Sustainability is a universal concept that encompasses the economic growth, environmental, social and equitable impacts of an organization. For sustainability to become an integral part of its business strategy, a company needs to determine how sustainability impacts and is impacted by the company’s culture, mission, core values and business model.
During its long history, Sara Lee Corporation and its operating units have strived to be good global corporate citizens. Prior to 2006, various business units had their own sustainability and/or corporate social responsibility programs and approaches, specific for their product range, geographical region and market. Many of these activities were coordinated under the Sara Lee Foundation, the Douwe Egberts Foundation and the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) teams in the International Beverage and Bakery (IB&B) and International Household and Body Care (H&BC) business groups. The Corporate Legal Group set safety and environmental strategy that was adopted by the management teams of the individual businesses around the world.
Sara Lee began its transformation into a more integrated operating company in fiscal 2005. In 2006, we began developing a companywide sustainability approach to unify and align our goals and efforts. With a global, cross functional Sustainability Working Team (SWT) we examined the global Sara Lee business model in the context of the United Nations Brundtland Commission definition of sustainability “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This included an assessment of our impacts and the development of our commitment.
We continue to manage and implement our sustainability platform through the work of the SWT. To ensure the entire global business strategy is considered, the team is a network of members from business units and corporate functions, including communications, community investment, continuous improvement, environment and safety, facilities and services, food safety, global business practices, human resources, information technology, innovation, investor relations, legal, logistics and transportation, marketing, packaging, procurement, research and development, sales, supply chain and manufacturing. The SWT functions under the leadership of the Vice President, Sustainability, Environment and Safety who reports into the General Counsel. The company’s Senior Management Team and the Corporate Governance, Nominating and Policy Committee of the Board of Directors provide direction and oversight on sustainability issues and policy. The chain of responsibility for sustainability at Sara Lee is an effective model of global collaboration that helps drive ownership and accountability for sustainability to all employees across functions and responsibilities.
The SWT regularly surveys and evaluates key, global sustainability issues to find those that most directly impact Sara Lee’s ability to execute its business strategy, in both positive and negative terms. Sara Lee mobilizes its resources to affect those issues that we are best able to influence. The SWT provides leadership for the development of viable business processes that build on sustainability activities in a cumulative way. An overview of the key material impacts, critical issues, risks and opportunities the SWT found is shown in our Impact Table.
Our Sustainability Policy and a more detailed Sustainability Commitment provide a framework for business unit strategic planning and employees’ personal performance objectives which guide Sara Lee to become an increasingly sustainable company.
The implementation of sustainability into business strategies is customized for each business segment and market. Line of business and focus-related teams further identify, clarify and highlight emerging issues, impacts and risks. By working together, business unit management and the SWT help ensure that sustainability risks and opportunities are addressed strategically in both short- and long-term business planning. They also ensure necessary course corrections are made as priorities evolve and market conditions change. We report about sustainability progress as a company, yet sustainability is a concept that we expect every employee to integrate into his/her daily work and business decisions. We see sustainability as one of the ways we are able to deliver on our core values of integrity, imagination, inclusiveness, teamwork and passion. Our collective sustainability efforts are a true representation of our vision to be the first choice of consumers and customers around the world by bringing together innovative ideas, continuous improvement and people who make things happen.
Sustainability is a collective global challenge and cannot focus solely on our own operations. We are working with our customers, suppliers, peers, consumers and other stakeholders, including NGOs, industry and professional associations, universities, to collectively identify the sustainability opportunities that we can most effectively influence. We believe that working together we can have a greater impact.