TR Sustainability Week Keynote 2: Long-term partnerships needed

By Kristiane Sherry |

TR Sustainability Week Keynote 2 speakers

The panel all shared that collaboration was key to social sustainability projects.

The second TR Sustainability Week live day started with a keynote discussion on social, humanitarian, educational and other sustainable development initiatives in the industry. The conclusion from the panel was unanimously that more long-term partnerships are needed to affect change.

Moderated by Michael Barrett, the panel comprised Sarah Branquinho, Women in Travel Retail + Chair; Beatriz de Otto Méndez, Head of Customer Marketing World Travel Retail at Mondelēz International; Nick Enfield, Senior Manager of International Sustainability at Beam Suntory; and Maitreyi Karanth, Founder of the Koma Karanth Foundation.

All four explored how their own work is influencing communities where their work takes place.

The session opened with a presentation from de Otto Méndez, who asserted that more collaboration was needed. “It’s about finding the common interest,” she said. “For the people and the planet.”

Mondelēz has a number of initiatives running through the channel based on customer insights that travellers want to shop more sustainably. 

Citing m1nd-set data, she said 70% of shoppers want to purchase from brands that are transparent and demonstrate social responsibility. This is especially important for millennial and Gen Z consumers.

“It’s not any more about selling them sustainable products – it’s about creating a whole story about the products and brands we sell.”

Mondelēz works in three areas: building a winning portfolio, elevating sustainability awareness, and creating unique experiences. The strategy aims to drive conversion and grow the category, she said. 

Mondelez activations have carried sustainability messages

One activation is the Bag That Gives Back campaign, and a Tricycle activation that raises funds to support cocoa farming communities in Ghana. 

“All around the world there is a willingness to engage with this kind of initiative,” she said. 

‘We think it’s important that we give the activation the visibility to raise as much awareness as possible.”

While she declined to say whether Mondelēz received financial support where the fundraising activities are running (donations go entirely to the Ghana initiative so there is “no benefit for brand or retailer”), she did say the business receives “the right space, right visibility, at the right cost.”

TR Sustainability Week: Not just environmental sustainability

Women in Travel Retail + Chair Sarah Branquinho then gave her perspective on CSR initiatives across travel retail.

She had just returned from a charitable trip north of Delhi, India, where she was working to improve children’s access to schools. 

There are also work under way to create artificial glaciers to provide water to remote villages.

She stressed the importance of communities owning the projects that she provides funding for.   

Enabling education is at the centre of her work. “The more we can give education opportunities to people who need that extra push, I believe it is very valuable.”

Branquinho then outlined the scope of Women in Travel Retail +’s charitable giving, which has been a core part of the networking organisation since it was founded in 2008. 

A Women in Travel Retail + meeting in Cannes.

There are numerous checks and balances when choosing and working with a charitable partner, she detailed, including the need for a member to have a personal connection with the nominated organisation. 

She also shared details of the next Women in Travel Retail + meeting. Members and non-members will gather on Tuesday 3 October at Diageo’s Majestic Beach space from 5:30-7pm. TUMI and Victoria’s Secret are also supporting the event. 

“I’m pleased to see that ESG isn’t all about the environment,” she continued. “Why don’t we focus on social and people?” She added that human stories could create a “groundswell” of support. 

“The ‘E’ will be delivered by the social part, I believe.”

‘Just imagine what we could do’

The third speaker was Maitreyi Karanth, Founder of the Koma Karanth Foundation. The organisation is building homes and runs both a school and a community centre for elderly people in Gloria, Oriental Mindoro, The Philippines. 

Actor and comedian Karanth started the Foundation after meeting a mother called Marilyn who had experienced a stroke and later sadly died. The house that was built for her and her family became the first in the community. 

WiTR is supporting the Koma Karanth project.

Karanth’s work has expanded to employ local women in the school kitchen, organise school transport for children in remote locations, open shops to provide local employment, and run menstruation workshops with sustainable products. 

The Koma Karanth Foundation is Women in Travel Retail +’s chosen charity for 2023, and it is targeting raising €15,000 to build three houses. 

“This we have done just from the money from my shows, talks, and some wealthy individuals who have been very, very generous with their donations,” she said. “Just imagine what we could do.”

Education and collaboration

Last to speak as part of the panel was Beam Suntory’s Nick Enfield. In 2021 the business launched its roadmap to measure its sustainability efforts, now branded as Proof Positive.

The strategy is divided into three areas: nature, consumer and community. All three pillars run throughout the value chain. 

Beam Suntory has said it will invest $500 million and engage with more than 300 million legal drinking age consumers by 2030. There is also an aim to give one million volunteer hours back to employees’ communities. 

Current work includes piloting the integration of QR codes into packaging to better educate consumers on responsible drinking. 

Regenerative agriculture is another key focus. The business is engaging with farming networks in Kentucky and Indiana to test the use of nitrogen to replace synthetic fertilisers. In Mexico, it is involved with carbon sequestration initiatives. 

Work is also under way around the world to boost biodiversity through farming techniques. 

“All of these initiatives from a supply base are really important in terms of the education of our partners in the value chain, working with local NGOs, governments and working with our retail partners and customers,” he said.

Grain at Yamazaki Distillery Beam Suntory

Beam Suntory is targeting regenerative farming practices.

Looking forward, he said transparency and honesty through the value chain will be critical. “We have to change our mindset, we have to think radically about how we collaborate. Because if we don’t, we’re not going to have these really creative solutions and ideas and initiatives to help everyone succeed within a societal perspective.”

He said markets with legislation incoming or already in place were “further down the line”. 

In an interesting perspective, Enfield explained that Beam Suntory wasn’t just talking to a Gen Z or millennial audience with its sustainability narratives. 

“We can’t just focus on one subsection of the audience,” he began. “We can’t just forget about other generations.”

He concluded: “We need to tell authentic stories, provide authentic information, not be quiet about it.”

About TR Sustainability Week: 4-8 September 2023

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View our sustainability content. Stay close to the dedicated section on our website to view TR Sustainability Week content, including this year’s Sustainability Pitches.

Read the Sustainability Issue. The dedicated TRBusiness Sustainability Issue 2023 can be read here.

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