For Jason Hecker ‘03, Kellogg played an important role as a conduit to engage with others who shared his passion for social impact. Before starting his MBA, he joined his wife, a 2001 graduate, on a Net Impact trip, writing a microfinance lending plan for Save the Children Vietnam.
“At Kellogg I had the opportunity to work closely with classmates from a broad range of backgrounds – even a social anthropologist who previously researched communal forest management and the logging industry in Mexico. You soon learn from this diversity that business success goes beyond managing the balance sheet and P&L”
Hecker was able to fully appreciate how the links between business success and social impact can be inextricably linked in scaling an industry during the seven years he was at PureCircle Limited, holding several roles including Chief Commercial Officer.
“At PureCircle, we dedicated ourselves to developing a new global market for the natural, zero calorie sweetener, Stevia. We focused broadly on the “goodness” of the product, and the growth of our company and industry depended on this value proposition. Stevia sat in a unique position as an ingredient that has the ability to have enduring positive social impacts. In addition to its low carbon and water footprint, we coined the term ‘calorie footprint’ because of the positive benefits the ingredient had in helping address the world’s global obesity crisis,” he explains.
Indeed, the company’s vertical integration enabled them to carefully scale their supply chain, taking into consideration the impacts on independent farmers and their communities in developing countries like Kenya and Paraguay.
In his current role as a management consultant with Egon Zehnder, Hecker helps organizations identify, develop, and retain exceptional leaders. Hecker believes strongly in the role that leaders play in enacting positive social impact at a large scale.
“In 2015, the United Nations outlined 17 Sustainable Development goals to be achieved by 2030 and major companies around the world have outlined their own pledges to help collectively achieve these goals. In my current role I’m in a unique position to help them. For example, in the area of gender equality we have developed global initiatives aimed at promoting gender equity across the executive leadership ranks. We have implemented an annual program called Leaders & Daughters, focused on cultivating the next generation of women leaders, and our Global Board Diversity Analysis studies worldwide gender diversity progress in the boardroom, with a call to action to increase broader leadership opportunities for women and diversity at the highest leadership levels,” says Hecker.
Ultimately, having a positive social impact has been an underlying thread in Hecker’s career and has often been central to the success of companies he’s helped to grow.
“The ubiquity of social media and other forms of information means there is very little that a consumer or customer can’t learn online (sometimes factual, sometimes not) about any company in the world. So, the stakes are even higher for those not operating as positive corporate citizens, and the need for a well-considered social impact agenda is greater than it ever has been. Kellogg’s programs are a great way to build that tool set,” he says.