Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Beth Underwood, Danone Waters

This new series profiles the members of edie's 30 Under 30 - a nomination-based community of 30 hugely talented young sustainability and energy professionals who have already achieved great things or are showing fantastic promise. Up next, Beth Underwood, global senior sustainability brand manager at Danone Waters.

Meet edie’s 30 Under 30 Class of 2023: Beth Underwood, Danone Waters

Beth has worked in various roles at Danone since 2016 and has found her calling in corporate sustainability

More than just a list, edie’s annual 30 Under 30 initiative shines a spotlight on talented sustainability and net-zero professionals – aged under 30 – who are delivering on efforts to build a better future and showing fantastic promise for their future potential.

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, the initiative has returned for 2023-4, with the new class having been announced last September.

In this weekly series, we will be sharing their stories and successes beyond the group, giving edie readers insight into the minds of those who will be leading the charge in creating the low-carbon, resource-efficient economies of the future.

Our next profile interview is with Beth Underwood, global sustainability brand manager at Danone Waters.

How I got to where I am now:

At school, I wanted to be a clinical psychologist. However, my university placement year at an anxiety clinic in Australia helped me to realise that I no longer wanted to pursue that as a career, despite how amazing this experience was for me.

“To gain some business experience and understanding, I applied to various internships, and this led me to an ‘Insight Week’ at Danone. Danone’s mission resonated with me, and liked how their graduate scheme involved a year in sales and marketing, so was thankful to be offered a place starting straight after university.

“My first few roles at Danone were in account management, strategy and insights, and shopper marketing. Alongside the core responsibilities of these roles, I was always putting my hand up to be involved with any ‘extra’ activities such as volunteering, B Corp, and employee resource groups.

“So, I had an incredible opportunity to move into the role of ‘Health, Sustainability and B Corp Activist’. I had to learn a lot about corporate social responsibility whilst on-the-job, which I found equally challenging and rewarding.

“Following this, I went back into sales, in a more senior position which allowed me to get involved with some interesting strategic partnerships, such as a food waste activation with retailers and Too Good To Go. Nevertheless, I missed sustainability being core to my scope, so I took the leap into Danone’s global headquarters in 2022, into an exciting role working on sustainability for the waters category and brands.”

My biggest career achievement to date has been:

“Being nominated to join a Kenyan water brand that needed marketing support, alongside my day job. I witnessed first-hand the efforts to build water infrastructure in rural areas of Kenya, and I now work with the team based in Nairobi on how to build their brand. I am motivated by the fact that I am contributing to positive outcomes locally, such as empowering women, who usually carry the burden of collecting water.  It continues to be the most rewarding part of my wider work.”

The biggest challenge I have encountered has been:

“Moving from a local UK role to the global Danone team. I found it challenging to navigate a larger number of stakeholders, adapt to the cultural differences in working styles, and the shift from short to and long-term thinking. I had to be open-minded and seek formal coaching from colleagues.”

If I had to describe my generation in a word or phrase, I would say:

“Not afraid to call out where change needs to be made.”

A successful 2024 for me looks like:

“Working more closely with colleagues to improve how we communicate our sustainability and health efforts to customers, consumers, partners and brand staff. Information on these issues can be complicated.

“I also want to ensure that we have better-defined ambitions for our water brands to ensure they are investing efforts in the right areas.”

Outside of my career, I enjoy:

“The great outdoors. I live in London but I am not a huge fan of city life, so I am always looking to escape at the weekend to visit friends and family in the countryside or at the seaside.

“Also, I’m still interested in all things psychology, so I get a lot of enjoyment out of reading books, listening to podcasts, and volunteering in that space.”

My ‘Mission Possible’ message for business leaders is:

“You need to frame sustainability as an investment into your business’ future, not just an added cost.”

My key piece of advice for any young people entering my profession today is:

“Don’t let imposter syndrome hold you back. I experienced this when I first moved into sustainability and still do, but I now know it’s ok to not know the answer. Sometimes the value is in bringing the right people together.”

The full 30 Under 30 Class of 2023 membership is detailed here

To stay in the loop for the next round of annual nominations for the 30 Under 30, email [email protected]. Nominations will open this summer.

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