Guest Post: Kim McMann, President BT US & Canada – Magnifying Our Impact

In an earlier post  I talked about the role of CSR in society and how it also helps the business. I see sustainability challenges reflected increasingly in discussions both I and my leadership team have with our customers.  Our customers (and in particular those from the sector for which I am responsible, consumer packaged goods) tell us that sustainability is among their top strategic priorities. I am thrilled to be working with companies such as Unilever, Pepsi, P&G, Nestle, Mars and others who are sustainability leaders in their sectors.  And my peers in other verticals look after customers in sectors such as agriculture and logistics that have connected sustainability challenges.

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What sorts of challenges do we see?   Our business customers are facing an increasingly interconnected world where their consumer customers are expecting increasing amounts of information on the products they are considering buying.  They want to know the source of those products and their environmental and social impact. And they expect this information to be available to them when and where they want it, in an easy to digest form.

Companies see pressures on the availability of raw materials as populations grow and are lifted out of poverty.  Connectivity and IT technologies offer opportunities for increasingly efficient production of commodities.  Better, more timely information equals improved efficiency. So our planet’s limited resources go further.

Many of our customers describe challenges in their supply chains; especially, where large numbers of small farms are involved in developing economies. They want to support those small farmers and help them ensure their livelihoods are sustainable.  Connectivity and IT technologies offer the opportunity for better communication between large companies and large numbers of small farmers. They also provide potential for those farmers to increase their yields and profitability.

And between the farm and the supermarket shelf?  Telecommunications and IT is the enabling infrastructure for improved energy efficiency in manufacturing and in logistics. Our greatest role will come though solutions across sectors.

In my role at BT, I continue to see great opportunity to work with our employees and customers on sustainability and so magnify the positive impact of BT on society and on the environment. Let me know what you think.


  1. Comments 6

  2. Jennifer Biringer 6:53 am on November 1, 2011

    Well put, Kim. I think the surface has barely been scratched in terms of business opportunities for ICT solutions to help make our food healthier, safer, more accessible, and more sustainable. We profiled some of the existing solutions in our recent report, Appetite for Change, and also imagined future ones that would take advantage of elements of a sustainable food system like closed loop systems, fair shares, and inclusive agriculture that makes connecting with smallholder farmers an affordable reality. Jennifer

  3. Dave 2:45 pm on November 2, 2011

    Thanks for the post. Countless opportunities to bring ICT to bear on the world's biggest challenges. I'm not a fan of technology for technology's sake, in fact, that on it own has it's own wide-ranging negative impacts. But as Jennifer said there are many opportunities across the CPG sector. Many of your customers are driving down food waste and driving up donations via better management. Shedding light on what's driving increased volatility in commodity prices may be another example or better collection and mapping of public health data so companies making healthier products might be able to see if they are having an impact.

  4. John Bee 7:24 am on November 4, 2011

    An interesting perspective; and a good synopsis of most of the pressing issues. One challenge not specifically listed here, but is preoccupying Nestlé and our peers, is that of water. More common environmental sustsinability challenges such as energy, greenhouse gas and waste remain, and need to be dealt with , but water is an immediate and pressing concern facing the food and beverage industry in particular. its complexity is exacerbated by a) the fact that all solutions must be implemented at watershed level (the notion of water footprinting cannot be equated with its carbon equivalent, for example); and b) the fact that industry can with the best will in the world only impact a small part of the water challenge in the absence of adequate governance. A second point is that it is not all about mitigation of negative impacts. Increasingly, companies in this sector are articulating the connection between the interests of their shareholders and of the societies they serve in terms of the shared value created for each. We look at this Creating Shared Value approach at in the context of our own organisation and industry. Turning to the interface between the telecoms sector and our own in respect of these challenges, I would agree there should be synergies. The impact of mobile telephony on development (and in our case, more specifically on rural development and providing small farmers with access to markets) is well documented and, I suspect, only just beginning.

  5. Kim McMann 2:20 pm on November 10, 2011

    Jennifer, thanks – I have seen Appetite for Change. It has helped us think more about how we can help companies across the sector address their sustainability challenges. Dave, I see from your profile you are with Campbell’s now but that you have a technology background too. Great combination ! I agree with your statement about technology for technology’s sake. I hope we can contribute to better collection and mapping of public health data as you suggest. Although the focus of my role is on customers in the CPG sector, I see cross-sector collaboration is the way to maximize impact. At BT we have expertise in the public and private health sector and if we can bring that together with our involvement with food and beverage I am sure there will be great sustainability synergies. John, thanks for bringing the water issue into focus. I hope we can find ways to help you with this and your other sustainability challenges. You mention mobility, certainly one of the solutions when it comes to access especially, I also think sensing networks, big data solutions, smart applications and shared information platforms have a place to play. Shared Value Creation was a topic that was highlighted for me in my participation at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting - I will take a look at the Shared Value Creation paper you link to.

  6. Sue Tsokris 8:45 pm on January 23, 2012

    I agree Kim, and appreciate hearing your perspective - particularly with regard to your point on Customer importance. While in years past CPG manufacturers worked to increase sustainability awareness with their customers (with limited success), increasingly we're finding that our customers are eagerly establishing and pursuing their own sustainability agendas - and that we can learn from them. At PepsiCo, we've been able to enhance our success by working with many of our customers to better understand their sustainability priorities, identify key areas of mutual interest and work together to accelerate overall progress... which, of course, ultimately benefits consumers.

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