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Governance

ESG Case Study: How corporate purpose strengthens Kellogg’s ESG communications with stakeholders

Natalie Runyon  Director / ESG content & Advisory Services / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

Natalie Runyon  Director / ESG content & Advisory Services / Thomson Reuters Institute

· 5 minute read

The Kellogg Company aims to advance sustainable and equitable access to food through a new initiative that leverages its communications around its ESG activities

The attention of boards of directors are increasingly more “attuned to the importance of talent, culture, and connecting business strategy to purpose,” according to a recent Deloitte report. That means that board members continue to focus on environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues, as well as concerns around talent retention and development, employee well-being, hybrid work environments, and the future of work.

While talent issues remain high on the board agenda for many companies, organizations need to do more to explicitly tie the well-being of their people and corporate purpose directly to corporate ESG activities on a consistent basis. Indeed, measuring social impact — the S in ESG — through the lens of people’s well-being is not yet mainstream, although it is gaining traction.

Multinational food manufacturing giant the Kellogg Company (Kellogg’s) is among those companies that consistently link their global purpose platform to their sustainability agenda and ensures their purpose is centered on the well-being of their employees and other stakeholders. More specifically, the company, through its Kellogg’s™ Better Days Promise, aims to advance sustainable and equitable access to food by addressing the intersection of well-being, hunger, sustainability, and equity, diversity & inclusion to create better days for 3 billion people by the end of 2030.

Enacting a multi-pronged stakeholder engagement strategy

Kellogg’s also embeds its corporate purpose into its growth strategy. This definitive integration of purpose and growth dates back a century to its founder and is well entrenched within the organization’s business and culture today, says Stephanie Slingerland, Senior Director of Philanthropy and Social Impact at the Kellogg Company.

The Better Days Promise is a key element of Kellogg’s Deploy for Balanced Growth strategy, which includes consideration of the varying sustainability-related preferences, needs, and desires of the company’s multiple stakeholder groups — employees, customers, consumers, investors, and the communities in which the company is based and operates.

With the recognition that the “company should and can do well by doing good,” Kellogg’s has taken a proactive approach to engaging with stakeholders to communicate how its corporate ESG strategy remains central to its operations and growth strategy through a people well-being lens, Slingerland explains.

Kellogg’s has seen positive implications by intentionally collaborating with stakeholders to integrate the organization’s corporate purpose and social impact into its ESG strategy in a variety of ways, including:

      • Cross-stakeholder ESG initiatives — Honoring World Food Day is a month-long event at Kellogg’s. It is an opportunity for the company to engage with many of its stakeholders, including food banks, retail partners, and employees, through workplace and community volunteering opportunities, donation drives, communications, and events.
      • Employees — Kellogg’s employees regularly engage with ESG initiatives over the course of the year. Indeed, cultivating employees as ambassadors through the promotion of the Better Days Promise to employees’ networks, customers, and partners enables a multiplier effect on the company’s ESG communications and social impact.
      • Consumers & community — Kellogg’s has a long history of involving consumers in its philanthropic activities. In the summer of 2022, for example, the company’s launch of the Build for Better program and competition, executed in partnership with Minecraft and the nonprofit KABOOM!, allowed consumers to design a virtual playground on Minecraft and submit it for the chance to see it built in real life. The winning design was built at a Boys and Girl Club of America in Marietta, Georgia in November 2022.
      • Customers — Likewise, the company’s retail customers recognize the importance of ESG initiatives and are eager to partner on Better Days Promise. For example, Kellogg’s collaborated with a retailer to launch Kellogg’s InGrained™, a program that helps rice farmers reduce climate impact. Another retail partner, recognized Kellogg’s commitment, investment, and partnership on philanthropic, sustainability, and well-being initiatives, named the company the first-ever ESG Supplier of the Year.

Storytelling & data are essential

Data and storytelling are key to executing holistic, multi-pronged communications to a wide variety of stakeholders. While it is sometimes tricky to address all audiences’ preferences and expectations, “sharing stories about the people behind our strategy who have such a passion for their work, or the people that the initiative impacts, resonates the most,” Slingerland says. “Data helps to contextualize the impact of the stories.”

One of the most common challenges in implementing an ESG engagement strategy is how to influence late-comers or those who question the validity of the widespread attention that ESG is receiving. To make progress, companies should stay focused and highlight the positive impact company initiatives can have on the surrounding communities, and how these initiatives help drive company’s growth, Slingerland advises.