Sustainability Executive Roma McCaig has taken a long and winding road to her current role as Clif Bar & Co’s Senior Vice President of Impact and Communications.
“My career journey is a little different,” McCaig admits.
Still, while she wears many hats professionally, her personal values have remained stable. I lead a sustainable lifestyle and have had many personal sustainability practices in my life.”
She has over 20 years of experience in communications at various CPG, healthcare and technology companies. She then shifted her focus to strategy and operations, earned an MBA, and began helping organizations spend more efficiently.
It proved a moment of clarity when Campbell Soup Co. hired McCaig to lead its strategy and operations. “They asked me to take over leadership of responsible sourcing, which included integrating all of these efforts into their business.”
Career-wise, the move was the beginning of her sustainability journey, McCaig says.
She was with Campbell when an old colleague who now works at Cliff Bar asked if she was interested in leading a new division called Communications and Impact. In that role, McCaig will oversee the company’s integrated sustainability, community and communications strategies. She jumped at the opportunity.
“I came to Cliff and realized I could put my all into work,” she says.
McCaig told New Hope Network that her work at Clif Bar, the need for accountability and sustainability across all sectors of every organization, and the progressive mission of her company since its recent acquisition by Mondelēz International. talked about how
Hard work has certainly gotten you where you are now, but there have also been some lucky breaks. Beyond these two factors, do you have any advice for professionals who want to intertwine their personal and professional goals?
Roman McCaig: Those lucky breaks came because of the trust I built in relationships. They know me well and trust me.Man [at Clif] The person who reached out knew me well enough to know that I could be a fit. Don’t underestimate the power of mentorship and show who you really are.
You said sustainability shouldn’t be a silo, it should affect each department of the company and be embedded in everything CPG does. Can it be extended?
RM: absolutely. Historically, when a sustainability team was established, they were treated as a silo group there. The rest of us don’t have to worry about that. ”
What we have realized is that in order to make sustainability an integral part of how we do business, we must make it everyone’s job. , it should be part of the company’s strategy. We need to get deep into our processes, policies and systems and make changes where sustainability is at the core. That way it’s easier to set goals, not only for Roma, but also for supply, because he’s responsible for chain goals, he’s responsible for marketing goals, he’s responsible for HR goals. They all know their role and how they can contribute in a measurable way.
Sustainability goals can conflict with what the department feels is necessary to keep the company alive. what would you do in such a situation?
RM: I think Cliff is a good example of what Cliff is and how Cliff operates without us treating sustainability as a separate goal. When making decisions, we consider how we will sustain our business. How to maintain your brand. How do we sustain our people, our planet and our communities?
Organic is a great example. We made the decision to move to organic ingredients in his 2003. It wasn’t just because it was a healthier method of farming. In all fairness, it’s better for people’s health and farm workers. It’s better for brands, it creates a differentiating position, and it’s better for businesses in terms of supply chain resilience.
I bring that input to the table and always look at decisions through the lens of my five aspirations to understand where tradeoffs need to be made. Sustainability may not be the top priority in that decision, but it is part of the consideration.
The “Five Aspirations” refer to a series of final lines that Clif Bar uses to make decisions. Sustainability to our employees, our communities, our planet, our brands and our business. What aspirations does your team have?
RM: Sustainability impact and community impact go head-to-head with my team. We are shepherds, but we do not own everything. For example, in packaging, sustainability is a very important part of our commitment to planetary aspirations. In that respect, we work very closely with our packaging R&D team. Not wholly owned by my team. Strategy and the deliverables to that strategy have significant ownership in R&D.
How has your past experience had a measurable impact across Clif Bar, bringing your sustainability perspective and commitments to Mondelēz?
RM: That’s a big question! Cliff had no shortage of ambitions when I came here. We want to change the world in every way, big or small, but we also have limited resources. That’s what I brought in, allowing organizations to focus their resources on where to spend them. The fact that we have been climate neutral for almost 20 years and have had sustainability programs in place for 20 years is a testament, at both the federal and state levels, to where we can weigh more than we weigh. is.
When it comes to the integration work that Mondelēz and we have done, they realized that when they acquired Clif, they weren’t buying a typical business. They have acquired a truly special business where our commitment to sustainability is at our core. As such, I have led the integration of its sustainability work throughout the acquisition’s workflow.
They realize that what we’re doing or have been doing is a little more progressive, they want to learn from us, and they want to use us as a test kitchen. There is enough scale to show the results of these implementations.
I would have thought it would be a sustainability give and take, but it just sounds like a sustainability give.
RM: Well, you also have access to the resources and knowledge they have. Cocoa and wheat are two very important raw materials for Mondelēz’s portfolio and we have significant investments and sustainability programs in place for these raw materials. We don’t use a lot of wheat, but cocoa is an important ingredient for us, and we allocate about $1 billion to cocoa sustainability. So how can we take advantage of it?
Are there any challenges in translating sustainability messages between the cultures of both companies?
RM: For Cliff, it’s just part of who we are, how we do business, and how we think. Mondelēz is only 10, but Clif says he’s 30, so he has a lot to share.
What I want to say is that in the very short time they have owned us, there is a lot of excitement and passion for Clif at Mondelēz. “We really want to learn what and how you do. We also want to dig deeper into some of these different aspects from a community support standpoint as well.
Often companies start out with the best of intentions, but as they grow they make sacrifices, until one day they wake up and say, ‘This product is not what we had in mind when we started. until you think. Worried about it?
RM: Look at Unilever and Danone, for example. When they buy an organization like Cliff, they don’t try to change it, they try to expand their impact on the world. They know they can bring the resources and scale to help it.
The company is one of a large acquisition by Mondelēz. They acquired other very small companies that were very purpose-driven, but brought in a very different scale than other acquisitions in the space. I’m definitely interested in preserving it and learning from it, but I’m also interested in using it as fuel for growth. They know it’s a key differentiator for us. Especially in the food and CPG sectors, this trend is becoming more and more pronounced.
Not only did they want healthy snacks for active people in their portfolio, they wanted your ethics..
RM: They wanted us to be who we are.
Editor’s Note: Since this story was written, Roma McCaig has parted ways with Clif Bar.
Join members of the Clif Bar team and other organic experts for a panel discussion, “The Benefits of Long-Term Research in Support of Organics,” Thursday at 8:00 am in Marriott’s Grand Ballroom F. Attendance requires a meeting program upgrade. For more information on this and other programs and exhibiting brands, please visit: ExpoWest.com. Click here to see registration options, including virtual access.