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The Conscious Capitalism discussion at Reunion 2010 was moderated by Kellogg Professor Daniel Diermeier (far left). The panel featured (from left) alumni Salman Amin ’85, Ivan Menezes ’85 and Kurt Soderlund ’90.

The Conscious Capitalism discussion at Reunion 2010 was moderated by Kellogg Professor Daniel Diermeier (far left). The panel featured (from left) alumni Salman Amin ’85, Ivan Menezes ’85 and Kurt Soderlund ’90.

Conscious capitalism

Alumni at Reunion 2010 focus on ‘doing the right thing and doing it sustainably’

By Sara Langen

5/20/2010 - “With big business comes big responsibility” is one of Ivan Menezes’ core values.

“Privilege brings a responsibility to make a difference,” said the 1985 Kellogg graduate, who is president of Diageo North America and CEO and chairman of Diageo Asia Pacific. “Conscious capitalism is doing the right thing and doing it sustainably.”

Menezes voiced his views on the importance of social and environmental responsibility at the Conscious Capitalism panel discussion, a highlight of Kellogg’s Reunion 2010 events.

Thinking sustainably isn’t just something a company needs to do to avoid criticism, but something that can actually improve a business, he said.

“This is not a defensive platform,” Menezes said. “It’s not asking you to do something to stay out of trouble. I absolutely believe it’s a source of real, competitive advantage. What we do has huge business benefits.”

Salman Amin `85, fellow panelist and PepsiCo executive vice president of sales and marketing, agreed.

“I believe a corporation, in order to prosper, must define its broader role in the community and must define its values and priorities,” Amin said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about the values you subscribe to. It’s not performance without purpose. It’s not purpose without performance. It has to be both.”

At PepsiCo, those priorities include taking steps to reduce the company’s carbon footprint by 2 percent each year, reduce its use of public water and cut the amount of trans fats and salt in the products in its portfolio, Amin explained.

This emphasis on sustainability has to come from business leaders to lead to true change, panelist and Safe Water Network founding CEO Kurt Soderlund `90 said.

“This notion of performance with a purpose really starts at the top,” he said. “It’s dramatic how access to water impacts lives on such a large scale. We work with the likes of PepsiCo and other partners to improve the lives of people who desperately need clean water solutions.”

Bringing water to underserved markets is a priority for all three panelists’ organizations. “The ability to make a difference [in that area] is very real,” Menezes said. “By 2015, we’ve made a commitment to [bring access to safe water to] one million people a year, but we’ll probably do more than that.”

Although companies all over the world are achieving great things in the realm of sustainability, there is still a long way to go, Menezes noted.

“Packaging is an area in our industry where we could move much further in terms of environmental impact,” he said. “We’re still in the early days of the journey; there is still a lot we can do.”

All the panelists agreed that the business leaders of the future need to be able to adapt to change and be open to innovation.

“Take that skill set of really being in touch with consumers and apply it more broadly to all stakeholders,” Menezes said. “I do think that’s going to become a core skill for managers and organizers in the future.”