Member Spotlight: Arnaud ThoniAugust 26, 2021 | BIER
Company: The Heineken Company
Connect with Arnaud on LinkedIn
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 in November 2017 within the Global Procurement team and was then appointed to lead the sustainability agenda on what we call our Commerce activity. To make it simple, we define the commerce category as everything related to our sales and marketing activity. This includes all the items you would think about related to advertising and content production, media buying and planning, and market research and insights. In addition, it includes all of the points of sale materials and everything that is related to trade, marketing events, and commercial equipment. I’m tasked with mitigating the environmental impact of all that commercial activity.
From a day-to-day experience, I explain it this way.
When you think about our company’s carbon footprint, we are pretty similar to the other beverage companies along the lines of raw materials and agriculture-related impact, packaging, logistics, production, and beverage cooling. But as we’re moving towards our new ambition to be carbon neutral through the entire value chain, we are talking also about the extra scope that is covered in the commercial area. We ought to address also less obvious marketing and selling expenses, such as media, events, and everything around the point of sale materials like the parasols and other brand visibility items we place at a bar, or the plastic cups that we put at events. There are many items and services that we need to consider and this is beginning to expand my scope and focus.
How has the company’s sustainability program evolved over the years, and what are your specific priorities for 2021?
Initially, we had the Better World Program, which was kicked off in 2010. The first wave of actions was focused on our own production; essentially, all that we were doing in and around our breweries. At that time, it made sense because that is where, with great visibility and control on our activity data, we could have the most immediate impact. Then, over the course of 10 years, from 2010 to 2020, there was a ramp-up towards what we could do with our scope 3 emissions, including logistics, packaging, cooling, and agriculture. From there, within procurement, we created the foundations to address the question of how do we accelerate our sustainability ambition, engaging and collaborating with our suppliers to create a roadmap for sustainable innovation and associated impact. That’s basically how my job got created. Fast-forward to now, and I have peers doing exactly the same thing as me, but in their own categories and in their own portion of addressing our carbon footprint through the entire value chain. Specific to my role in the commerce area, the challenge is to be effective I must collaborate with suppliers and also consider how we interact with our customers.
Specific to my role in the Commerce area, my priority and challenge is to find the right balance between our commercial priorities and sustainability ambition. Yes, we want to completely mitigate our environmental impact, and therefore, among other things reduce unnecessary demand for new marketing materials for instance, but we need to do it in a smart way. We just need to find the sweet spot of the type and quantity of marketing materials that we deploy in a market, how they are designed to be recycled or to be reused, and how we may keep them in use for longer periods of time (potentially through refurbishment). All this ensuring that we’re aligned with the commercial priorities.
The focus is obviously still beverage cooling but with, as I mentioned an evolving scope related to all of the touchpoints where our consumers are consuming our products. This includes the bars, the shops, the events. And there are new topics that will require further exploring such as the realm of advertising.
How do you feel being a BIER member will help you successfully address the key areas you are addressing in 2021?
I’m obviously part of the sustainability culture and working towards the future and I like working with other beverage companies. When the initiative was proposed to work with BIER and especially related to refrigeration, I put my hand up to be an active member and to lead some of the efforts because I feel cross-company collaboration is one of the keys to addressing a big issue such as our company’s environmental footprint especially if on topics like beverage cooling there is a lot of similarities in the ways of working, and the suppliers we work with.
Despite some geographical differences due to our respective activities, the beverage companies are all working more or less with the same refrigeration manufacturers. So, if we want to accelerate a shift in the industry, we need to collaborate because we all have a similar ambition when it comes to mitigating our environmental footprint. So now, having those conversations facilitated by BIER really helps us understand our collective, common challenges. We can motivate our suppliers together, create a complementary roadmap, and make sure that in the end, we’re all moving towards carbon neutrality, with the right pace, and focus to help the right shift in the industry.
Share a recent accomplishment of your company’s sustainability initiatives/achievements you are most proud of and why.
At the origins of our sustainability journey, our company culture was a bit wary of communicating for the sake of communicating when it came to sustainability. We really wanted to get everything perfect before saying anything. And now we have realized that carbon reduction is a journey, and that circularity is a journey.
Our mindset has shifted from being overly cautious to bold and transparent about where we are on the journey. Do we have all the answers today? No. Do we have an idea of how to reach our ambition? Yes. So our mindset is to be courageous and just go for it. Let’s be bold. Let’s understand what the key levers are to achieve our objectives and then let’s start building from there.
We take our small wins and carry them along the way. We acknowledge our challenges as well. At, each step we are learning and we continue to go for it.
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?
If there was one superpower I could have, it would be the ability to remove any commercial barriers to sustainability. Meaning, in all of the conversations about sustainability, we would forget about money and the costs and we would implement what is necessary. Today. It wouldn’t matter how much it costs. It wouldn’t matter whether the project makes money or not. If we could just remove any financial conversation and focus on implementing what is necessary for sustainability, that would be amazing.
Interestingly, and a bit of a sidenote but relevant, I had a conversation with a friend the other day, discussing sustainability and funding for sustainability projects. Generally, sustainability is about inclusion and getting everyone on the same page from an environmental and social perspective. But as soon as sustainability action equals more money, it loses priority because defining the immediate return on investment can become challenging.
A relatively small number of companies have been able to move beyond the numbers and have long-term visions on sustainability or have the depth of the resource to do it right. This is something that needs to change to make sure that everyone participates in and benefits from the sustainability movement.
Finally, I would like to also share that my background helps a lot in my job on sustainability because I come from procurement. In fact, I initially was recruited to do a procurement job. Working on the cost functions and working with suppliers before moving to sustainability and having that commercial perspective attached to what we need to do from an environmental point of view really helps. So, anyone who is motivated to move to and do something on sustainability, it doesn’t matter where people are coming from in the organization, whether it’s finance, whether it’s marketing, or wherever, I think everybody’s brain and background will help move the needle. Be bold and go for it!
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.
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