Beverage leverage – An Interview With Kim Marotta of MillerCoors

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Profile of Kim Marotta:  As Director of Sustainability at MillerCoors, Kim is responsible for driving, implementing and managing MillerCoors sustainability strategy and responsibility initiatives. Kim works closely with the company’s parent organizations, SABMiller plc and Molson Coors Brewing Company, to drive performance in these key areas. In 2012, Molson Coors was recognized as Dow Jones Sustainability Index world beverage sector leader, for which MillerCoors was a strong contributor.

Kim was featured in a recent PMNetwork magazine article.  We caught up with her recently to get a little more detail about the connection between sustainability and our discipline of project management – not just the obvious green projects that MillerCoors was undertaking, but more holistically how sustainability is integrated at her company.

Kim Marotta Headshot (smaller)

Kim Marotta, Director of Sustainability for MillerCoors


1. EARTHPM: Kim, you’re quoted as saying “It’s important to us and to our growers that we don’t jeopardize our quality or yield for sustainability. We learned that we can grow both at the same time”. This quote aligns exactly with EarthPM’s assertion that ‘doing the right thing helps the project team do things right’. Do you see this as a recurring theme at MillerCoors – where sustainability is not a constraint but sometimes an avenue for continued or improved success?

Ms. Marotta: In the last five to ten years, we’ve witnessed a dramatic change in how companies and their employees view sustainability. While it used to be viewed as a box they had to check, today sustainability is much more engrained within companies’ DNA. Businesses are discovering that sustainability can help improve their day-to-day routines and make their operations more efficient overall.
For companies considering integrating sustainability into their operations, it’s critical to pilot initiatives first and make adjustments along the way before expanding. At MillerCoors, we started small. When we began exploring how we could make our barley growing operations more sustainable, we piloted new irrigation techniques to save water. With nearly 90 percent of the water we use coming from within our agricultural supply chain, we’re constantly looking for ways to grow barley with less water. We thought we could save hundreds of gallons of water per minute by turning off pivot end guns – the sprinkler nozzles at the end of the water arms – in the barley field. We were unsure what the results would be. Would we still be able to produce the high-quality barley our products require? How would it affect barley yields? We tested the idea by turning the end guns off on only two pivots at our Showcase Barley Farm in Idaho. We soon recognized positive results and expanded the idea to more pivots. To date, we’ve saved nearly 430 million gallons of water on that barley farm while still producing the high quality barley that characterizes our beers.

2.  EARTHPM: Your story being featured in PMNetwork is a huge step in getting exposure to project managers – in particular – about CSR and sustainability projects. What steps have you taken to engage your project managers overseeing “regular” projects in terms of sustainability?

Ms. Marotta: We are lucky to have an employee base that’s engaged and passionate about brewing beer in a sustainable way. We empower our employees, regardless of role or title, to activate initiatives or programs that could have a positive impact on our business. All of us – from the brewery floor technician to those in the board room – play a key role in sustainability at MillerCoors.
We’ve found that an effective way to engage employees are to get them directly involved the process. Annually we measure employee opinions, including views on our sustainability goals, opportunities to learn and grow, etc.

3. EARTHPM: How well-deployed amongst your day-to-day project managers is your Environmental Stewardship message? Does the Sustainability Improvement Team (SIT) and FEWER (Fuel, Energy, Water, Emissions Reduction) Team mentioned on your company’s web page interface with your PMO (Program Management Office)?

Ms.Marotta: Our SIT and FEWER teams serve as project managers when water and energy reduction initiatives are implemented within our breweries, but we encourage all of our employees, regardless of role, to keep sustainability top of mind during day-to-day responsibilities.
One great example of an employee-led sustainability success is our landfill-free achievement at six of our eight major breweries. When MillerCoors was formed just over six years ago, we set a goal to reduce the amount of waste we send to landfills by 50 percent by increasing our reuse and recycling activities. One of our production specialists at the Trenton Brewery thought that we could do better and recycle even more. He took it upon himself to write up a business plan to make our Trenton Brewery the first landfill-free brewery at MillerCoors, which was accomplished in just 23 months.

4. EARTHPM:  We note that your tracking of business metrics has helped MillerCoors establish a persuasive business case to increase CSR efforts. How have the project managers been using this business case in chartering projects?
Ms. Marotta: At MillerCoors, we have a series of business goals we’re actively working toward, and each of our employees is empowered to help us achieve those goals by brainstorming new ideas for process changes and technology innovations. Typically, we will implement a project idea if the project ladders up to our business goals and has the potential to benefit the company in the long-term.
For example, in our Milwaukee Brewery we installed a pasteurizer water reclaim system to reduce water use in the brewing process. That project helped us achieve our goal to reduce our water use by 15 percent, saving tens of millions of gallons of water annually. The savings were so great that a similar system has been implemented at five of our other breweries.

5. EARTHPM:  We applaud your work with the Nature Conservancy in Idaho. Are there more broadly-based collaborations with environmental groups planned?

Ms. Marotta: We firmly believe that collaboration is the key to long-term success, and we are constantly looking for ways to bring in new partners for their insights and knowledge. In 2010, we conducted watershed risk assessments near each of our eight major breweries. We identified three breweries – Fort Worth Brewery, Golden Brewery and Irwindale Brewery – that face water supply challenges.
Our Fort Worth Brewery depends on water from the Trinity River Basin, which supplies nearly 40 percent of the water throughout the state of Texas. To help ensure the area will have access to high-quality water in the future, we began collaborating with local ranchers and conservation groups in the area. We became a primary sponsor of the Sand County Foundation’s Water As A Crop™ program in 2010, which aims to help farmers implement conservation practices on private lands along the Trinity River. The project has since expanded and the Natural Resources Conversation Service (NRCS) is launching the National Water Quality Initiative (NWQI). Through the NWQI, we’re working to implement the successful conservation practices we learned through the Water As A Crop program.

6. EARTHPM: Finally, does MillerCoors have an Environmental Purchasing Policy? Is it part of a larger Environmental Management Plan? How are corporate initiatives like these connected to project management practices for your general PM population?

Ms.Marotta: Our success depends on strong relationships with the people that supply our ingredients. We hold our suppliers to the same high standards we set for ourselves. We have a set of responsible sourcing principals that provide guidance to our suppliers, including business conduct, working conditions, diversity and various environmental issues.
Our employees come from different backgrounds, and it’s very important for us to maintain diversity within our supply chain as well. We have a specialized team dedicated to ensuring that diverse suppliers have a seat at the MillerCoors table. When opportunities arise to bring in an outside supplier, we tap our sourcing managers who use our supplier diversity management system (an internal tracking system) to find qualified woman- or minority-owned businesses that can be included in the RFP process. We also utilize the management system for recruiting qualified candidates in every aspect of our business.

EARTHPM: Thanks so much, Kim, for your great work over at MillerCoors and for taking the time to talk with us about your integration of PM and sustainability.


EarthPM is glad to bring you this in-depth interview and we look forward to talking again with Kim or with other leaders who are excelling in the integration of sustainability into their organizations, in particular their project management discipline.