Like many global corporations, Mars has decided to create and nurture the role of Chief Strategy Officer – a position that emerged on executive boards notably within the past two decades.
According to the Harvard Business Review, CSO appointments ‘surged’ in the early 2000s, though the role existed at many large multinational corporations before then. (Stokes is a graduate of Harvard Business School and holds a chemical engineering degree from a UK university.) These executives breach the space between CEO, CMO and CFO, developing a unified plan across departments and around the world. They take on challenges of the modern business landscape that have emerged from rapid globalization, disparate regulations and demand for innovation.
“In today’s dynamic business landscape, change and uncertainty is the new norm and companies have to be relevant, consumer-focused and agile,” said Mars’ CFO Claus Aagaard. “Russell will bring a depth of knowledge and experience to define and enable our growth plans in the current environment, with a view for the long-term, while helping us continue to create products and services that our customers and consumers love.”
Before joining Whirlpool, Stokes worked in New York City and Mumbai, India, as the managing director of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) a management consulting firm with 80 offices in 38 countries. In that capacity, he worked ‘extensively’ with Mars ‘on a range of topics,’ the confectioner said in a release.
In a blog post, BCG cited Mars as an exemplar – through partnerships with nonprofit certification agencies – of a corporation pursuing ‘total societal impact,’ or the interconnectivity of a business’s holistic effect on society, community and the environment.
Legacy and looking forward
Reporting to Aagaard out of Mars’ headquarters in McLean, Virginia, Stokes will charge forward with the company’s enterprise and portfolio strategy, as well as its ‘transformation agenda.’
Last year, Mars announced its ‘Sustainable in a Generation Plan,’ which included Cocoa for Generations, a 10-year, $1bn roadmap to sustainably and ethically source 100% of its cocoa supply.
Because ‘disruption is expected,’ Stokes will also ensure that the international, family-owned business can continue to innovate as competition mounts, consumers change their habits, and traditional retail all but disappears.
“Mars is a unique company with a rich family history and values-driven legacy,” said Stokes. “Not only has their culture of growth made them successful – preserving and growing iconic brands like M&M’s, Extra, Pedigree [pet food] and Uncle Ben’s [rice]…they have kept their principles at the core of their decision-making. I’m thrilled to join the business at a time when it continues to reinvent itself.”
In June, Mars Wrigley Confectionery added the role of global chief category officer and, in the US, VP of marketing. Earlier in the year, Mars Inc. unveiled a modernized logo to build a unified brand story across its industries.