From public defender to CSO: Kim Marotta, MillerCoors

Editor's Note: How She Leads is a regular feature on GreenBiz spotlighting the career paths of women who have moved into influential roles in sustainable business. In this edition, Maya Albanese interviews Kim Marotta, the Director of Sustainability at MillerCoors.

MillerCoors is joint venture between UK-based SABMiller and US-based Molson Coors which comprises the second-largest beer company in the United States. Between the Miller and Coors Brewing Companies, the company has a combined 300 years of brewing experience that has survived Prohibition, the Great Depression and two world wars. The company operates eight breweries and covers 30 percent of the US beer market. It has a broad portfolio of brands across every major industry segment including Coors Light, Miller64, Leinenkugel's, Blue Moon and Miller Lite. Miller Lite established the American light beer category in 1975.

The joint venture is a leader in its industry for responsible social and environmental practices -- efforts which are highlighted its recently-released 2012 Sustainability Report. The report covers annual progress toward their 2015 sustainability goals "from the barley field to the delivery truck." The company has measured its performance in water efficiency by its water-to-beer ratio. Between 2010 and 2011, the amount of water used in the production of beer fell by 1 percent, according to the report.  

The company has also committed to several external initiatives including the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, the Dow Jones Sustainability Index, and the Carbon Disclosure Project.

In today’s interview, Marotta speaks about the unique challenges that a large beer company faces in a world of increasingly constrained resources. 

Maya Albanese (MA): What is your background and how did you move into your current role at MillerCoors?

Kim Marotta (KM):  My background is not typical of a sustainability leader at a consumer products company. After receiving a business degree in marketing, I went into law school and then on to work for 13 years in criminal defense. I loved every aspect of it, but I found myself with four kids commuting everyday to Madison for work. So I started to look into jobs that were equally thought provoking and challenging. I had the fortune to meet a few people at MillerCoors who lead me to my interview for the position of Director of Corporate Social Responsibility. In that role, I oversaw our corporate community investment strategy and social responsibility programs.


MA: Going from being a lawyer to a sustainability director is a unique path. How did you arrive at your role at MillerCoors?

KM: When I interviewed, it was an interesting process. SAB Miller, one of our parent companies, was conducting psychometric assessments. If you were a candidate with high potential, you would take a five-hour test with a psychologist that measured your intellect and personality. It was a great way to look past career experience to find out people’s natural talents. As a public defense lawyer, I had been really involved in community-based events, advocacy and treatment programs, and non-profits.  Lawyers also have to be constantly looking for solutions for your clients, so you get great experience in critical and strategic thinking. There is a lot you can bring from an adversarial setting like the courtroom to my current job. Although, I’m not sure I would be the top candidate they’d fill this position with now! 


MA: Is there a reason or event that has made you passionate about social and environmental responsibility?

KM: Part of the reason I was attracted to being a public defender is a desire to make a real impact. I’d come home every day from practicing law and have an a-ha moment about how I’d impacted other peoples’ lives. Now, I have the support of a company like MillerCoors behind me, there is so much opportunity to make an impact.  


MA: What are your main responsibilities in this role?

KM:  We get to touch all levels of the business – from the barley farmers to the breweries to the retailer shelves. As the Director of Sustainability, I oversee three positions on my team: one that is a sustainability brand manager, one with sustainability reporting and policy, and the third that focuses on energy and water stewardship. Two of these positions have been open, and we just closed the interview process after hundreds of people applied. The caliber of candidates that walked in the door amazed and inspired me!


MA: Is there a specific department dedicated to sustainability?

KM: There are six people in the Sustainability department who cover five key areas of sustainability: Responsibility, Environmental Stewardship, Supply Chain, People & Communities, and Ethics & Transparency. Half of my team drives sustainability across the enterprise and the other three are focused on Responsibility, which covers programs that help prevent drunk driving, prevent underage access and promote responsible alcohol consumption. We really believe that every person in the company has a role to play, though. For example, if you’re working at the Trenton brewery, you’re already helping us reduce our water footprint. If you’re a sales person on the Walmart account, you’re working to adhere to their supplier Sustainability Index.

Photo of Kim Marotta courtesy of Kim Marotta.

Next page: Water stewardship, zero waste and responsibility