Ahold Delhaize’s Frans Muller and Mondelēz International’s Dirk Van de Put Talk To ESM

By Steve Wynne-Jones
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Ahold Delhaize’s Frans Muller and Mondelēz International’s Dirk Van de Put Talk To ESM

Ahold Delhaize’s Frans Muller and Mondelēz International’s Dirk Van de Put talk to Stephen Wynne-Jones about their roles as CGF co-chairs and the importance of collaborative efforts to drive meaningful change. This article first appeared in ESM's May/June 2024 edition.

Ahead of The Consumer Goods Forum’s (CGF’s) Global Summit in Chicago this June, ESM spoke to its co-chairs – Dirk Van de Put, chairman and CEO of Mondelēz International, and Frans Muller, president and CEO of Ahold Delhaize – about their experience to date, and their ambition to drive faster action at scale across the CGF’s broad membership network.

ESM: You are coming up to the halfway point of your two-year tenure as the CGF’s co-chairs. What has been the biggest lesson from the role so far?

Dirk Van de Put: In a turbulent external environment, what stands out for me is the shared resilience that the CGF provides, with members continuing to collaborate to find solutions for an increasingly complex world. As we face a multitude of complex issues that demand companies – and society at large – to respond swiftly and decisively, we need to take action as individual companies, and, at the same time, we need to take important steps as an industry to drive the change we need. 

The CGF’s combination of CEO leadership and our global reach makes us a unique force for catalysing these positive changes that people, planet and business urgently need, and active engagement in the CGF helps empower member companies to amplify and accelerate their own efforts. 


For example, at Mondelēz International, we have elevated sustainability as the fourth pillar in our long-term strategy – alongside growth, execution and culture – and our annual Snacking Made Right report transparently documents our goals, performance and programmes. While we’re very proud of our work as an individual company, we recognise that we can’t do it alone, so I’m thrilled to see how our fellow CGF members openly and increasingly share their knowledge and expertise to work together and help each other in designing solutions and building resilience.

Frans Muller: The intertwined relationship between business, society and the environment is clearer than ever. We know the consumer goods sector has a critical part to play in the transition to a greener, healthier, and more resilient future, and that each and every business must step up to go further. 

This is also true for Ahold Delhaize, where we have established ambitious targets for key areas. As Dirk says, our members have highlighted the power of collective action to drive this change. 

While the scale of the challenges we face are unprecedented, they are also shared, so there is great power in tackling them together. Participation within the CGF is about making an active contribution and leaving a mark, however, success on this journey is a collective effort, requiring us to share knowledge and collaborate, to achieve critical mass.


Last year saw the launch of five Acceleration Areas to support the CGF’s Coalitions of Action. What was the thinking behind these – how and why were they developed?

Van de Put:  We set up the Acceleration Areas to collectively accelerate our impact on people and the planet, and build on the ongoing coalition model. Each member of the CGF can easily join these focused initiatives to speed up our collective positive outcomes for the industry. 

The Acceleration Areas focus on five critical areas to intensify the CGF’s action around: mainstreaming a deforestation and conversion-free approach to supply chains for a forest-positive future; adopting the CGF’s Golden Design Rules to enable a circular economy for plastics; embracing human rights due diligence as the industry norm; establishing employee well-being programmes to support employee health; and accelerating emission reductions for a net-zero future. 

Our Coalitions of Action remain the crucial foundation for the change we drive, leveraging extensive insights and ongoing collective efforts, while the Acceleration Areas fast-track changes in critical fields. Through this dual approach, we will enhance our impact by creating faster individual and collective progress, and we’ve already seen strong momentum, with members of the CGF actively engaging with these five focused actions.


Muller: The element of speed is essential – we know we must keep pushing for a faster pace of impact across our global membership. The Acceleration Areas recognise the diverse nature of the CGF’s membership – including the different pressures, priorities, and regional considerations facing each company – enabling our members to drive focused actions faster together. 

The ease of entry for members to get involved with Acceleration Areas, alongside the vast expertise and collaboration that our global network offers, creates a powerful recipe for positive change.

The upcoming Global Summit will be a major moment to help strengthen engagement with the Acceleration Areas across our membership and ramp up action. The summit’s theme – ‘Empowering Businesses to Deliver a Better Tomorrow’ – sets out that precise purpose.

The Acceleration Areas are designed to be more inclusive, making it easier for a wider range of businesses to engage and instigate change. What has the response been like to this? What do you see as the ‘quick wins’, if any, and what will be harder to implement?


Muller: The response from members has been extremely positive. Of course, rapid change at scale cannot happen overnight, but we have already seen significant progress. For example, the Golden Design Rules, developed by our Plastic Waste Coalition, have created simplicity for the industry, helping to move towards a circular economy. They are increasingly becoming a go-to guide for redesigning packaging and increasing recycling efficiency, with an increasing number of members beyond the core coalition using them.

Ultimately, being a part of the CGF illustrates that collaboration, coordination, and open conversation is the best way to move forward. By observing the expertise of senior leaders across the CGF’s diverse membership, we can each gain insights into different approaches, successes and failures. This often leads to an ‘aha’ moment.

Every business is different, but our members know they are stronger together, collectively striving to answer the needs of customers, partners, and the environment. We hope that by being part of the CGF, every one of them is enabled, encouraged and inspired to do more. 

Bringing value to all our members and maintaining an attractive value proposition is important. One such example is the Retailer Value Proposition initiative, to boost membership whilst maintaining an attractive offering for present members. 

For every member, it’s as important that we bring value to customers, people and communities, as we do to our own companies. Finding the balance to combine the two is where we can make significant impact at scale.

