The Coca-Cola Company has just appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer. Her name is Bea Perez, and she's currently Chief Marketing Officer for North America. Previously, she was involved in Coke's NASCAR and (more generally) sports-related marketing programs.
I have to admit that my first reaction was "oh, great! a sales weenie, with tie-ins to gratuitous fuel consumption! just what we need!!"
But I was wrong.
The first indication that this isn't (just) about greenwashing is the fact that, as Chief Sustainability Officer, Perez reports to the EVP and Chief Administrative Officer. Were it just about greenwashing, she'd still be under Marketing.
The second is that her areas of responsibility include water and packaging, as well as climate protection and community relations.
The third is that Coca-Cola is a marketing-driven company. Were it an engineering-driven company, we'd want an engineer in charge of sustainability. As it is, we want a marketer. At Coca-Cola, marketers are the ones with stick.
And the fourth is that, as at Greenback, moving towards sustainability at Coke involves changing how people think, what they expect, how they frame issues, what they demand. All those things are what marketers do. They're certainly not what scientists do. Nor academics.
In fact, maybe what Greenback needs is a strong marketer in charge of its sustainability office.
(I hope my boss doesn't read this.)
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