Project manager sustainability & Co-Lead plastic hub at Migros-Genossenschafts-Bund
What is your background in Sustainability?
I am a geographer, a passionate co-leader, and I believe in sustainable change through an integrated business model.
Geographers seek to understand the world – the interaction between earth and humans. We’re not afraid of complexity and we embrace change because that’s the nature of Geography. While I will never be finished learning about the world, my studies taught me important lessons which impacted my work: the earth is constantly changing, and complex topics must be approached holistically. The best lesson, through many mountain expeditions, brought me to Switzerland and my love for the Alps. The Alps are my personal reminder of the changes the earth went through over time. Besides that, they are beautiful. Can you believe that I get to combine all my passions in this paradise.
By the age of 2, I started studying collaborative working models but didn’t realize it at the time. I am the older sister to twins. My sisters are the kind of twins who have unique personalities, a strong connection and deeply trust in one another. These are the ingredients that make collaboration work. I couldn’t replicate a twin for myself, but I can use some of the lessons they taught me when approaching my work life.
Working in sustainability for the last 13 years has been a journey on which I have been able to combine my background in Geography with my passion for cross-collaborative working models and generate real impact on business objectives. Sustainability is a business function, and I am in the business of packaging, working side by side with Procurement, Product Development, Supply Chain, Marketing, and the Store Managers who sell the products.
What do you do at your organization in terms of Sustainability?
I help Migros and our customers make life more sustainable. My focus and expertise are sustainable plastics and packaging solutions. This includes not only optimizing traditional single-use packaging but also introducing new business models such as refill stations and circular economy approaches.
To truly integrate sustainable change into business, it is crucial to cross-collaborate over various functions, especially in a horizontally and vertically complex structure like at Migros. My colleague Christine Zwahlen and I launched Migros Plastic Hub three years ago and have been co-leading it ever since.
One plus one is more than two. Co-leadership is not job sharing. Christine and I focus on our individual strength, deeply trust and respect one another and share a common purpose. Together we do a job one person could not do. In my opinion, lateral leadership and collaborative working models are the future for successful firms who want to attract the right talent, but they are also crucial for true sustainability integration into business.
Our Plastic Hub’s purpose is to help Migros be ahead of the game when it comes to sustainable plastics and packaging solutions. We do that through cross-functional collaboration. Migros optimized more than 10’000 tons of packaging material over the last decade. Migros Industry, our inhouse production center for the majority of goods sold in Migros’ supermarkets, won several packaging awards for innovative sustainable packaging solutions. By implementing true bottle to bottle recycling, for example, Migros could produce the first bottles containing 100% recycled plastic.
“What brings the sustainable change is that sustainability is not a green layer on top but integrated into the business from product creation to its eventual consumption."
How do you monitor and report the outcomes and what are the goals?
Of course, Migros has ambitious sustainability and CSR goals that are relevant to humanity and the earth. We monitor and report the sustainability progress frequently and transparently. Migros was rated the most sustainable retailer in the world in 2019 by ISS-Oekom. To implement sustainable change, however, sustainability must be approached more holistically and not simply focus on numbers.
Migros produces and sells products. Thus, Migros is not only a supermarket but also a producing industry. As complex as Migros’ end-to-end structure is, it is actually an advantage for us. Collaborating with our packaging developers at Migros Industry, our Category Managers as well as our Communication and Marketing experts inhouse is inspiring and generates real impact. What brings the sustainable change is that sustainability is not a green layer on top but integrated into the business from product creation to its eventual consumption.
“Migros would not be Migros without ambitious and honest sustainability goals which generate positive impact. Sustainability does not only add value but shapes Migros’ DNA. In terms of risk reduction, can you imagine how risky it would be if we didn’t focus on sustainability?"
What does a business need if it wants to start introducing Sustainability practices?
Know your business first. Know the environmental and social impact your business generates. Know your costumers’ and clients’ needs and consider their opinions, too. Bring it all together and come up with a meaningful sustainability strategy that fits your business. Integrate sustainability into your vision, your core business, the way you work together, the products and services you sell. Empower employees who create sustainable change and provide a work culture that embraces it.
If your business lacks sustainability knowledge, hire an expert. After all, who does not prefer having their new home designed by an architect rather than by a dentist?
Do you feel that differentiating yourself through impact has brought an added value to your business and reduces risks?
Sustainability is a part of Migros’ identity. Migros would not be Migros without ambitious and honest sustainability goals which generate positive impact. Sustainability does not only add value but shapes Migros’ DNA. In terms of risk reduction, can you imagine how risky it would be if we didn’t focus on sustainability?
Do you see a change in behavior in your consumers?
My mom and I like to passionately debate sustainability topics. This made me realize how much sustainability matters, not only to my mom, but to many in our society, especially our customers.
Our customers not only demand but expect sustainable products. And they are well informed. Sustainable packaging is THE most frequent demand. Our costumers appreciate Migros’ systematic engagement for sustainable packaging that we have been committed to for more than 10 years.
More and more costumers thoug, call for real change. Sustainable single-use packaging is not enough anymore. We are observing a rising demand for zero waste solutions such as refill stations and reusable products. As costumers are willing to go a step further, Migros has started to introduce over 20 refill stations in its supermarkets all over Switzerland. Within the first months of launch, more than 10’000 costumers refilled over 12’000 tons of food. I am delighted that Migros customers’ want to play a role in this sustainable transformation.
Costumers want to get involved and they want to contribute to a sustainable change. It is my responsibility to help them contribute to Migros’ sustainable journey in a meaningful way.
How do new technologies influence your work?
New technologies are important and contribute to change. It is an unrealistic believe though that they will do the job for us. To truly change, we need to integrate sustainability into our businesses, into the way we live, the way we work.
This might sound overwhelming. However, the world is changing anyway. Instead of letting change just happen, we better embrace it. Create the change you want for a more sustainable future. Technology is just a part of the solution, but we all need to change sustainably. We are all in this together.
In your view, what’s the biggest challenge when it comes to marketing Sustainability?
70% of Swiss households describe themselves as sustainability conscious.
What says eco and looks green, however, often is not. What generates impact, on the other hand, is sometimes hard to sell and might not be obvious to the public. As costumers become more aware about sustainability and demand sustainable products, the interest of communicating and marketing sustainability has exploded. The spotlight on sustainability is a great opportunity for many firms, however, this has also led to greenwashing campaigns and claims that are not only misleading but can be harmful to real progress.
Collaborating with our Marketing and Communication Departments for many years has made me realize how important it is to tell an honest story about your sustainable journey. And to not only show the success but also the struggle. Sustainability is not a hype but it matters. It matters to the people and it matters to the planet, so part of our job is to communicate this through dialogue. Honest sustainability marketing is one of the many integrated ways to achieve that.