Global CEOs and Industry Experts Share Learnings from Covid-19
Key Takeaways from Day 2 of The Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit
PARIS, 22 June 2021 — The second day of the virtual 2021 CGF Global Summit drew to a close this evening, following a programme packed with information about opportunities and challenges in the global consumer goods industry. Delegates from 42 countries joined the live-streamed event, hosted on the rooftop of the Paris studio in hybrid format that saw live moderators conversing with speakers on screens. Today’s programme returned to the theme of “Now What?” beyond the pandemic, contextualising this question within specific geographies, sectors and strategies.
A Regional Approach to Better Business
The morning began with a focus on the future of retail in the Asia-Pacific, a region that has long been a hotbed of innovation in the sector. Seah Kian Peng, CEO of NTUC Fairprice Enterprise, offered insights from his role at the helm of Singapore’s leading food retailer, together with fellow APAC market experts Melanie Sanders of Bain & Company and Wai-Chan Chan of the CGF. The speakers agreed that digitisation is a “strategic imperative” in the region and that less-developed markets, such as India, will soon catch up to their more developed neighbours.
A later plenary was headlined by another titan of APAC retail: Daniel Zhang, Chairman and CEO of Alibaba Group, the China-based corporation that ranks among the world’s largest e-commerce platforms and artificial intelligence companies.”You have to think about the value we can provide to the customers, not as a standalone online or standalone offline model”, said Zhang, despite his reputation as an online leader. “I always say we need to give people a real reason to go back to the stores.”
The programme also paid a visit to Latin America with a plenary featuring Daniel Servitje, Chairman and CEO of Grupo Bimbo, the Mexico-based multinational that is the largest bakery company in the world, and Carlos Mario Giraldo Moreno, CEO of Grupo Éxito, the largest supermarket chain in South America. This session explained the Covid-19 context in LATAM and the hurdles that consumer goods companies encounter in the region. Both saw the potential for companies like their own to serve as role models in the face of volatility. “We as corporate citizens have to play a larger role in society than what we used to do, and this is a moment to speak out, to speak up”, said Servitje.
One of the CGF’s Coalitions of Action, Collaboration for Healthier Lives (CHL), has been active in LATAM since it launched in 2017. The plenary “Collaboration for Healthier Lives: What Is Happening on the Ground?” shared stories from CHL, which became one of the CGF’s Coalitions last year, from the perspective of leaders at Walmart, Danone and Unilever. The CHL’s active initiatives focus on the health and wellness needs of consumers in nine regions. “For us to be successful demands that we create solutions that reach everyone inclusively, particularly those that are the most vulnerable,” said Marcus Osborne, Senior Vice President of Health & Wellness Transformation at Walmart and Co-Chair of CHL. Meanwhile, Marcus’ fellow CHL Co-Chairs, Ayla Ziz, Senior Vice President Global Sales, Chief Customer Officer at Danone, noted, “The pandemic managed to foster collaboration across the industry, so this is something really positive, and obviously driven by the Consumer Goods Forum” and Rebecca Marmot, Chief Sustainability Officer at Unilever commented, “A key part, thinking from the perspective of CHL, is leveraging the strength of our own people on this journey, looking at the Workforce Nutrition Alliance and looking at how we can encourage our own employees to eat more healthy, to take more exercise and to know when to take a break“.
Solutions Through Technology and Innovation
Delegates had several opportunities to discover innovative technology and business models during today’s programme. One plenary, “Global Retail & Delivery”, introduced Chieh Huang, Co-Founder and CEO of Boxed.com, an online retailer that delivers wholesale, bulk-sized products to customers around the United States. The e-commerce model poised the startup for success during the pandemic, and it recently announced that it is going public in an $887 million SPAC deal.
The afternoon’s Special Sessions focused on digitisation and artificial intelligence, the adoption of which accelerated in the consumer goods industry last year. The Boston Consulting Group hosted a session on applying AI at scale, in which Managing Director and Senior Partner Sylvain Duranton of the Boston Consulting Group said that “There is no better tool than AI to help teams take effective decisions when confronted with massive complexity.”
Meanwhile, Ecolab shared digital risk mitigation strategies for known risks such as climate change and water scarcity. “With digital solutions, we can minimise challenges caused by water stress and climate impacts, and we can gain visibility and control over variability, enabling us to control costs and reduce our footprint while remotely ensuring continuity”, said Chris Morgan, Vice President and General Manager of Digital Growth for Ecolab’s Industrial Sector.
IBM also presented digital solutions, proposing a collaborative platform that would improve traceability for consumer goods. “We all want the same thing”, said GS1 UK CEO Anne Godfrey, a co-presenter in the IBM session, in support of this collaboration. “We just need to find a way globally, locally, and taking into account competition law, to make sure that our end users, our consumers, are kept as informed and protected as they possibly can be.”
Three concurrent Tech Talks offered another format to learn about emerging technology. Hosted by the innovative companies behind the solutions, including Microsoft, Bain & Company and MSD Animal Health, these 15-minute presentations covered data collaboration, strategies to improve the economics of online grocery, and a DNA-based technology to improve traceability in food.
Lessons from Leaders
A common thread of the 2021 Global Summit has been the fortitude of the consumer goods industry’s leaders during the crisis. This thread came to the foreground in the plenary titled “Ways to Build Resilience in Tough Times”, a panel discussion among three CEOs: Frans Muller of Ahold Delhaize, Mark Schneider of Nestlé and Brian McNamara of GSK Consumer Healthcare. Moderated by CHL Director Sharon Bligh, this session covered both the CEOs’ success in maintaining business continuity during the pandemic and their determination to adhere to the tenets of CHL in spite of the crisis.
Three other CEOs, Laxman Narasimhan of Reckitt, James Quincey of The Coca-Cola Company and Judith McKenna of Walmart International, shared further stories of resilience during interview-style Fireside Chats. All expressed confidence in the potential of the consumer goods industry to improve the health of people and the planet through efforts such as improving the circularity of packaging and shifting to renewable energy.
“With this pandemic, what we realise is there are fractures we face in society, because the pursuit of profit and growth has come at the expense of too much, and perhaps too many”, said Narasimhan, who called himself a “committed capitalist”. “For us to ensure that capitalism continues to deliver on its positives, it’s going to have to address some of the negatives that it has also brought forward.”
The statement was a reiteration of the CGF’s vision: better lives through better business. This sentiment echoes throughout the Summit and the CGF work it discusses, and will continue to be a motif in the following days.
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About The Consumer Goods Forum
The Consumer Goods Forum (“CGF”) is a global, parity-based industry network that is driven by its members to encourage the global adoption of practices and standards that serves the consumer goods industry worldwide. It brings together the CEOs and senior management of some 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and other stakeholders across 70 countries, and it reflects the diversity of the industry in geography, size, product category and format. Its member companies have combined sales of EUR 3.5 trillion and directly employ nearly 10 million people, with a further 90 million related jobs estimated along the value chain. It is governed by its Board of Directors, which comprises 57 manufacturer and retailer CEOs. For more information, please visit: www.theconsumergoodsforum.com.
For further information, please contact:
Lee Green, Director, Communications, The Consumer Goods Forum