Interview
June 11, 2024

Internal Sustainability Education: How Kerry Achieved 91% Engagement

Interview
June 11, 2024

Internal Sustainability Education: How Kerry Achieved 91% Engagement

Interview
June 11, 2024

Internal Sustainability Education: How Kerry Achieved 91% Engagement

Interview
June 2024

Internal Sustainability Education: How Kerry Achieved 91% Engagement

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With Sibéal Bird, Global Sustainability Lead and Christina O’Keefe, Director of Sustainability - North America at Kerry Group.Kerry Group, a global sustainable nutrition provider to the world’s leading food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies, has cracked the code on employee ​sustainability education, with a phenomenal 91% engagement rate with their “Sustainability Essentials Course” (yes… 91%!!). With over 21,000 employees, across 50 countries - we’re left thinking… how on earth have they achieved this!?

We spoke to Sibéal Bird, Global Sustainability Lead and Christina O’Keefe, Director of Sustainability - North America at Kerry. Sibeal built the program and Christina implemented it in North America, their wisdom combined makes for a killer list of advice.

The Challenge

In 2020 Kerry had a challenge: translating their ambitious new sustainability goals ("Inspiring food, nourishing life" and reaching 2 billion people with sustainable nutrition) into action across a huge workforce. How could they ensure every employee understood their role in achieving this purpose?

The Solution: The “Sustainable Essentials” Education Program

"Sustainable Essentials" offered six core modules on climate action, responsible sourcing, and more, directly aligning with Kerry's sustainability strategy. Sibéal, the mastermind behind the program’s creation, emphasised these key considerations for building a rock-solid education foundation:

  • Pilot framing: To secure funding and leadership buy-in, the program was presented as a “pilot”. This proved to be easier to get support for vs a long-term business activity.
  • Centrally crafted, regionally owned: The beauty of the course lies in the execution. The core content remained consistent across regions, but deployment strategies varied. The information was also built to be evergreen, requiring reviews only every 3 years.
  • Collaborative team set-up: A cross-functional team formed the program's backbone. It included regional leads (North America, EU, and LATAM), L&D partners representing different functions (e.g., science) and a project manager. A communications champion was also enlisted to stir up internal support, creating posters and driving traffic to the modules. The team met weekly throughout the project timeline.

The Program Blueprint:

With a time-bound project, they developed the 6 modules and 6 videos in ambitious 6-week sprints, grouped by theme. Each theme followed a clear process:

  • Content gathering & brainstorming: Teams collaboratively identified key content (case studies) and brainstormed the overall narrative and format.
  • Storytelling: Detailed storyboards were crafted for both videos and eLearning modules, undergoing iterative review cycles.
  • Testing & Refining: Internal and external experts, along with end-users, provided feedback through iterative review cycles.

It’s worth noting that they didn’t create any new stories/ case studies. Instead, they leveraged existing content and repackaged it into engaging stories. This saved a lot of time.

Measuring Impact: The Program’s KPIs

The team used a strategic set of KPIs to assess the program's success. These were crucial, as achieving them secured future funding. The focus went beyond just project delivery and completion rates:

  • Engagement: Number of employees to finish the e-learning modules.
  • Knowledge gained: Learning metrics embedded within the courses measured employee understanding. For example, one metric tracked whether employees could "confidently explain the core themes of sustainable nutrition." This focus proved to be more meaningful than just completion rates.

📈 KPI outcome examples:

  • 93% of employees feel confident explaining what sustainable nutrition means and how it connects to Kerry’s business and customers (up from a 47% baseline).
  • 90% of employees can confidently explain the core themes of sustainable nutrition (up from a 35% baseline).

How Kerry Achieved a 91% Engagement Rate - Sibeal and Christina’s Top Tips:

  • Inject a healthy dose of competition: An "engagement dashboard" displayed regional engagement stats progress, igniting a healthy rivalry. This motivated regional leads to prioritise program engagement - Christina (not competitive at all) reached a whopping 91% (and growing) - that's triple Kerry's usual 30% internal engagement rate!
  • Recognition matters: People’s work was presented back to them, showcasing the wins in video and e-learning formats. This created a feel-good moment that reinforced the value of their participation.
  • Make it personal: Videos featuring leadership and subject matter experts were a game-changer. These human connections helped employees see the relevance.
  • Strong leadership support: It matters! The CEO saying “you need to learn this” unsurprisingly trickled down throughout the organisation to get them on board.

Making the Message Stick: Beyond content, the team invested in creative delivery:

  • Make it fun: North American employees received stickers for completing modules, creating a sense of accomplishment and a fun learning environment. (Who doesn't love a sticker?)
  • Create an experience: The North American team hosted "watch parties" (aka pizza parties!) to screen the modules. These sessions were followed by facilitated discussions and Q&A with leaders and experts, adding depth to the learning experience. (Sample questions: "What are Scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions?" or "If you were president, would you prioritise imports, local farming, or nutritional needs?")
  • Tailor for impact: Whilst the NA team had a “watch party”, the EU approach was very different. Expert panels featuring scientists and nutritionists dove deep into specific topics.

Building a program this big had its challenges. The big challenge for Sibéal was driving internal stakeholder alignment. The program's structure, aiming for equal representation across functions, involved many different business functions and stakeholders. This meant alignment and sign-off on language and content was challenging.

Top tip: account for these complexities when agreeing to a project timeline. It is also useful to get buy-in from your manager who can champion the project and help support you to navigate the blockers.

Next Steps

Reaching the "unwired" workforce – the 50% who don't have company email addresses. The plan is to translate modules into 20 languages and deliver bite-sized content in a format accessible to this segment of the Kerry workforce.

Check out Kerry's Sustainable Development Strategy

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