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How I Got Here: Nira Johri

How I Got Here: Nira Johri

Published 04-29-24

Submitted by Yum! Brands

Nira Johri and KFC logo

In the #HowIGotHere series, you’ll read about the career paths of some of the world-renowned leaders at Yum! Brands. Learn more about Nira Johri, Chief Sustainability Officer at KFC Global in this installment.


  • Emmaus High School 
    Emmaus, Pennsylvania, United States (1996 – 1999)
  • University of Maryland 
    Bachelor of Science, Marketing; Bachelor of Arts, Government & Politics College Park, Maryland, United States (1999 – 2003)
  • University of Cambridge 
    Master of Business Administration Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, United Kingdom (2012 – 2013)

If we were to interview your teachers, what would they say about you?

On my third grade report card, my teacher said, "Nira is a self-confident, polite, analytical-thinking student. She has leadership ability and will be met with success"

What did you want to be when you grew up?

My favorite animal then and now is an orca, so I always wanted to be a marine biologist. I’ve always loved being by the ocean and thought it would be fun to study marine wildlife. I guess I ended up thinking about ocean health and biodiversity from a different angle!


First Job: To finance my travel habit, I worked at Old Navy when I was 16 years old. I started as a cashier and sales associate and then got promoted to “key holder,” which meant I got to do returns. The discounts were amazing!

  • UBS Investment Bank, London, United Kingdom
    2003-2004: Derivatives Analyst
  • Jack Morton Worldwide, New York City, New York, United States
    2004-2005: Account Coordinator
    2005-2006: Account Executive
    2007-2008: Strategic Planner & Account Manager
  • Obama for America and Presidential Inaugural Committee, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C., United States
    2008-2009: Deputy Speakers Director and Talent Liaison
  • United States Department of Defense, Washington, D.C., United States
    2009-2011: India Country Director, Office of the Secretary of Defense of Policy
    2011-2012: Special Assistant, Asia-Pacific, Office of the Secretary of Defense of Policy
  • Unilever, London, United Kingdom
    2013: Sustainability Consultant
  • World Cocoa Foundation, Washington, D.C., United States
    2014-2015: Deputy Director, CocoaAction
    2015-2016: Director, CocoaAction
    2017-2019: Senior Director, Sustainability Strategy & Learning
  • Rich Products Corporation, Buffalo, New York, United States
    2019-2020: Director, Sustainability
    2020-2022: Director, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion and Sustainability
    2022-2023: Vice President, Global Inclusion & Sustainability
  • KFC Global, Washington, D.C., United States
    2023-present: Chief Sustainability Officer

What moments, or who, in your life influenced the way you work?

Life of service

My great-grandfather was a freedom fighter who worked alongside Gandhi for India’s independence, so service is in my blood. My grandparents were very active in their community, and my parents are spending their retired lives volunteering. Over a decade ago, I realized I had the opportunity to drive impact through my professional work, so I pursued roles that aligned with my passion for social change. It’s incredible to have a job where you can give back each day.

Advice from a client

Early in my marketing career, I worked with a client who said, “I’ll never be mad if you come to me with a mistake or a problem. But make sure you also start to think about the remedy or what next steps you’ll take – don’t come empty-handed.” This advice helped me be a more strategic leader, to not stand still when something goes wrong and think a few steps ahead.

Do you believe in work/life balance?

I don’t like the word “balance.” It indicates that there is a trade-off between work and life. I’m a big fan of work/life integration, finding the best times to work, play and be a family member or friend. Work should be a fulfilling and joyful part of life.

I also embrace JOMO – joy of missing out. I’ve learned to say no to work things and personal things when they don’t give me space to focus or rest.

What do people think you do versus what you actually do?

Sustainability often gets mistaken as a moral imperative or a do-gooder project. People have also told me, “sustainability is new,” when it's actually been around for decades. Sustainability at its best is deeply integrated into business strategy and helps us create value, attract employees and team members and reinforce to customers that KFC is a modern and trusted brand. My days are spent helping people see the value of the work and coaching my team and our functional partners on how best to deliver those results.

What is the best piece of advice that you've been given?

Follow the coach, not the job. The best coaches will open doors for you that you didn’t know were options. They will also be your sponsors and advocates to help you go where you want to go.

The other piece of advice I’ve valued is don’t worry about your title – my titles have jumped all over the place depending on sector (government vs. nonprofits vs. corporate). If you’re doing meaningful work and being compensated equitably, the rest will fall into place.

What makes you happy?

My husband. My family and friends. Baking. Brunch. Oregon pinot noir. Leaning into insatiable wanderlust. Curling up with a good fiction book. Driving impact for people and our planet.

How do you do it?

I live my life with no regrets. Remember that each day is a gift and make the most of it. I remind myself that I am human and doing the best I can.

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Yum! Brands

Yum! Brands

Yum! Brands, Inc., based in Louisville, Kentucky, has over 54,000 restaurants in more than 155 countries and territories, operating the Company’s brands – KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell – global leaders of the chicken, pizza and Mexican-style food categories. The Company’s family of brands also includes The Habit Burger Grill, a fast-casual restaurant concept specializing in made-to-order chargrilled burgers, sandwiches and more. Yum! Brands was named to the 2021 Dow Jones Sustainability Index North America and was ranked on Newsweek’s list of 2021 America’s Most Responsible Companies. In 2022, Yum! Brands was named to 3BL Media’s 100 Best Corporate Citizens.

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