Van de Put: Being part of the CGF is all about catalysing industry transformation through collaborative action, and the Acceleration Areas are already enabling and inspiring members to make an even faster contribution to a more sustainable industry.

I see our coalitions as communities of leading experts, coming up with the theory of change: we get some of the best thinking available, we invest resources in formulating how we are going to make progress as an industry, and participating companies are dedicated to the subject. 

At the same time, we need shorter-term targets that more companies can adopt to drive change faster – even if they aren’t members of that coalition. The Acceleration Areas make it simpler for companies to join specific initiatives within the coalition framework. 

The fact is that many businesses are making great strides on sustainability – and there are inspiring examples of leadership and innovation across the CGF’s membership – but we must all push ourselves to go further. 

How will the CGF’s Net Zero Coalition fit into and augment the existing coalition framework?

Van de Put: Last year, it became obvious to our CGF board that we had to build a ninth Coalition of Action on net zero. Reducing carbon emissions – especially related to Scope 3 – across the entire supply chain definitely requires collaboration across the industry, upstream and downstream, as we are interdependent. The Net Zero Coalition was built to embed collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the consumer goods sector, ultimately helping to deliver the objective of limiting temperatures to 1.5 °C above pre-industrial levels, as set out by the Paris Agreement.

Coalition members are focused on four areas: increase industry leadership capabilities on net zero; enhance how our industry uses data and insights to drive action; improve product sustainability; and collaborate across the wider CGF coalitions and net-zero ecosystem. As a hub of information, insights and expertise, the coalition will help companies to understand the practicalities of their emissions measurement and reporting.

Many of the CGF’s coalitions already support decarbonisation through their ongoing work. For example, by cutting food waste across supply chains, members of the Coalition of Action on Food Waste are reducing emissions. In addition, members of the Forest Positive Coalition are striving to tackle deforestation, forest degradation and forest conversion, which will have a positive impact on lowering global greenhouse gas emissions. 

Muller: We know we need to increase greater industry action on decarbonisation – working together to achieve a fairer, zero-carbon world more quickly. For the consumer goods industry, this includes ensuring better agricultural production, better operations, and transparent measurement and reporting.

As part of this commitment, the CGF has been an official Accelerator of the United Nations-backed ‘Race to Zero’ initiative since 2021, which commits companies to set science-based targets aligned with the Paris Agreement. As an Accelerator, the CGF supports its members’ decarbonisation efforts and uses its influential reach to increase awareness of the campaign.

The Net Zero Coalition is rapidly building momentum, and we’re excited about its huge potential to influence change across our industry and beyond. The recent CEO-led Expert Sessions on this topic have shown the enormous interest from our members to learn and share.

Underpinning all Coalitions of Action and Acceleration Areas is the need for greater transparency and collaboration. Have you seen a notable shift in openness on the part of retailers and manufacturers, and are there any areas where significant progress has been made because of increased transparency?

Muller: We are committed to shining a light on where change is happening and where even greater action is needed, to keep pushing forward progress. A significant milestone last year was the Food Waste Coalition releasing its first baseline report, presenting operational food surplus and waste aggregated data from 16 of its retailer and manufacturer members. 

Public reporting on food loss and waste is widely recognised as a trigger for effective action, and the report represented an important line in the sand.

In addition, one of the exciting things we have seen over the past year is an increase in knowledge-sharing between different coalitions, in the spirit of openness. This includes sharing progress, but also the areas where we see challenges and dilemmas. We’d like to further stimulate this transparency, as this is the best way we can learn from each other.

Van de Put: The Forest Positive Coalition of Action provides a clear example of transparency, with its annual report and ongoing desire to reflect on where greater progress can and must be made. Recognising that accountability is essential, the coalition openly reports on progress and shares learnings. 

In 2023, the coalition improved reporting on key commodities, with overall KPI disclosure at 77% – up from 64% in 2022. It also increased action on grievance-monitoring, with the proportion of members reporting on actions to monitor their supply base having doubled – and the total number of members who track steps taken against grievances having tripled – compared with the previous year.

What do you hope will be the key takeaway from the CGF Summit in Chicago?

Muller: As the CGF is the only CEO-led organisation that brings together both manufacturers and retailers globally, the CGF Global Summit is a vital milestone to accelerate impact. It is about fostering an environment where ideas and innovations are shared and developed.

Looking at our nine coalitions, I would urge members to pick the area that is important for you as a company and then see what is available through the CGF and how it can help your thinking. What is the progress that you need to make, and where can you cooperate with other members to find joint solutions? 

As consumer goods leaders navigate a complex external environment, the summit provides a powerful platform to generate tangible outcomes that will ultimately ensure shared value for businesses, communities, and the planet. 

We need to take action as individual companies, and, at the same time, we need to take important steps as an industry to drive systemic change. As we face systemic collective issues, we need collective, transformative solutions.

Van de Put: By uniting many of the world’s most influential business leaders, the summit will harness the collective expertise and reach that makes the CGF a uniquely powerful force. It is a huge opportunity for inspiration, networking and collaboration. 

We will be urging all the CGF’s members to connect, collaborate and actively contribute towards our Acceleration Areas, using the summit to really ramp up understanding of how every member can get involved. 

Our message is that the entire consumer goods industry must continue to step up and go further. We will recognise the dedication and leadership already being shown by the CGF’s members and call for an even greater number of companies and partners to join us in our mission to create a more sustainable future. 

To find out more about The Consumer Goods Forum’s Global Summit, click here. This article first appeared in ESM's May/June 2024 edition.

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