 

Kim: Not only do we always feel like we could be doing more, but we also set really high standards for ourselves. So, back in 2019 at the Sustainable Brands Conference, our CEO gave one of the keynote addresses at the Sustainable Brands Conference and he unveiled our commitments, our next generation of commitments. And we ended up unveiling these commitments and sharing them because we are always committed to doing more. One of the things that we all like to say at Kellogg is, “Even better if…” and I think that has been one of the most inspirational environments for me to honestly work in because, you know, people at Kellogg love to give their best but they also love to like think about what would even better look like? And so, every year we publish our corporate social responsibility report and we do so in, you know, the spirit of transparency. And then we collaborate with one of our partners, WPCSD, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and we work with their reporting manager team to make sure the report that we had published really articulates, and shares and showcases the best of our goals and our ambitions, and also our progress against our goals. And so, we leverage all of those things. Whether its challenging ourselves to do more and stand on a really big stage [6:00] Fwith our CEO at the helm to talk about what new and bigger and better commitments look like or whether it is making sure that we are committing to annual reporting. And then also, you know, submitting to really high standards of rewards and recognitions to make sure that we as a Kellogg company are, you know, holding ourselves up to and subjecting ourselves to real review and audit to make sure that we are, in fact, putting our best foot forward. 

Jennifer: What is one of your favorite initiatives that you’re working on right now? 

Kim: Okay, so I won’t be able to give a good answer, right, without leaving someone’s really important work out of this answer. But I’ve just come from a meeting with the team who is working on our farmer work and I would say I’m really proud of that work. One of our commitments that I referenced is a commitment to support a million farmers and workers and I’m really proud of that team and the work that they’re doing is just top of mind for me right now. But, because at Kellogg we’re really dedicated to people focused outcomes and so, you know, the work that we do with farmers is really demonstrative of that because, you know, we’re helping farmers do things like converse natural resources, you know, think about how they can meet science-based targets, we responsibly source our ingredients, and we collaborate with farmers to do that too. And then we’re also doing, you know, really important work to help support farmers from a climate perspective and to improve climate resiliency. So, [8:00] but the nice things about all the nice things that I just said is that we work with real people throughout the value chain. Real farmers on real farms and a lot of real farm families to get that work done. And so, for me I think when I first came to Kellogg, I remember one of the first places that they take you is to the archives back in before times when we were in the office. And, you know, you met Melinda Arnett, she’s our archivist and she’ll ask you, “Jennifer, what do you do? Kim, what do you do?” And we’re saying, “Oh, I’m on the sustainability team now.” And, you know, meeting with Melinda, she laid out all of these wonderful historical things that were part of the archives and some of the things were things that W.K Kellogg himself had had, you know, the archives had shared and saved. And one of the things was this huge corn trophy that W.K Kellogg had commissioned Tiffany to make. And he was so proud of his work with farmers, so proud of, you know, his commitment to like really good foods and foods that were grown with integrity and he handed out, he awarded the corn trophy and I think it was a thousand dollars, if I’m not mistaken to a farmer who had the best ear of corn. 

And that’s the same way we sort of do business now. You know, we don’t give out a corn trophy, we have the corn trophy at the headquarters, but we still work with like real people, we’re still really committed to positive outcomes to, you know, supporting best practices from a biodiversity perspective. And it’s really important and meaningful to think about the fact that even though, you know, more than 100 years [10:00] have passed, we’re still sort of doing the same thing that the founder of the company would do if he were alive today. 

Jennifer: How are employees or partners all engaged in the efforts that you kind of set direction towards? 

