Drugi jezik na kojem je dostupan ovaj članak: Bosnian
2020 was specific in many ways – it completely changed our everyday life, taught us of some new life habits, reminded us that nothing should be taken for granted, but also showed us how important working together is for the well-being of the whole world. Perhaps most important of all, it made sure we experience the so-called butterfly effect on our own skin, confirming the fact that each of our actions has a great impact. So we asked ourselves – what happens when you are the world’s largest food and beverage company, whose team has around 291,000 people, and which sells more than a million products a day? For a while now, we have all been aware of the fact that being a leader is more a matter of responsibility than the title itself, so we asked Irena Kurtanjek, Corporate Communications Manager for Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina in Nestlé, a few questions on this very topic.
- Health was definitely one of the topics held in the spotlight this year. Given that Nestlé’s mission is to improve the quality of life and contribute to a healthier future, how have these changes affected your work?
Nestlé’s business principles have been firmly established from the very beginning, which is why we are actually just continuing to develop and adapt them to a world that is constantly changing. 2020 was definitely anything but expected, but it is in these challenging times that the company’s vision plays an important role. From the very beginning, we were aware of the importance of our role as the largest food and beverage company in the world, and perceived the whole situation as an opportunity to showcase all of the values we cherish as a family. In this sense, we primarily took care of all our employees, and made efforts to ensure business continuity. In certain periods, it was extremely challenging to make sure that products were on the shelves, given the closed borders, and the impossibility of transporting goods. In addition, we worked on contributing to the communities in which we operate. We still continue working in this field – the second wave of support to communities through donations is ongoing, and this time we are focusing on Food Banks. At the same time, we continued contributing to a healthier planet, which is in line with our promise that by 2025, the packaging of all our products will be recyclable or reusable.
In essence, we continued working according to all the principles we had been nurturing before, adapting the ways of acting to the new situation. This year has really confirmed the importance of all previously set goals, but also the efforts we made.
- 2020 was challenging for everyone, but for some more than the others. That is why social responsibility has become even more important. What did it all look like from your perspective?
For a long time now, the key to our business has been socially responsibility. Although this concept is today interpreted in several different ways, it always has the same goal: to invest and contribute to the common good of the community, society or an individual. I must point out that our goal is not to work on short-term solutions, but to encourage social change. Our goal is actually to find long-term solutions to specific problems, instead of solving their visible consequences. In other words, we want to treat the source of the problem, not just its symptoms.
For example, one of the extremely important topics is the health of children. In order to help parents raise healthier generations, we launched the Nestlé for Healthier Kids project, which is being implemented in the region as a project Zdravo! in BiH, Vrtim Zdravi film in Croatia, and Zdravo rastimo in Serbia. As part of this project, we teach children, parents/caregivers and teachers about the principles of proper nutrition and the importance of physical activity. What is crucial is that there is no promotion of the company/brand, nor its products in schools. Additionally, having in mind the fact that children spent a lot more time inside their homes in 2020, therefore further reducing the level of their daily physical activity, we continued with education through online channels, and included new partners throughout the region, with whom we created interesting and appealing content. This way we marked the International Chefs Day, by joining forces with chefs from the region, with the aim of encouraging parents and children to cook together.
We also understand the difficulties that young people face when it comes to employment. Unemployment is a serious problem in all countries in the region, as confirmed by EUROSTAT research, which shows that more than 3 million of them are unemployed in Europe alone. Guided by this, we have joined forces with 300 partner-companies of the Youth Alliance to create 300,000 new business opportunities for youth career development across Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, by 2025. This initiative is actually being implemented in the region for many years now. We launched it in Croatia in 2013, and since then we have reached more than 2,300 young people through various programs, while 100 of them have been involved directly through internships. This year, we decided to go a step further, so we organized the first regional virtual training program called Summer’s Cool. The program lasted for three weeks, and next year we will implement it in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well.
- What happens with the implementation of projects like these, or even communication activities in general, in the time of crisis?
Although the past period was full of challenges and obstacles, we managed to skillfully cope with all of them, and decided to stay in dialogue with consumers, as well as to continue with the implementation of set plans. Our partners certainly played an important role in that process. When you communicate in the markets with 3 significantly different countries in the region – Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, then it is natural that the agencies you work with are your right hand at every moment. This year, I dare to say – more than ever before, we felt the importance of working with strong strategic partners, with whom we managed to achieve all goals.
Of course, the key to success is to always make the most of the situation you are in. For example, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Nestlé for Healthier Kids project with the online regional conference “Alliance for a Healthier Future”. This conference brought together more than 100 experts in the field of nutrition, health and education from all across the region. It is highly likely that not all of them would be able to attend the conference if it was physically held in one location, so using an online channel to realize such an event is actually an opportunity to maximize the potential of the situation you are in. In essence, crisis periods force you to change, but if social responsibility is one of the core components of the company itself, then it only changes the ways of its execution.
- What are the plans for next year? Do you already have some plans for the region?
In 2021, our focus will be on content, digital communication, and sustainability in every sense – from raw materials, through packaging, to activities aiming at raising awareness of the local community. Our main goal remains to contribute to improving the quality of life and educating healthier generations. We will continue to work on enabling a healthier life for individuals and families, contributing to the development of more prosperous communities, as well as protecting the environment and preserving natural resources. This is our mantra for the next and every other following year. I have no doubt that, with the knowledge and experience gained this year, we will be able to create changes in all societies in which we operate, including the ones in our region, because our plans for every upcoming year are bigger, bolder, and more ambitious. This is reflected through improvements in our portfolio, development of innovations in response to food trends and consumer needs, but also the continuation of the implementation of all mentioned projects. When it comes to implementation of the Nestlé for Healthier Kids project specifically, we are currently working on its digitization, but also on adapting and transforming the communication of the project we have been building for years. More precisely, over the past 9 years, 1.4 million EUR have been invested in the implementation of this project. In the next year, we plan to increase investments by 25 percent compared to the previous year. At the same time, we will certainly work more on educational activities that contribute to building healthier eating habits in children, youth employment and sustainability. I personally believe that our success will continue, because the combination of business benefits with positive social impact reinforce each other.