I have to admit I didn’t have too many expectations about Campbell’s Soup’s latest CSR report because I haven’t heard much about their efforts before and maybe also because I’ve never been a big fan of canned or microwavable soups. Since reading, however, I’ve definitely became a greater fan of Campell’s. In its report the company shows not just its CSR progress, but also how it takes its CSR seriously. Very seriously.
Let’s start with the CEO’s letter, which is always a good indication on the company’s approach. The letter starts with ‘Dear Campbell Stakeholders,’ which is already a positive sign as you rarely see CEOs addressing readers as stakeholders. Then Denise Morrison, Campbell’s President and CEO, continues with this message: “I’m encouraged to report that Campbell continues to strengthen its long-standing commitment to creating long-term value in society by becoming a more sustainable and socially responsible company. I believe two key elements are required to implement a successful CSR strategy, and Campbell is diligently advancing both fronts…By bringing these two important facets together, CSR becomes an integral part of our culture. “
Sounds nice, but does Campbell walks the talk? Well, apparently the answer is yes, or in the cases it doesn’t succeed, at least the company seems to be trying hard. The report details the company’s progress against its 2020 CSR Agenda in four main areas:
- Nourishing Our Planet – the company’s ambitious goal is to cut the environmental footprint of its product portfolio in half. It also has some ‘smaller’ goals supporting this one, such as reducing energy use by 35 percent, and source 40 percent of the energy used from renewable or alternative energy sources. In terms of reducing its carbon footprint, Campbell doesn’t seem yet to be on track to meet its goal – between 2010 and 2011 it reduced its GHG emissions in 3.3 percent. The energy goal also seems a bit far away with a reduction of 3.1 percent in energy use last year (3.9 percent in total comparing to a baseline year of FY2008 performance).
At the same time, the company proudly reports on the construction of a 60-acre, 10-MW solar field at Campbell’s largest manufacturing site in Napoleon, Ohio, where 24,000 sun-tracking panels generate 15 percent of the electricity to operate the plant. I couldn’t find though in the report what the current percentage of clean energy use of Campbell is.
- Nourishing Our Consumers – the company continues to provide consumers with nutrition and wellness choices in its product portfolio. The company reports that since 2009, U.S. sales of Campbell healthy products have increased by more than $530 million [> 30%], representing a market share of 35 percent of the company’s sales in the U.S. in 2011. In addition, the company reports that in 2011 it agreed to participate in the industry-wide Facts Up Front initiative to provide front-of-label nutrition information. The addition of Facts Up Front icons on 45 Campbell products, voluntarily displaying calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar per serving on the front of packaging, and the redesign of Campbell’s nutrition and wellness website to enhance consumers’ access to nutrition information were among the company’s achievements last year.
- Nourishing Our Employees – the company’s goal is to leverage CSR and sustainability as key drivers of employee engagement in our culture. Last year’s highlights include introduction of a new global online talent management system, being honored by the National Business Group on Health as one of the Best Employers for Healthy Lifestyles, launching a comprehensive new manager development program, providing $1.4 million in tuition assistance worldwide and maintaining world-class employee engagement levels as measured against the Gallup database.
- Nourishing Our Neighbors – Campbell’s 2020 destination goals are to measurably improve the health of young people in its hometown communities by reducing hunger and childhood obesity by 50 percent and to make a positive impact on the lives of 100 million youth through its volunteer, community and signature programs. Here the company didn’t report on its progress, but only on a commitment of $10 million over 10 years through the Campbell Healthy Communities initiative, a 25 percent increase in employee volunteer hours and in-kind donations that exceeded $40 million.
As I mentioned, while this progress is sometimes more successful (reducing water use) and sometimes less successful (reducing GHG emissions), the overall CSR approach of the company is very impressive. First, the company provides a materiality analysis, where it “carefully examining a myriad of internal and external issues that help shape our CSR and sustainability programs,” showing step-by-step how it determines which areas align with marketplace and stakeholder priorities. Second, while many companies talk about their triple bottom line, Campbell shows how it really looks like in its performance scorecard. This scoreboard provides economic, social and environmental year-by-year measures, which provides a clear presentation of the company’s progress.
These are just two examples but you can find many more of them on the report, showing you that Campbell is taking CSR and sustainability seriously. It doesn’t mean that Campbell doesn’t need to improve itself in some areas, but at the same time with its seriousness and commitment it looks like Campbell has a fair chance to meet its goals and eventually even become one more example of the business case for sustainability.
Raz Godelnik is the co-founder of Eco-Libris, a green company working to green up the book industry in the digital age. He is an adjunct faculty at the University of Delaware’s Department of Business Administration, CUNY and the New School, teaching courses in green business and new product development.