How Do Two Sustainability Departments Become One?

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How Do Two Sustainability Departments Become One?

It is often said that internal initiatives and programs are often the first to come under the axe in a merger. Diversity and leadership development programs are often easy victims. Does the CSR department also fall by the wayside?

In 2008, when Molson Coors and SABMiller brought Miller Brewing Company and Coors Brewing Company together as the joint venture MillerCoors, sustainability and corporate social responsibility became a core component of their strategy and growth.

I sat down with Kim Marotta, Director of CSR at MillerCoors to learn best practices of merging a CSR department. She had been with the company since 2004.

Set Up Council to Determine Merged CSR Identity

Shortly after the joint venture (JV) , a Corporate Responsibility Council was formed with representatives from each parent. MillerCoors seized the opportunity for change and innovation.

For example, at the start of the JV, 13 different messages existed around alcohol responsibility. Today, there is one.

Marotta shared, "Now was our opportunity to clean up, broaden our strategy, make it all-inclusive and at the same time raise the bar. We wanted to develop a strategy that was more broadening and encompassing."

So clean up and reorganize they did around a central commitment to sustainability. Early on in the process they determined the need to focus on two things:

1. Governance Structure
2. Branding Responsibility

Governance of a Merged Program

Putting structure in place ensures that sustainability is a continued journey. They created a new position of a Chief Responsibility Officer led by Cornell Boggs, formerly General Counsel of Coors Brewing. Cornell oversees a department that houses the company's corporate responsibility focuses, including environmental sustainability, alcohol responsibility, and community investment.

Also in place is a cross functional committee that meets quarterly to discuss alignment with other function areas.

Responsibility to "grow our business the right way" also ties into overall corporate strategy.

The Branding Process

Kim explained, "We created a brand around sustainability like any other brand development exercise, with focus groups, identity models and buy-in etc…"

They developed a Brand Identity Model (BIM) to get at the essence of the new responsibility brand. The model includes such sections as a brand positioning statement, values, and traits. Once the corporate responsibility brand was determined, the brands incorporated the message into their marketing materials.

The Brand: "Great Beer Great Responsibility"

The final brand launched in 2009 is "Great Beer Great Responsibility."

As a leading driving force for sustainability in the beverage industry, MillerCoors mission is to "Grow our business the right way as we become America's Best Beer Company."

To that end, the key responsibility areas are as follows:

1. Alcohol Responsibility
2. Environmental Sustainability
3. Sustainable Supply Chain
4. People and Community Investment
5. Ethics and Transparency

MillerCoors' joint venture became an opportunity for evolution and recommitment of a longstanding focus on CSR. What will it take for your company to right its sustainability platform after a merger or other big change in corporate structure?

Beer photo via Shutterstock.