Alecia Berry with Yum! Brands shares how they sharpened their CSR strategy to align with their business transformation

In 2016, Yum! Brands began a three-year business transformation to become more efficient, franchised, and focused. In line with their transformation — dubbed the “Recipe for Growth” — Global External Communications Manager Alecia Berry and her team set about building out and refocusing their corporate social responsibility strategy into what they called the “Recipe for Good.”

A full materiality assessment of the organization was one of the first steps for that CSR reevaluation.

We made sure that engaging our employees around what was important to them was part of the approach. Alecia Berry
The materiality assessment — a report that identifies an organization’s material issues, key stakeholders, and which metrics should be reported on — was instrumental to Alecia and her team being able to refine and strengthen their overall CSR strategy.

“We’ve always been focused on citizenship and sustainability work throughout our global system,” said Alecia. “But this was an opportunity for us to get strategic and sharper based on our Recipe for Growth.”

Part of that process was looking at the business to get leadership and functional perspectives, identifying ESG risks, and working with stakeholders.

Alecia said that focusing on those leadership and functional perspectives and connecting with their experts across their organization was particularly important to Yum! Brands because of their decentralized business.

“We have three brands and 48,000 restaurants and are 98% franchised,” she said. “We needed to talk to the people driving functional leadership in different parts of the business and ensure our approach made sense for our entire system.”

And, according to Alecia, it took them a full year to do their due diligence and go through the full process of the materiality assessment and engage with NGOs.

“We had to think through and prioritize all of the stakeholders, and figure out who was going to be really important to helping us get to our strategy. We focused on NGOs in the areas that were most material to our business,” she said.

Alecia and her team also worked closely with employees to strengthen and redefine their CSR strategy.

We needed to talk to the people driving functional leadership in different parts of the business and ensure our approach made sense for our entire system. Alecia Berry
“We’re a company where people are critical to our business,” said Alecia. “We made sure that engaging our employees around what was important to them was part of the approach.”

They also worked with their franchisees and supply chain to help ensure they were brought along as they went through the materiality process.

According to Alecia, the process and results of the materiality assessment were crucial for setting them up for success.

“We’d never done a materiality assessment before, and to complete it we brought along our leadership teams and some of our key partners in ways that we never had before,” she said. “We were laying the foundation and doing the work to mobilize us to take more action in the future.”

Beyond the materiality assessment, Alecia and her team had to dig into the actual content they would be focusing on and how that aligned with their new business strategy.

We’ve always been focused on citizenship and sustainability work throughout our global system. Alecia Berry
“For any business, you need to make sure priorities from a citizenship and sustainability perspective are aligned with what’s important to the organization,” she said.

To help with that clarity, Alecia and her team used the new Recipe for Growth’s four primary growth drivers: “RED” (relevant, easy, and distinctive brands), bold restaurant development, unmatched franchise operating capability, and unrivaled culture and talent.

According to Alecia, those growth drivers are the core of what’s driving their business transformation — and, consequently, their Recipe for Good.

When Alecia and her team looked at the evolution of Recipe for Good, it was around how they think about the areas that are the most important when driving the business forward.

From a citizenship and sustainability perspective, their food was a key focal point. As a food company, this meant they could not only make an impact on the environment but also impact the people who work in their restaurants and the communities where they operate. Then, along with “food,” they identified two other priority areas including “planet” and “people” to round out their three pillars.

“In the past we had more CSR pillars, but this process helped us get focused on what’s going to make an impact and drive the business in a socially responsible way,” she said.

Over the past six months, Alecia and her team have begun making progress on new commitments as a result of their new strategy.

For any business, you need to make sure priorities from a citizenship and sustainability perspective are aligned with what’s important to the organization. Alecia Berry
One of those “wins” was around sustainable packaging. Last September, Yum! Brands became a part of the NextGen Consortium as a supporting partner — joining brands from across the restaurant industry to find a single use cup solution. Then, in January, both KFC global and Taco Bell U.S. announced new commitments around recycling and plastics.

“We’re continuing our focus on the three priority areas of food, planet, and people,” she said. “And we’re starting to really understand how to mobilize our system around this work.”

Throughout the process of sharpening their strategy, Alecia said one area they had to pay particular attention to was internal alignment.

“Operationally, as a big multinational company, there are so many different parts of our business that need to understand what the impact of this work is, and how they are part of us achieving our goals and demonstrating results,” said Alecia. “Sometimes that means that we take a few steps forward and then several steps back in order to do things the right way.”

She said going through the process the right way — that will achieve the outcomes they want — means that they need to move slowly sometimes. But through their efforts to educate their internal stakeholders and build that alignment, they’ve been able to achieve the outcomes they want.

Moving forward, Alecia and her team want to continue engaging their various stakeholders.

“Whether that’s NGOs or employees, being thoughtful about the role all of our stakeholders play in helping us achieve this work is going to be key to our success,” she said. “Using our scale for good when we’re thinking about stakeholders is what’s going to help us continue to move the needle.”

For anyone going through a similar process, Alecia said the most important thing is to be patient.

“This type of work requires a behavior change and it requires people to have a different mindset,” she said. “I’ve been doing this work for six or seven years at the company, and we’ve made so much progress. In the moment you want it to move quicker, but you have to be patient and know that you’re setting the stage for future success.”

Alecia Berry has been a founder of the CSR Board since 2019. You can follow her on LinkedIn.