Member Spotlight: Kate KrebsNovember 29, 2018 | BIER
Company: American Beverage Association
BIER Working Groups: Water and Public Relations & Communications
Connect with Kate Krebs on Twitter and LinkedIn
Which of your company’s sustainability initiatives/achievements are you most proud of?
The storytelling of our member company leadership in the environmental space is a powerful aspect of the work I do with the American Beverage Association (ABA). While each company does a good job with their individual stories, the industry platform that ABA provides allows the communications team to put together an aggregate of all the innovation and transformation that our member companies have driven forward. And this compelling industry story is captured in a new website, Innovation, Naturally.
I was blessed with having a great communications firm working with me to profile, merge, and develop the company stories so there is transparency throughout the narrative. Now, after our storytelling launch that brought Coke, Pepsi, Keurig Dr. Pepper, and others together, we continue to garner industry and association interest because of our unique approach and focused collaboration between these big brands.
The other initiative we’ve played a role in is fostering engagement and driving best practices in consumer recycling systems. A truly challenging aspect of reporting for our companies in the Scope 3 GHG emissions report is end of life of packaging. Our member company packaging designs are created to be recycled within the wide variety of recycling systems, which in the USA are run by local governments. The USA systems are not always aligned, don’t have a lot of collaboration, don’t have a lot of innovation, and don’t inspire consumers to recycle, so we continue to struggle with low recovery rates of the packages we designed to be recycled. We’re working hard to drive innovation and efficiency throughout the recycling/recovery infrastructure so that consumers find it easy and convenient to recycle at home, work and play. Developing the right policy framework to bring the innovation and efficiency needed is of critical importance. We haven’t made it there yet, but we are working hard to find what those right-sized models are and how we can drive them forward.
What is your favorite practical insight you have gained from being in BIER?
From a practical standpoint, it has been fascinating to observe the different business models of the various BIER member companies. There are non-alcoholic beverage companies that have corporate offices and franchises all over the world. Then there are distilleries with their overall name brand and several other brands within that name that operate uniquely, with environmental principles housed in corporate and driven through the distilling systems. And then to see how the brewers work with breweries, parent companies, and wholesalers—they are all very different business models with very different business drivers. The unique and compelling aspect across all BIER member companies though is the desire to bring sustainable environmental practices throughout the beverage industry.
Understanding environmental practices driven through the different manufacturing systems and learning the differences between beverage categories has given me practical insights that have been extremely valuable for my work with ABA. Whenever we talk policy at BIER meetings these different models come into play and illustrate how different beverage companies approach environmental practices and sustainability.
How has being in BIER shaped your sustainability strategy/enriched your sustainability strategy?
There are invaluable lessons that have been learned from each of the companies at the BIER table. Hearing these practical ideas and solutions that companies have utilized has been very helpful. It’s been very informative to know how people are spreading environmental business practices to South America, Europe, and Asia. Additionally, it’s helpful on a personal and professional level to get to know the other BIER members and hear their stories and the different paths taken to embed environmental practices within their business model. The International Council of Beverage Associations (ABA serves as Secretariat) brings together non-alcoholic beverage trade associations and their members around the world to discuss regulatory issues that are global, many of which fall into the environmental space. So, understanding these complex environmental issues from the BIER member perspective has been extremely helpful to my work as environmental advisor for ICBA.
What area(s) of BIER’s work and the Water Working Group initiatives are you most interested in? Why?
For the past 20 years, it has felt like the beverage sector has had a truly compelling story—but was too shy to tell it. It seemed as if companies wanted to be caught in the act of doing good instead of talking about all of the good work they were doing. What BIER is doing now, both telling the overarching story and teasing out practical stories from member companies and communicating them is invaluable. When we establish benchmarks and metrics on everything from water use to energy, packaging innovation to supply chain, we are transferring those ideas over to the communications team who can tell these stories. Being able to say to our peers that we are part of this conversation and leading an industry is very compelling.
Our next priority is collaboration on water solutions. It is about thinking outside box and knowing that even if we aren’t specifically operating in that region, we have visibility on the decisions being made there. This work will certainly be transformative. Continuing to drive the change and collaboration will be the most challenging part—as well as getting sign off and funding—but the opportunity to think and talk about doing this type of collaboration is huge.
And of course, packaging. I hope to play a key role in changing this aspect of sustainability, not only because it’s my everyday world, but also because I think I can bring value to the conversation due to my longstanding history in recycling.
What’s one cool thing people might not know about you or your company?
For ABA, we are not new to the world of beverages. We’ve been around for decades, and we reflect the very best of the nonalcoholic sector. We have a terrific team of experienced, seasoned professionals and are very proud of the work we’ve done.
As for myself, I think a lot of people think I’m a D.C. person, but I’ve actually spent just as long in California as a policy person. I was on the ground when recycling was a movement—and helped it become a business. That transition was huge as policy took hold, big brands became involved and recovery and remanufacturing infrastructure was built. This story is still being written. I appreciate the role I get to play, the companies I get to work with and look forward to this next phase of innovation.
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.