Member Spotlight: Leticia Acosta and Paul BowenFebruary 18, 2021 | BIER
Company: Constellation Brands
Paul Bowen, Senior Sustainability Consultant; retired from Coca-Cola
Welcome to our series aimed at spotlighting the individual leaders within BIER member companies and stakeholder organizations. This new year marks the 15 year anniversary of The Beverage Industry Environmental Roundtable. Building on its success, in 2021 BIER is led by two inaugural co-chairs: Leticia Acosta and Paul Bowen. Leticia Acosta is a newer BIER member; whereas Paul Bowen is a founding member of BIER and recently retired from Coca-Cola. Enjoy this insightful interview as both share their knowledge, experiences, and visions for the year ahead.
Briefly describe your role and responsibilities and how long you have worked with your company.
Leticia: I have been with Constellation Brands for two years now in my role as Corporate Sr. Manager – Global Environmental Sustainability. I contribute to the development and execution of our company-wide strategic sustainability initiatives. My focus is on ensuring that sustainability efforts enhance business performance and support the long-term interests of the company. I collaborate with operations leaders in setting enterprise-wide environmental sustainability objectives, goals, policies, standards, environmental performance measures, and effectively identify, assess and manage risks and opportunities.
Paul: Given my recent retirement from Coca-Cola, I can speak to the sustainability journey and accomplishments of my career. When I think back to those early days in my career, I think two things stand out more than anything else. One was when I began doing water conservation/efficiency, I would go into a plant and ask how much does your concentrate, bottles, labels, etc. cost? The plant manager could just spout those numbers off. And I’d say, well, how much does your water cost? The response I received was, “You mean we pay for water?” The difficult work was changing that mindset so today, I could go into most plants and ask, “How much does your water cost?” and they can tell me the cost as well as they can tell me the things they are doing to improve water efficiency. So mindset and actions were big, big factors in our success with reducing the water use ratio, which is the volume of water to produce a volume of product.
The other thing was improving wastewater treatment globally. We helped initiate the design, construction, and operation of wastewater plants at our facilities in over 40 countries. In several of those countries, it was either the first industrial wastewater facility or sometimes the first wastewater facility at all. So just being at the forefront of that effort and saying the Company and its bottling partners made that commitment was really meaningful.
Briefly describe your inspiration for becoming a BIER chairperson. What inspired you? What about the role is exciting or compelling to you?
Leticia: The fact that our BIER group is so diverse inspires me. We have members from different countries, cultures, and backgrounds, but we all work successfully as one cohesive team. It is exactly that, our differences make us stronger and able to develop and deliver great work products for our industry.
Another critical distinguishing aspect of BIER that has inspired me is that the BIER members create the standards and the guidelines to benefit the beverage industry, not only our member companies. The work is available to all and at no cost.
I am excited to work on ensuring the collective value of BIER is being met with each engagement and that BIER continues to execute an agenda in line with the BIER Mission and Vision, as this is what has made BIER successful these past 15 years and will serve as a great foundation for years to come.
Paul: Being a founding member of BIER was a big achievement for the Company. Collaboration during the early stages of the sustainability movement was key. Reflecting on this achievement and still to this day, I think, “Wow, that collaboration was something we had the foresight to bring together all these people and say this group is not about marketing, this group is not about company policy. This group is about technical people getting together for technical solutions to environmental sustainability problems.” The fact that BIER is launching its 15th year speaks to what the group has set forth with its vision and fulfilling its mission.
Contributing to BIER throughout the years has been a rewarding experience. What is inspiring to me is the opportunity to share my knowledge and assist new and existing BIER members to actively engage in the workgroups. I also feel extremely grateful I can co-chair this year. In doing so, it keeps me involved in the group and allows me to discuss topics and issues I think are important to the beverage industry and the environment. Hopefully, there will be an in-person meeting in the future where I can attend and see many of the good friends I have made within BIER.
Reflecting on 2020 and the BIER work plans for 2021, what are your thoughts related to BIER’s current efforts? What topic is most inspiring to you?
Leticia: I think BIER work plans for 2021 are very ambitious and I am very excited about that. I like the fact that the topics for the workplans were brought to BIER by the members and provide added value to the member companies, as well as, to the beverage industry overall. I am glad that all members voted on selecting the main topics that BIER will address in 2021. It was a true team effort allowing us all to feel proud and own the process.
Although all topics are inspiring, I would have to mention water circularity metrics as one of the most inspiring for me in 2021. The Water Circularity Metrics guidance note and associated tool aim to provide a practical approach for businesses to adopt a common metric for water circularity. I appreciate the opportunity to continue our 2020 work with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) on this topic. In addition, I am also inspired to be working on refreshing our water framework definition with a focus on what it means to continue to be a corporate leader.
Paul: As always, I’m excited water remains core to the work plan and I truly like the direction we’re heading with water. Additionally, I am excited we’re able to broaden our focus and do more things with carbon and climate. The BIER members have the technical ability to deal with a host of sustainability topics and issues but by maintaining the focus on water and climate, I believe we allow ourselves to make our mark and to continue to lead in those areas. And that leadership, I think, is incredibly important because people now recognize and understand the technical quality behind BIER work products.
Building on our past and moving forward into BIER’s 15-year anniversary, I’d like to get more beverage people talking and engaging. BIER members have always been collaborative and I’m looking forward to more collaboration with some other organizations.
What is one personal quality you bring to the Chairperson role that will help further enhance BIER as the organization embarks on its 15th year?
Leticia: Overall, I believe it is a combination of personal qualities, not just one quality. It is a combination of vision, teamwork, empathy, subject matter expertise, responsibility, and worldview.
Also, as I mentioned in my BIER Member Spotlight last year, one of the things that is the most important is to ask questions and be willing to learn from people that have experience. It’s equally important to learn how to speak about sustainability and communicate it in understandable ways to different people so that they understand and believe in what you’re proposing. I think that’s one of the most important skills you can have – influence and communication.
Paul: I always like to help mentor people. I think this desire to be a guide goes back to my academic career and I genuinely like to set people up for success. Success involves having the ability to help people understand vision and accountability so they get rewarded for their work.
Sometimes helping people understand the ropes is one thing; other times guiding people sometimes involves just listening or being an ear and saying, “Yeah, you’re on the right track.” Or it may involve questioning approaches to explore different lines of thinking. I actually enjoy helping others identify their vision and creating pathways to support them in fulfilling that vision whether in identifying skill sets, offering advice or a listening ear, or through collaboration.
If you had the power to change one thing in the world that you feel would open up the floodgates for more companies to accelerate sustainability efforts, what would it be?
Leticia: In a nutshell, increased collaboration. We have reached a point where companies need to partner with other companies, associations, agencies, local communities, government, etc. to advance sustainability efforts. This will integrate environmental sustainability with social sustainability, which will result in a win-win situation for the world and future generations.
Communication is key to increase collaboration, otherwise, how will you collaborate with others if you don’t engage them? When people communicate, it opens up opportunities for collaboration.
Paul: I would eliminate the question, “How much does it cost?” I think we either eliminate the question or better define the true cost of sustainability. I don’t believe we fully understand it. I think too often we get hung up on, for example, water costs so much per gallon – so if we save it, we save this amount of money. That’s the hard dollars, but what about all the other things? What about you now have more water to give to more homes or you now have a plant that can last longer or you don’t deplete the source as fast? I mean, all those things come into play, but we often are just so narrowly focused on what it costs directly and not a more holistic perspective. If we could eliminate that “How much does it cost” mindset then I think we certainly would move a lot faster.
BIER Publications referenced in this interview:
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]