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How an "Abundance Mentality" and a CEO's Fierce Resolve Kickstarted CSR at Campbell Soup

Douglas R. Conant (former CEO, Campbell Soup Company), interviewed by Nina Kruschwitz.

During Douglas Conant’s 10 years as president and CEO of the Campbell Soup Company (he retired last fall), Conant helped refocus the company. In the first half of his tenure, his goal, he says, was to bring the company from being “a poor performing company to being a competitive company to being a good company.” About five years in, “we said, We can do better, and we started to explore how we could bring what I call our DNA, our natural inclination to corporate social responsibility, to a new level, and kick it up a notch.”

By 2006 the company was studying what sustainability would mean for the business. In 2008, it recruited a specialist to head up the efforts. And in 2010, it set down what Conant calls “some big, hairy, audacious goals” to pursue–like cutting the companys environmental footprint in half.

In a new Q&;A with MIT Sloan Management Reviews Nina Kruschwitz, Conant talks about his long-time practice of writing 10 to 20 personal notes a day to employees, the power that comes from the “fierce resolve” of the CEO and the “abundance mentality” that allows companies like Campbell Soup to embrace “the genius of the and instead of the tyranny of the or.”

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