Kim: One of the awesome things about working in sustainability, and I think why this, you know, role and responsibility suits my personality so well is that you work with people all throughout the company, right? Its one of the most interconnected experiences you can have as an employee. So, everybody is, you know, responsible for our commitment to nurturing our planet whether you work in packaging and you are a part of the bare-naked team that was responsible for, you know, the recyclable stand up pouch that was created. Or whether you work in corporate affairs like my colleagues, my direct colleagues and you help us with reporting, making sure that we have the data and the information and all of the details that really help to support that. Or whether you work with our customer teams and your interface with sales and you’re responsible for thinking about how you can bring our sustainability work to life with our key customers for shoppers in the stores. So, thinking about how [12:00] we can talk about those commitments to US farmers that I just mentioned, and how you can help dimensionalize and bring the company to life. And then, not to mention, we have Go Green, which is a group of employee champions and their, you know, primary charge is to really collaborate with sustainability minded colleagues and, you know, put forth events. And again, in before times, we did a lot of fun things. So, at Thanksgiving time, we would have a plant-based potluck and in the Spring, we would have, you know, cleanups and then we did a lot of foam recycling and Go Green, our employee champions, are actually, you know, really instrumental in changing the way that we even collected waste around the office. And making sure that we had more options to recycle and had centralized waste systems so that we were being more responsible and, you know, using plates in the cafeteria and having compostable materials as takeaways, and no straws on campus. So, I would say, you know, Go Green, which is an employee led initiative, is something that has been a really big part of making sure that we live our founder’s values, you know, W.K Kellogg as I mentioned was an early conservationism philanthropist and so I think sustainability is really core, it’s a core principle here at Kellogg and certainly part of the culture. 

Jennifer:[14:00] How does your team articulate the business value of investing in sustainability?

Kim: Working at a food company is a wonderful gift because you work with people and families and we talk all of the time in lots and lots of meetings about food and we keep food at the center of all that we do. We listen to shoppers and customers and our parents give us a lot of feedback working at a food company. So, I think that’s maybe, sometimes it’s the downside, right? When people want to tell you what they…” You should make this; this will be so great…” But, in terms of seeing the corporate value, I think we know that consumers and people want to live their values through their purchases. I think that has become all the more apparent during Covid and so we have purpose driven brands and we’re really committed to making sure that our purpose driven plans deliver for consumers and the planet. And our portfolio, we really try to make sure that it resonates with consumers, you know, the entire world over. So, we know that sustainability, as I mentioned earlier, it’s a reputational driver. And our portfolio at Kellogg is 86% plant based. And so, when you think about the value of sustainability, it plays a really critical and important role and it, you know, as I mentioned a couple of minutes ago, it really does touch consumers at every level and everyone across the business. You know, when you think about, well what value does it create? Well, shoppers are demanding, you know, transparency and accountability. They want to know where their foods [16:00] come from. And they know that eating plant-based foods is better for the planet so they’re looking for plant-based options and we’ve got those. You know, customers have been really aggressive in setting aspirational goals for themselves from a corporate perspective and we’ve been really aggressive in setting aspirational goals for ourselves. So, it’s been nice to be able to collaborate with them and find out, you know, where do those ambitions overlap and how can we create value together. You know, we’re a really collaborative culture at Kellogg. So, sometimes value looks like thinking about where an overlap exists between what we’re doing and what our customer partner might be doing. And then, you know, from an innovation point of view, you know, we know that plant-based diets are important and 100% of the innovation that we introduced in 2020 were plant based. 

When you think about value and really continuing to deliver ongoing value to investors or shoppers or consumers or customers, or even the most critical voices, our families who are, you know, wanting to help be a part of the process, I think that we really do a great job of thinking about our role and our ambitions and also, you know, the strength of our portfolio and how it can really benefit people and the planet. 

Jennifer: What is the one thing that every customer purchasing Kellogg products should know about sustainability at the company? 

Kim: [18:00] We recently updated our vision and our purpose and so our vision and our purpose, our vision at least is to have a good world where people are not just fed, but they’re fulfilled. And I would say, you know, at Kellogg we have really committed ourselves. When we introduced the new vision, everyone was so excited about it. And it’s just such a part of our culture. And so, maybe what I would want everybody to know is that’s our corporate ambition and we really, really, really are doing our very best to live that vision and to make sure it’s in everything that we do whether its sustainability or philanthropy or even well-being, everybody from the top down is committed to that. And so, I think that’s what I would want people to know. That we’re a company with the heart and soul, but really, at our core, it’s that vision.

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Jennifer is the Head of Sustainability at Convoy, helping transportation leaders make progress against their environmental and social impact goals.