Dr Pepper Snapple Group’s CSR and Sustainability Programs
By Valerie Dillard
Environmental sustainability, natural resource preservation and related public awareness and educational programs are now viewed as essential elements of Corporate Social Responsibility (“CSR”). The Dr Pepper Snapple Group (“DPSG”) takes great pride in its organizational commitment to setting the industry standard. Laudable stewardship that also makes very good business sense..
Ethisphere recently spoke with DPSG’s Tina Barry, Tim Gratto and Chris Barnes. The following are excerpts of our interview.
E: Why is DPS so aggressively engaging in CSR initiatives?
Tina Barry: We’re the number one flavored beverage company in North America. It’s the approach that we take to sustainability. We are in every aspect of our business continually trying to improve the way we operate, the products we produce, including our approach to sustainability and the impact we have on the environment.
E: Have you always been this socially conscious, and if so why?
Tina Barry: It’s been very important to us and a part of the company for a long time. Cadbury Schweppes spun us off just a little over four years ago, so we’ve come a long way in a short time as an independent company. One of the first things that we set out to do was to establish a formal sustainability program. The company…Cadbury Schweppes…is very socially responsible and environmentally conscious, so it was part of our heritage, but as an independent company it was very important for us to establish and distinguish ourselves under this new identity as Dr Pepper Snapple Group.
E: Have you been following what other companies have been doing for the past 5-10 years around sustainability in order to develop your own programs?
Tim Gratto: When we started out on our journey, we looked around and we took a very structured approach based on internal and external resources. We’ve seen that discussions in the last 5-10 years have gone from doing no harm and playing by the rules to improving performance across CSR efforts.
E: What advice can you impart to other companies working on developing their own sustainability programs?
Tim Gratto: I think the key theme would be transparency. A large number of companies report and publicly disclose their CSR efforts. Some may be hesitant to do that, but the key is transparency. Look at your business as a whole, pick the right path and don’t be afraid to communicate your results and your efforts.
E: Why do you think companies are reluctant to disclose their CSR efforts? It seems as though disclosure would be a good thing.
Tim Gratto: Maybe it’s a concern about being accused of doing something that’s not necessarily aligned with their business efforts.
Tina Barry: One of the things that we asked ourselves as a leadership team was where did we want to be vis a vis our competitors and others within the beverage industry? Did we want to be on the leading edge? The best piece of advice that I heard was to “punch a little above our weight.” We’re not nearly as large as some of our major competitors. Coke is eight times our size and Pepsi is 10 times.
E: Do companies try to mimic your approach?
Tina Barry: We certainly hope so. That would be the sincerest form of flattery.
E: Now, in addition to punching above your weight and practicing transparency, any other words of advice for companies embarking on CSR projects?
Tina Barry: Recognize that sustainability is not something separate and apart from operations. It’s about how we operate successfully and profitably for the long term. Tim is our Vice President of sustainability. I oversee our CSR program, but our program is really owned by our functional leaders so if you look at the goals we set within the environmental area, you know it’s our operational folks who truly own those goals and programs. When you look at health and wellness you know it’s our innovation teams, our research and development group that really own those and can move those goals forward. So once everyone agreed that it was going to be part and parcel of the fabric of this company, of our business strategy, then everyone felt this is achievable despite the fact that there is a small group of employees for whom sustainability is a full-time job.
E: Does DPSG have “think-tanks” that convene yearly or quarterly to try to identify ideas for sustainability and createCSR initiatives?
Tina Barry: Yes, but to put it in context we actually have a cross-functional steering committee, a core committee that looks at our sustainability program as an overarching program. There are subcommittees that include not only subject matter experts within health and wellness, philanthropy and environmental, but field representatives as well cross-functional subcommittees that span the entire organizational footprint. And we meet, as needed, each committee or the core committee depending on how we’re progressing.
One of the real benefits of Tim’s background in this role of DPS sustainability, is that he has experience within the beverage industry as a plant manager, so he brings a real life perspective in terms of the operational side of our business. That is immensely helpful in terms of the credibility he brings when talking with our operators and others.
Tim Gratto: I have 30+ years of experience directly and indirectly related to the environment, health and safety and I think that complements what I’ve done in the supply chain and plant management side. And I think the DPSG sustainability and CSR heads have similar experience.
Tina Barry: I came to DPS from Kimberly-Clark. They have a number of brand names: Kleenex facial tissue, Kotex feminine care products, Scott bathroom tissue and such. So, it’s a company that was really a leader in terms of setting public environmental goals before CSR was a term that you heard much and sustainability was thrown around. Kimberly-Clark was among the first companies to publish a sustainability report, but again that came after they had been setting environmental goals for a number of years and reporting on their progress. So, I was involved in our sustainability communications at Kimberly-Clark, involved in steering groups as we expanded those environmental goals to other areas of sustainability over time. It was a good foundation for the move to Dr Pepper Snapple and the creation of our own program once we became public.
Chris Barnes: Just to reiterate, I think we’ve come a long way [in] 4 years. We’ve made good strides in areas that are most relevant to our business. So health and wellness did our work in addressing the calories in and calories out assessment, not only innovating how to reduce calories, but also supporting programs that promote active lifestyles like our relationship with KaBoom. Where we are building thousands of playgrounds or fixing them up across the country over the next several years, and also recognizing our opportunities in environmental sustainability to reduce our carbon footprint. We’ve established some pretty good processes, led by Tim in the past year or two to enable us to better track our performance in energy consumption, water use, fuel consumption. In those areas, just putting the framework and foundation in place, we’re really in a good place to move forward.
E: Thank you for speaking with us.
To learn more about DPSG’s programs and products, please visit their site here.