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In the Nation's Interest

2018 Awards Dinner Spotlight: Michele Buck

by CED May 03, 2018

Michele Buck is the President and CEO of The Hershey Company. Read her bio here. She is the recipient of CED's Corporate Citizenship Award.

Has your company spearheaded a particular philanthropic or societal initiative that you would like to share?

Hershey is the original purpose-driven company. For more than a century, we have been operating with a business model of “doing well by doing good.”  Bringing goodness to the world is our north star. Goodness comes in the form of our iconic brands, remarkable people, and helping children succeed. Our founder, Milton Hershey, was driven by a sense of community and helping children in need. This spirit is ingrained in our culture and business. Our success directly benefits the Milton Hershey School, a school for disadvantaged children in Hershey, Pa., and we’ve expanded our impact to more broadly support children in communities across the United States and in West Africa where the bulk of our most important commodity – cocoa – is grown. Our employees have a tremendous sense of pride knowing that their work is helping children thrive and grow.

What advice do you have for those who aspire to careers in leadership, or have just started to serve in a leadership capacity?

The first – and most important – tenet in powerful leadership is that it comes from all levels. Leaders certainly aren’t made by the titles given to them. I believe in the power of transformative thinking and that can come from any and all parts of our organization – from the manufacturing floor to the retail store. Each person at Hershey has a unique perspective and value to contribute. I have always put an emphasis on listening. It’s been a hallmark of my personal leadership style. I find listening to diverse perspectives makes my decision-making process richer. I value people who have the courage and conviction to voice their opinions. It’s what makes a company like Hershey stronger and more competitive in the marketplace. I find that when someone exhibits vision, conviction and a passion for winning, those around them are naturally drawn in. Leaders have a responsibility to create energy in those around them, and that energy is a catalyst for results.

Which aspect of your company’s culture has made the biggest contribution to its success?

Our ability to re-invent ourselves in the face of a changing world. You don’t have almost 125 years of marketplace success without innovation, a dogged work ethic and an eye on the future. Unprecedented change in the food industry brings us great opportunity. We are known for our beloved brands, but our vision is to be an Innovative Snacking Powerhouse. Consumers love our brands and they have real meaning in their lives. It’s who we are and we’re proud to be able to provide happiness, a little indulgence and great-tasting candy to our consumers. People may not know we are currently the No. 2 snacking manufacturer in the U.S. because of our No. 1 position in confection. Capturing more snacking occasions is my goal. Our ambition requires being bold; we won’t get there by being incremental in our thinking or actions. I often talk to employees about our roots. We were borne from the vision of a bold and resilient entrepreneur. Part of the power of our founder’s story is when he sold an incredibly successful business and bet it all on something new with the potential of being bigger, chocolate.  That passion and ambition is still alive and well at Hershey. We are competitors. I know more than anyone how much my team loves to win. It’s infectious.