Member Spotlight: Nicolas ClergetSeptember 21, 2023 | BIER
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Welcome to our series aimed at spotlighting the individual leaders within BIER member companies and stakeholder organizations. Learn how these practitioners and their companies are addressing pressing challenges around water, energy, agriculture, climate change, and what inspires each of them to advance environmental sustainability in the beverage sector and collectively, overall.
Briefly describe your role and responsibilities and how long you have worked with your company.
I joined Heineken five years ago. I started in the procurement department, where I was asked to lead and transition a team of sourcing experts to procure more renewable energy. Three years ago, I moved to the global sustainability team responsible for Heineken’s new sustainability strategy. I focused on designing our Net Zero carbon strategy – it was the right fit based on my background in energy and how much work needed to be done in the face of climate change.
I’ve learned a great deal in this role. When I first accepted the position, I thought it was primarily a decarbonization agenda – but actually, it is a transformation agenda. That is because you have to reconcile decarbonization with ongoing business objectives like growth and profitability. This means the proper ecosystems must be set up to enable the transformation. You must set internal targets and establish rewards, remuneration, and incentives. You must allocate enough funding for transition investments and you have to build capabilities within the company. The level of orchestration required is amazing.
The good news is HEINEKEN has a company culture that fosters innovation and collaboration. From our C-suite to our operators, our company takes this agenda very seriously. In reality, my role today is less to mobilize the organization but more to manage and pace the transformation.
How has the company’s sustainability program evolved over the years, and what are your specific priorities for 2023?
Just five years ago, only a few people in Heineken were working on decarbonization – it felt a bit like working in a startup! Then we started to scale up, integrating more teams and senior leaders. We set solid governance with the executive teams of the operating companies, and we started to put processes in place.
Today, I would say we are at full corporate alignment with nearly 45 people dedicated to the agenda – all teams from finance to engineering to procurement to corporate affairs. As a company, we now have the capacity to execute, and our traction in the business is high.
One key improvement we made was turning carbon dioxide (CO2) into a corporate performance KPI. The (sad) beauty is that CO2 is a very easy KPI to integrate into financial performance management. You can create benchmarks and draw insights more easily than other environmental topics. This helps us maintain focus and reflects sustainability as critical to growing the business.
How do you feel being a BIER member will help you successfully address the key areas you are addressing in 2023?
This is an excellent question. This year, I became more active with BIER, including the in-person meeting in Amsterdam. It helped me see the magnitude of topics we are all trying to cover individually and the synergies that are possible. This is not only true for water and carbon, but also for newer sustainability topics like packaging and biodiversity.
BIER is a knowledge-rich, collaborative, and safe environment to explore solutions in a non-competitive and pre-competitive way.
BIER members may have different business structures and geographies, but we face the same systemic issues. BIER now has the opportunity to evolve into a more complete environmental focus, including carbon, circularity, packaging, and biodiversity.
I’m looking forward to our next in-person meeting in September. Sustainability can be a bit of a lonely job sometimes – having the chance to connect with peers that face the same challenges and share insights creates a comforting feeling that we are moving in the right direction as an industry.
Name one of the practical solutions or best practices you learned in working with BIER and its members and why it was important to you and/ or your company.
In a recent BIER session, we mapped water-stressed basins together to potentially identify a new collaborative water project similar to Charco Bendito. I found it extremely helpful to look at the different areas of the world where BIER members are active. In a straightforward, simple, and timely manner, we got clarity on our risks, and the process overall was brilliant.
It also helped us see how many BIER members share the same water basins in danger. This approach could be replicated for other elements in the decision-making process of where to invest, where to decarbonize, etc. It’s a great example of how you collaborate without disclosing confidential information.
Share a recent accomplishment of your company’s sustainability initiatives/achievements you are most proud of and why.
I’m proud of our team for so many reasons. We have scaled to upwards of 45 people attacking all of our markets from Mexico to Saint Lucia to Vietnam – more than 70 countries. They are going deep to transform the energy systems of our breweries.
If I look at our procurement team, these people are dealing with very big suppliers, sometimes with bigger bargaining power than Heineken. Nevertheless, our team is working with them, encouraging them to set science-based targets and move to lower-carbon technologies.
It’s amazing what can happen with the right people. For instance, my colleague Shourya Rane is our Sustainability Manager for Commerce and Business Services at Heineken. She is responsible for scope 3 emissions from cooling, also known as commercial refrigeration equipment. She co-leads BIER’s COOLITION workstream and presented at last year’s Cool BIER Conference – Sustainability Coolers of the Future. The Cool Conference was a first-of-its-kind event where BIER members and commercial refrigeration equipment producers met to discuss the sustainability of refrigeration equipment together. It demonstrated that value-chain collaboration is important for sustainable solutions within sectors. Again, when you have the right people, you can develop more solutions in a different way.
If you had one superpower that could be used to radically accelerate and scale sustainable best practices, which one would it be, and how would you use it?
My superpower would be to transform all schools – especially business schools – so that sustainability is no longer siloed as its own topic but fully integrated across all subjects. For me and my colleagues, we see sustainability as good for your business, your brand, and your mindset. We need a generation of people coming out of school ready to take over – ready to activate and embed sustainability everywhere, from finance to general management to CEOs.
Ultimately, I trust everybody has a passion for sustainability at an emotional level. But to be successful in this topic, we need to use our best skills to put sustainability at the core of the business discussion. It is an activation of personal leadership.
The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable (BIER) is a technical coalition of leading global beverage companies working together to advance environmental sustainability within the beverage sector.
By BIER [crp]