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Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership (CISL)


27 September 2018 – Paloma Lopez, Global Strategy Lead for Kellogg’s Masterbrand on finding clarity of purpose and a new beginning through studying CISL’s Master’s in Sustainability Leadership.

When I was in the European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Ghana, in my early twenties, I had the opportunity to work matching under-resourced secondary school students to academic scholarships and advanced apprentice programmes. That early experience had an important impact on my life and my future sustainability path.

After spending most of my early career building skills and experience within the marketing and new business development functions, I saw scope in being able to unlock sustainability opportunities within both the brand and innovation disciplines.

I knew that when I switched to working in roles linked to both these areas I could finally drive change that would deliver value for both business and society.

However, I did not want to set about the task lightly. I needed to be certain that I was asking the right questions and that I had gained the necessary knowledge to grasp the central problems that needed solving and to pick up some critical tools along the way. By adopting such an approach, I hoped to gain a robust foundation of knowledge for the sustainable business work I had decided to commit myself to.

Best in Class

The Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership programme at Cambridge is tailored towards practitioners and one of the ‘best in class’ so I applied and was fortunate enough to be selected as part of the 2012 cohort.

During my two-year, part-time, course I met a great network of deeply committed, involved and knowledgeable people who understood both the sustainability challenges and the opportunities.

The course delivered practical case studies across disciplines and sectors, cutting edge problem-solving tools and access to the invaluable experiences of those working within this growing field. It also gave me the confidence to understand the problems we were trying to solve, the right questions to ask and, importantly, who to engage. This was achieved through my exposure to some great projects and the amazing people I was aspiring to emulate.

On a personal level it was an experience that opened up my eyes to new opportunities. When you spend as much time as the students in our cohort did with excellent tutors and guest speakers, it’s hard not to pour yourself 100% into the programme. I found that CISL had a unique way of setting you up for success, to fuel your inner drive, to bring clarity to your purpose and to equip you with the leadership tools and networks to push you towards your chosen destination. To me, the programme opened a new beginning filled with tremendous possibilities.

Career transition

Upon graduating, I felt equipped with the tools to transition from the marketing department to the next step on my career path, working on sustainability within the brand and innovation fields.

As a consequence of my studies at CISL, I was able to lay the foundations for the development of a strategy for Kellogg’s new European sustainable agriculture programme. Working with partners within the business, the Kellogg’s Origins™ Sustainable Agriculture Programme was launched to support farmers in our value chain so they could implement new sustainable practices. 

I’m proud that since launching the programme five years ago, the Kellogg’s Origins™ Sustainable Agriculture Programme has expanded into 45 projects worldwide benefiting nearly 300,000 farmers.

A shift to the mainstream

Since graduating in 2014, the good news is that sustainability has continued to mainstream. Companies are embedding it within their business models and I have witnessed an increased demand, from consumers, for brands that meet certain standards such as organic certification, particularly within the food sector.

Whilst brands are seeking to drive more sustainable solutions, the challenge remains over how we think more holistically and strategically about embedding sustainability within our business growth strategies. That is why I have also been representing Kellogg’s at the Food Reform for Sustainability and Health (FReSH), which is a partnership between the EAT and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). Its aim is to accelerate transformational change in global food systems, to reach healthy, enjoyable diets for all.

And in the private sector, sustainability leaders who drive change are not only found in the sustainability department, but all across a business. What’s central to their effectiveness is the innate sense of being able to connect sustainability to strategy, to understand where they can have the greatest impact combined with the ability for both effective communication and collaboration.

The challenge in the business world is that competing priorities sometimes mean that sustainability can fall off the radar. It is important to identify the internal sustainability ‘champions’ who can help engage difficult stakeholders. Sometimes we’re not the best people to deliver the message so there is a need to identify an influential colleague to help. 

Finally, it’s a constantly evolving field requiring the need to learn new skills to find new ways to create value and lead needed change so it’s important to stay committed and resilient for the long run – the sustainability journey never ends.

Learn more about the part-time Master of Studies in Sustainability Leadership.


About the author

 Paloma Lopez blog

Paloma Lopez is Global Strategy Lead for the Kellogg’s Masterbrand. She works at Kellogg Company based in Michigan.

During her 12 years at Kellogg in Europe and the Americas, she has held roles in sustainability, innovation, new business development, and brand management. In her current role, Paloma provides thought leadership in the development of the next generation of Kellogg’s Masterbrand globally. She was recently identified in Forbes Magazine as one of the top female sustainability leaders. Paloma gained a Master’s in Sustainability Leadership with distinction from the Cambridge Institute for Sustainability Leadership in 2014.


Guest articles on the blog do not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by, the Institute or the wider University of Cambridge.


Zoe Kalus, Head of Media  

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