Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO of Mondelez International, leads one of the world’s biggest snack food companies. With consumer priorities shifting over the past year during to the coronavirus pandemic and social unrest, he’s started to view his leadership position differently. Thinking a decade down the road, he aims to be what he calls an “ambassador of the future” for consumer behavior.
Van de Put envisions a modernized food company that’s both transparent and sustainable for its customers and employees. In his sit-down for “CNBC’s Evolve: The Faber Interview” series, he details the changes he sees Mondelez undergoing in each of these ways.
“It’s exciting, it’s inspiring, but it’s complex,” Van de Put said on the evolution, “We will need to drive big changes, we will need to be a very different company.” When it comes to sustainability, he emphasized setting goals that are measurable, not just talk. “You need to be able to prove that what you do is really going to happen.”
Van de Put continued by saying that ESG investing is the main thing shareholders are interested in when evaluating a company apart from its financial performance. Chicago-based Mondelez is taking part by focusing on areas its business operations can directly impact. For 2025, the company behind such iconic brands as Oreo has set goals that include making 100% of its packaging recyclable, efforts toward sustainable ingredients for its chocolate brands, due diligence on child labor, and the inclusion of portion guidance on its products to promote healthy eating.
For Mondelez, which delivered $26.6 billion in net revenue for 2020, communicating these goals and messages of social issues can be difficult given their global reach. However, Van de Put said he’s found it easy to connect with the consumer on where the company stands by communicating through its portfolio of products. “They can play a social role and pass on certain messages,” he said.
While Mondelez leverages its brand power to express its stance on issues like diversity and inclusion, internally, Van de Put said, there is work yet to be done. “We’re not where we want to be,” he said. Mondelez has set a goal of doubling the number of Black employees in management positions in North America over the next three years and hired a diversity and inclusion officer this past October.
With only one Black board member, Van de Put said the company is working on changing that in the near future. “It is very clear in the organization that we are very serious about this,” he told David Faber.
Looking at the future of work post-Covid, Van de Put acknowledged some benefits of a flexible schedule for corporate workers, but said he feels the culture of the company will gradually decline with continued virtual work environments. “We’re certainly not suffering from a productivity perspective,” he told Faber, but added, “I do think people want to be together working.”