Melissa Schweisguth, Freelance Changemaker
Melissa is currently pursuing a Masters in International Agricultural Development at UC Davis, with a focus on improving smallholder livelihoods and increasing small-scale producer engagement in value added processing. Cacao and other tropical crops are her key interests. She is also a graduate student researcher at the Agricultural Sustainability Institute, working in its Sustainable Sourcing of Global Agricultural Raw Materials project.
Melissa has worked in the food and consumer products sector for nearly 10 years, across non-profit and corporate venues. Most recently, she was an independent consultant focused on Socially responsible & sustainable business consulting, Media relations and Writing. Prior to that, she was is Director of Membership Development and Education for the Food Trade Sustainability Leadership Association, where she oversaw programs to educate members and the trade on sustainability performance improvement and measurement, grow membership and drive leading sustainability practices.
Melissa was previously Corporate Social Responsibility Manager (CSR) at the Hershey Company, where she managed the development and implementation of the company’s CSR program. Before that, she was Manager of Marketing and Full Circle Sustainability for DAGOBA Organic Chocolate, where she was responsible for all marketing and PR activities and led the creation and implementation of DAGOBA’s Full Circle Sustainability TM social responsibility program. Prior to joining DAGOBA, Melissa ran a national fair trade cocoa education/action campaign as the Fair Trade Coordinator at Global Exchange.
Melissa grew up on an organic homestead and thrives on opportunities to grow her own organic food, expand sustainable organic farming and run up mountains. She was named to TIME Magazine’s 2009 “Responsibility Pioneers” list.
Summary of Experience
- Ten years in food and consumer products industry (with a focus on chocolate/cocoa), at non-profit and corporate entities from start ups to Fortune 500 corporations
- Demonstrated success building and implementing CSR and sustainability programs across small company and large corporate venues
- Proven track record growing brands and causes via solid marketing and public relations, including successful media engagement
- Extensive, effective, engaging written and oral communications across diverse venues and topics
- In-depth knowledge of:
* Current and emerging CSR & sustainability issues, and business relevance
* Existing frameworks metrics, tools, certifications, labels, standards, organizations, resources and research related to social, environmental and economic sustainability issues
* Food manufacturing from growing and sourcing through marketing and retailing
* Chocolate & cocoa industry
* Organic and sustainable agriculture and food sectors
* Ethical trade and responsible labor practices (expertise in cocoa and coffee)
- Developing and managing social responsibility and sustainability programs, integrating environment, supply chain, community relations and stakeholder engagement
- Driving sound decision making via targeted analyses and business case development
- Forming and leading cross-functional teams; fostering peer networks
- Engaging internal and external audiences via high-quality multimedia communications and social media
- Successfully implementing media relations, from strategy through placement
- Crafting compelling written content, including stakeholder communications, website text, blogs, social media, e-newsletters, packaging copy, trade materials, presentations, position papers, technical reports, guidance documents, issues analyses
- Producing informative, balanced, engaging articles and presentations for diverse audiences
- Strong research, analysis and synthesis
- Innovating winning creative concepts for products, brands and programs
- Managing projects and external agencies effectively
- Program planning and budget management