Some of the best parts of being a member of the media are the experiences you have and knowledge you take with you. During my local media time, I had the chance to experience new, exciting things and gain a deeper understanding of the community I grew up in. Now being a part of the trade media market, I have expanded beyond those local communities and applied that understanding and appreciation for the companies and associations that are leading by example, specifically with their efforts to address topics like the obesity crisis that is affecting many Americans.

In this month’s cover story feature on the American Beverage Association (ABA) (page 18), President and Chief Executive Officer Susan Neely details some of the association’s well-documented initiatives like the School Beverage Guidelines, Clear on Calories initiative and Calories Count Vending Program. Although each initiative has its own makeup, they all come back to a key principle: collaboration.

“I think the key is in the partnerships that we have approached whether it was with the Clinton Foundation, with the Alliance for a Healthier Generation, or the Let’s Move! leadership [with] Mrs. Obama’s team and with Mayor [Rahm] Emanuel and Mayor [Julián] Castro’s teams,” she says. “We have approached it from the standpoint of mutual respect. All parties share the objective, which is to do something meaningful to fight obesity, and we’re going to listen to each other and really talk to each other to find out what the action is that makes sense, what’s the commitment that really makes sense.”

But working together is not the only component that has led to the success of these initiatives. It’s also about listening — listening to your partners as well as the consumers.

“We get ideas from leaders in public health policy [and] we get ideas from our customers on what makes sense, so [we’re] finding the so-called sweet spot in terms of doing something that makes sense and can really help consumers help themselves in terms of maintaining just a healthy weight balance,” Neely explains. “That’s a very important part of all of these initiatives.”

Neely adds that listening to consumers and stakeholders has allowed for a thoughtful approach that engages customers, stakeholders and, of course, consumers.

As I wrapped up my conversation with Neely, she expressed how dynamic the beverage industry has been since she joined the ABA eight years ago and that she is looking forward to another exciting decade of innovation.

 With how active the ABA and its community has been with innovation and in being a part of the solution, I think you can expect more to come in terms of health and wellness from this industry.