Our commitment to corporate social responsibility received a boost when Sylvie Galliaerde joined General Mills earlier this year.
Sylvie is our new director of external relations in Europe, with an important role in CSR. Sylvie recently gave us a preview of her new position at General Mills.
Tell us about your background and experience.
Galliaerde: I was the public affairs director at Danone for the last eight years. I was responsible for partnering with executive committee members, country managers and subject matter experts within the organization to represent the company externally in political and social matters. I supported the business in the areas of tax, environment, labeling, public health, employment and regulation.
Prior to Danone, I spent nine years in key leadership and advisory roles with the French Ministry of Health, the French National Assembly, and European Parliament working with the President of Agriculture Committee.
What was it about General Mills that made you want to work here?
Galliaerde: The announcement of the Yoplait acquisition by General Mills in 2011 raised my awareness of the company. I appreciated the international ambition of this famous American company, and I learned more about General Mills’ mission and values which mirror mine. I thought it would be so fascinating to contribute to support General Mills’ growth within the European landscape.
What are your key priorities in the next two to five years? What do you see as the greatest opportunities for General Mills in this space, both in Europe and globally? Where do you see challenges?
Galliaerde: My ambition would be to advance General Mills’ reputation in Europe and, more broadly, to spread my passion for interaction between the expectations of stakeholders and the company’s goals.
General Mills owns great assets, brands and plants, so we have many opportunities. Our brands are well-known, great-tasting and trusted by consumers. The company and its employees are committed to enhancing its impact on health, environment and communities. Being part of the everyday meal decisions people make means we can have an impact on their lives.
General Mills has all the values and assets to credibly demonstrate its commitment to corporate citizenship. My wish is for General Mills to extend its trustworthy reputation in markets outside the U.S., everywhere else, where consumers may not be as familiar with the company.
France is now our second largest market. What do French consumers care about as it relates to the companies from which they buy? What do you see as main differences between French and American consumers in this regard?
Galliaerde: As in most developed countries, consumers are seeking affordability because of the economic context. But they also are paying attention to health and the environment. They care about sourcing, quality and taste in a country where gastronomy is part of the culture. France has always been a quality farming area where agriculture and the food industry are among the country’s largest assets. French consumers are likely more interested in the food industry because they love and care about the food chain.
Are there any CSR-related stories or initiatives that have struck you as particularly innovative or impactful?
Galliaerde: I am particularly struck by holistic initiatives which really benefit communities, the environment or health. But I also look at the benefits to the company, because a sustainable CSR strategy should be part of the business strategy of a company.
CSR is not philanthropy. It is about instilling our values at any step of our decision and execution processes. At General Mills, CSR is everywhere, across functions, boundaries, businesses, without any opportunism. It is just part of the General Mills culture and values.
The mantra of “Do the right thing all the time” naturally drives people to inspire everything they do with social responsibility.