View from the C-Suite: Campbell's Doug Conant and Denise Morrison

Based in Camden, New Jersey, Campbell's Soup Company is a global manufacturer of over leading convenience food brands, including "Campbell's Soups" "Pepperidge Farm," "Arnott's," and "V8." The company holds the #1 or #2 position in each food category in which it operates. Over 94 percent of U.S. households have at least one Campbell product. The average U.S. household has approximately 9 cans of Campbell's Soup in their pantry -- most likely chicken noodle, cream of mushroom or tomato.

Joseph Campbell and Abraham Anderson founded Campbell in 1869, but it was John Dorrance, a young chemist, who is brought the company a "breakthrough technology" in 1897: condensed soup. Since then, Campbell has become a $7.7 billion Fortune 500 corporation that employs more than 18,000 and markets products in over 120 countries. In 2011, Corporate Responsibility magazine ranked Campbell #2 on its list of 100 Top Corporate Citizens.

In July 2011, CEO Doug Conant will hand the reins to Denise Morrison. Heather King spoke with both the outgoing and incoming Campbell CEOs about the legacy of sustainability in the food and beverage industry, their work with UC Davis on farming innovations, and how "Millennials" are shifting Campbell's focus. Campbell recently traded in its old slogan, "M'm! M'm! Good!" for "Nourishing lives everywhere, everyday" -- a shift from a focus on flavor to a broader focus on nurturing and sustaining.

Conant and MorrisonDoug Conant: Let me first provide context around the food industry and corporate social responsibility (CSR). Most of the companies in our peer group are 100 to 150 years old. We are deeply embedded in our local communities and connected to the earth by virtue of the way we harvest our products and feed families.

The Boston College Center for Citizenship reports that four of the top 10 U.S. CSR leaders are food and beverage companies. No other sector has more than one. This is the fourth food company with which I've been associated. General Mills, Kraft, Nabisco and Campbell's all have deep roots in CSR and sustainability.

Heather King: Does this mean that Campbell's commitment to sustainability is coming primarily from your family farm partners and/or industry peers?

Denise Morrison: Our consumers and, in fact, our employees are very much part of our business case for sustainability. The millennial generation [age 18 to 29 approximately], which comprises about 80 million consumers, has heightened expectations with regard to sustainability. As we look to connect with this generation, we must be mindful that sustainability will be one of the key reasons they'll purchase our products and a key reason they'll choose to work at Campbell's.

DC: I second the importance of our employees. If we want to attract, develop and retain world-class talent in this organization, we have to create a platform where people can live their values 24/7. When I started 35 years ago, we would work 9 to 5 or longer. We might help run a recycling program on a weekend. That doesn't work with today's workforce. They want to be part of building a better world every day. One of the most visited areas of our website for recruits is our corporate responsibility page, and it's one of the hottest areas of discussion in interviews.

HK: You cited your connection with agricultural land as central to the industry's tradition of environmental stewardship. Tell us what you are doing to advance sustainable farming especially given Campbell's longstanding relationship with so many family-based operations.

DC: We are very focused on improving the productivity of our farm crops. Since the 1980's, we have worked on ways to manage pesticides, improve yields, and lower costs. Over the next decade, we are cutting the environmental footprint of our product portfolio in half.