If we are good to our people, they will grant us the highest value to be the best company,
Roberto Servitje Sendra
It only took 60 years to turn Grupo Bimbo into a global-scale sustainability model. Roberto Servitje Sendra, founder and Chairman of the Board of Directors was acknowledged with the highest entrepreneurial award, the Business for Peace Award.
He was less than 20 years old when his family already managed a small bakery called El Molino, and when his incipient entrepreneurial sense led him to recognize there was a great market opportunity in producing white loaf bread. After six decades of work and leadership, Roberto Servitje Sendra, founder and Chairman of the Board of Grupo Bimbo, was acknowledged with the highest world award that an entrepreneur can aspire to: the Business for Peace Award.
The award, best known as the Entrepreneurial Nobel Prize, was created in 2007 to acknowledge a global businessperson who has ethically and responsibly devoted his/her energy with the aim of creating value for the entrepreneur’s company and for society. The prize headed by the Nobel Prize Muhammad Yunus, Michael Spence y Wangari Maathai was granted to Roberto Servitje Sendra in 2010. Two years later, he was also invited as a keynote speaker for that year’s ceremony.
That May 7th, 2012, when he went up the stage of the Oslo City Hall to give his lecture, the Mayor or the Norwegian capital, Hallstein Bjercke, warned that Servitje Sendra could “claim” being one of the “sculptors” of the corporate responsibility culture “since before the term and the culture became a fad, Mr. Roberto already leaded with the philosophy of benefitting all members of his company. He has always known that the alliance among the company and its employees, consumers, suppliers and customers is what leads to success. He has applied this comprehensive wisdom and respect for over 50 years and, therefore, he is a global icon of corporate social responsibility”, boasted the Norwegian diplomat.
“Charity, properly understood, starts at home. This means that the true corporate responsibility starts at our enterprises.”.
When taking the floor, the Mexican entrepreneur did not nit disappoint and confirmed how his humanistic outlook has determined the success of Grupo Bimbo.
Highly productive, deeply humane… “I am profoundly convinced that businesses have to acknowledge the critical role they play in shaping society and how it evolves. A good friend, Mr. Peter Drucker, stated that good businesses design and shape the society in which we live. I firmly believe that an environment created by efficient, honest and responsible businesses and where fairness, truth, peace and harmony prevail definitely contribute to create a society with these same characteristics”, was the opening remark of this presentation.
During that dissertation of over 30 minutes, he stated, before a numerous group of great world entrepreneurs, which are the values and pillars supporting his philosophy, and where their social importance lies.
“In opposition, dishonest and irresponsible businesses, where injustice and corruption prevail are directly responsible for the same social evils,” , he denounced.
Following this logic, he explained: “businesses, institutions and companies are what people are, and people will be like their leaders”. And added that managers cannot behave differently from what first-line executives and CEOs dictate.
“I do not have to tell you how a leader must be like, but we know that it is very important for the development of a company with integrity that its personnel upholds the necessary values and aptitudes to be honest; and I think these values are six”, he said.
The first value he delved into was integrity in their professional development, as well as in their personal lives, followed by intelligence, the skill to relate well to others, i.e., sensitivity and finally, he cited effectiveness, leadership and business sense.
“As you may have noted, these characteristics relate to people. We understand that the foundation for Social Responsibility is mainly supported by the human being. It is not philanthropy, environmental protection or avoiding discrimination; definitely, these issue are relevant, but we center ourselves on the persons. In Grupo Bimbo we express it as follows: ‘We seek to be a highly productive and deeply humane company.’ We want to build a sound company with a soul”.
Vision of the environment’s future
While people are a critical pillar for Grupo Bimbo’s success, they very well know that caring or the environment is fundamental for the subsistence of their business. Hence, they have structured a sound strategy to be a greener company, as detailed in an interview with Rosalío Rodríguez Rosas, Grupo Bimbo Environmental Sustainability VP .
- How is Grupo Bimbo’s environmental sustainability strategy structured?Since 1991, Grupo Bimbo formalized its policy on the rational use of natural resources and energy in its production and distribution processes. In 2002, GB implemented a comprehensive environmental management system in all its production plants in Mexico, and in 2007 launched its “Committed to the Environment” program, with the aim of reducing the environmental impact of all its operations.
Given this structure, it became necessary to change the way of addressing environmental issues; therefore, in 2011, committees were established: the Environment; Strategic Committee, the Environment Technical Committee and the Environment Operating Committee.
- Which are the pillars supporting your environmental strategy? In order to give continuity to practices and initiatives framed in the “Committed to the Environment” program, Grupo Bimbo made the decision to evolve in three major lines of action: carbon footprint reduction, water footprint and comprehensive waste management.
