Member Spotlight: Julie StarrNovember 19, 2020 | BIER
Company: Taiga Company
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.
The traditional roles and responsibilities of a small business owner apply to my position as Managing Partner of Taiga Company.
However, I prefer to see myself as not only the owner of a professional consulting firm helping clients to powerfully engage sustainability communications on the social web, but as a contributing influencer in the overall business sustainability and CSR conversation. While I work with individual clients, my primary role is to promote the positive change occurring in the business world today. Leading by example, I like to leverage the Taiga Company social profiles to be a contributor to the space and a voice for the future.
Taiga Company has been in business for 13 years; additionally, I’ve been active in the sustainability field through various employment opportunities throughout my entire professional career.
As the Director of Communications for BIER, I work closely with the Communications working group to implement the annual work plan. Additionally, I lead the social media marketing and blog publications; spotlight and member interviews, press releases, and work product campaigns.
What are your impressions of BIER and what do you feel has been the group’s impact on private sector environmental sustainability?
Collaboration has been a sustainability buzzword for years and while there are meaningful examples of collaboration, I feel that BIER truly embodies the collaborative approach to developing expert guidance for calculating, tracking, reporting, and innovating on carbon, water, and energy impacts within the beverage sector.
What is encouraging to me are the work products, guides, and toolkits produced by the BIER members. These resources offer guidance to the beverage sector but are also applicable to small and medium-sized enterprises as well – including sectors outside of the beverage industry. While continuing to advance their industry is important, BIER members have embraced the reality that in order to address global and regional challenges ALL industry needs to accelerate efforts and so BIER aims to open source all of their work.
Years ago, it was far more challenging to identify environmental impacts and develop clear actionable, and measurable recommendations to reduce those impacts. However now, with BIER’s guides and toolkits, those organizations new on the sustainability journey, as well as those already on it, have access to reliable best practices which help cut through the noise so to speak, and provide a clear path forward. I feel this is especially important to newcomers on the sustainability path. Having access to best practices and actionable guidance to generate results supports the business case for sustainability and builds momentum to continue.
In addition to the tangible work products and outputs that are noticeable, it is also the more indirect influence BIER has had on the private sector in terms of demonstrating pre-competitive collaboration for nearly 15 years. This leadership has no doubt triggered other sectors to look at collaboration differently and likely move faster to keep up.
What is one specific area (e.g. topic, work product, etc…) where BIER got your attention and why?
I enjoy so many aspects of BIER. Yet because of my role in BIER as the Director of Communications, I have personally enjoyed interviewing the different members and stakeholders of BIER.
The Member Spotlights and Stakeholder Interviews have afforded me a deeper appreciation and understanding of the sustainability goals and commitments that these companies have made and insights into the challenges and fierce determination the sustainability professionals embrace to meet these goals. Each interview has gifted me with a new perspective that I didn’t have previously and that is that many of the challenges we collectively face, as in product packaging, water risk, and carbon, were important topics already on the beverage companies agenda years before they became the critical issues that they are today. This is an important distinction because the beverage industry has been leading on developing strategies to address water quality and supply, greenhouse gas emissions, packaging waste, food security, and biodiversity conservation proactively for years; whereas, many that I engage with on social media falsely believe that the beverage companies current efforts are reactionary. No doubt, these companies are responsive to consumer’s needs and expectations, but they have been working individually, and collectively with BIER for years proactively on these issues. There is a sustainability maturity and sophistication across this group of companies that is widely underappreciated by general stakeholders.
What I truly value about the member and stakeholder interviews is that the individual sharing of personal insights and stories humanizes corporate sustainability. The challenges they share, the passion captured in their work, the resiliency each person brings to pressing challenges are all admirable qualities that makes a corporate sustainability strategy relatable.
The unifying element of sustainability and that we are all in this together is demonstrated in how the BIER member companies are looking beyond their four walls and using their platform for broad positive impact. Karen Kennedy, Sustainability Senior Manager at PepsiCo said it so succinctly, “As global sustainability knowledge within our company, the market, and our consumers has evolved, there’s a recognition that we can’t just stay within our four walls, or our own operations. We have to have more of an influence and an impact outside of that. There’s an awareness that we have to leverage our value chain in order to deliver the scale and sustainability change needed. So, that is what is happening.”
For example, in the interview with Tom Williams, Director of Water for World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), he speaks to the importance of pre-competitive collaboration engagement with member companies and industries as a whole. I was inspired by his statement, “When we collaborate pre-competitively, we’re sort of improving on behaviors and our standards, which brings everyone together.” That unifying aspect is mirrored in Dan Bena’s interview when he highlighted the importance of SDG’s and that “The UN, and governments, and NGOs, and so many others are finally starting to realize that companies—businesses—aren’t apart from society…they are a part of society and have a really important role to play.”
Then, of course, there are the continuous achievements made by BIER member companies that are breaking new ground. Whether it was Ocean Spray’s cranberries verification by a third party as sustainably grown using the SAI Platform FSA making cranberries the first crop worldwide to receive this verification as sustainably grown or Keurig Dr Pepper and MolsonCoors announcing new science-based targets, ambitious targets are being met and progress is being made.
The interviews with both Hugh Share of Share Sustainability and Carolina Garcia Arbelaez with AB inBev literally gave me goosebumps! Why? Because of the innovative on-the-ground BIER watershed collaboration near Guadalajara, Mexico. Unquestionably, this is collaboration at its finest. I won’t spoil the delight and encourage readers to read their sharing about this amazing project but in a nutshell, Hugh’s telling of the top-down and bottom-up collaborative approach and the unifying collective vision of the BIER members to launch this project is truly inspiring. What gives me the goosebumps is the potential to use this innovative approach in other areas where shared challenges and opportunities for collaboration exist.
Overall, I feel very fortunate to have the first-hand experience visiting with the BIER members and I wish others could benefit from the knowledge and experiences shared. I find these leaders to be passionate and generous in their sharing of sustainability goals and strategies, and I am in awe of their resilience in the face of natural challenges faced on the sustainability journey and especially so with COVID. Their committed, results-oriented, and collaborative nature has restored a hope within me that together, we can successfully move faster towards solutions for our current challenges and those of the future. Of course, we have to act now.
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 the gift of awakening. Awakening to our personal responsibility as caretakers of Earth’s natural resources and acting as if the life in all things mattered. If each of us cared for water, agriculture, and our environment in the same manner in which we care for our children, or our pets, or other things we love, then would we discard them so easily? No. We would not. I feel that having reverence and respect for what we have been given and embracing approaches and best practices as mentioned in many of the BIER toolkits and playbooks is one way that businesses can care for the natural world in an awakened state.
BIER Publications referenced in this interview:
Context-Based Decision Guide for Water Reuse and Recycling
Scaling Regenerative Agriculture: What We Can Learn From Innovative Beverage Companies
Beverage Industry Benchmarking
BIER’s True Cost of Water Toolkit
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]