- How do you convey this culture within the organization? We established a work plan through multidisciplinary teams together with operating committees. It is worthwhile mentioning that we use tools like Kaizen events, in which we analyze data so that each area in the company participates and identifies areas of improvement.
- Which are some examples of innovative environmental sustainability actions undertaken by Grupo Bimbo?Carbon footprint reduction; all its related initiatives and programs regarding energy savings, hybrid technology vehicles and the recent integration of vehicles with NGT (natural gas technology), degradable wrappings, green procurement and the use of renewable energy thanks to the Piedra Larga wind farm.
- How have you impacted your suppliers and helped them to be more sustainable? Grupo Bimbo has implemented a supplier’s code of conduct that has clear focus on entrepreneurial social responsibility and environmental sustainability.
- How do you measure the success of your strategy? Bimbo Bakeries USA developed the Bimbo environmental sustainability tool (BEST, for its acronym in English), implying an approximate investment of $400,000 US dollars. BEST is a tool to process our daily operation’s environmental data to identify and measure any type of waste (water, energy, product or additional cost) in each of our production processes. BEST allows us to monitor the actual economic and environmental impact of each process.
- Which is the next step regarding global sustainability? I think a fundamental factor is the continuous search for synergies among governments, the private sector and society itself.
It is not that Grupo Bimbo does not understand to perfection all factors involved in a profound Corporate Social Responsibility strategy, or as it is now known, a Sustainability one. As a matter of fact, its policies are geared to address four issues: the health of its consumers, the environment, society and associates, and all of the outcomes of the actions undertaken every year in each of these fields are published for the general public and for investors in its Annual Report, which is rated and approved in accordance to the Global Reporting Initiative standards.
“We also care for our customers and consumers, and acknowledge we have to create win-win relationships with our suppliers. We give good service to our customers; we give them the best quality, price and service. We have an attitude of service, we are productive and creative to give them the best product,” added Mr. Servitje Sendra., added Mr. Servitje Sendra.
“Likewise, we comply with the laws and mores of each of the sites where we have operations, and when possible, we contribute to social causes. And an important area in which we have made great efforts and investments is the environmental one” .
He noted that in line with the many actions developed to be a less polluting company, they make an efficient use of water and are greatly concerned to reduce their pollution, as well as in using renewable energy sources.
An example of this is the new wind farm recently inaugurated in the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, which is the largest in the world. This facility constitutes the largest and most important conversion into renewable energy sources in the food industry worldwide.
These actions, admitted Mr. Servitje Sendra, are undertaken not to do away from legal or administrative demands, but because they truly believe that it is their responsibility to care for the environment in which they work.
“If a company does not do this, then, it cannot call itself sustainable”.
In its most recent Annual Report, Grupo Bimbo highlights that its `performance indicators pertaining to sustainability improved between 2010 and 2011. It also details that this performance has to further improve. Its Vision states: “In 2015, we confirm our leadership in Social Responsibility and the implementation of our model in all our operations, strengthening the competitive advantage and addressing the needs of our stakeholders”.
Among the most important achievements of last year, its report shows that regarding consumers’ health, they improved 700 products by reducing, mainly, their content of total and saturated fats, sodium and sugar They also developed 160 products with a better nutritional profile and furthered the promotion of a healthy life style.
Regarding the environment, it reports that between 2009 and 2011, the company reduced its carbon footprint in 6.2%, representing the elimination of over 82,000 tons of CO2. Similarly, its water footprint decreased in 3.9% by ceasing to consume 150,000 cubic meters of water, and they also recycled 72% of the waste generated at the plants in Mexico, Centro and South America.
In reference to their social commitment, they highlight their continuous support of their suppliers by increasing their funding in 15%, while supporting over 300 civil society organizations. To that end, over 47,000 associates of Grupo Bimbo devoted their time and that of their families to help.
Last, regarding what the company does for its associates, they stress the over 2.4 million hours of personnel training and the opening of 600 online courses through their Bimbo Virtual University, and in order to give an important place to the no discrimination subject, courses on human rights were given to 9% of the associates.
Roberto Servitje Sendra’s speech at that international forum is supported by a series of sustainability actions that are evident, sound, well structured, which that can be observed in the company’s daily operations and that have now made it a global benchmark.
“At some point, I was asked how to have a very profitable and humane company. I answered that I could not understand having a successful company without it also being very humane. Charity, well understood, starts at home, states a Mexican saying; this means that true corporate responsibility starts within our companies. If we are good to our people, they will grant us the highest value to be the best company,” concluded the entrepreneur.