“I truly love my job”

Describe yourself in three words:
Idealistic, energetic, committed.

What’s your biggest professional achievement?
Leading the sustainability journey at SVZ. As sustainability manager of one of the main suppliers of fruit and vegetable ingredients, I get to develop and implement a cutting edge strategic framework for sustainability, as well as to set up meaningful projects throughout the supply chain.

How did you get to where you are today?
My knowledge about sustainable production, my interest in what nature creates, my passion for making a difference and my ability to build bridges between people, departments and industries.

After completing MSc degrees in biology and sustainable development at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands, I worked for over five years in the Dutch paper industry as a sustainability specialist and I obtained my PhD in energy improvement potentials at different levels of the paper chain.

What does a typical day look for you?
In my job there is no such a thing as a typical day. My role is to embed sustainability in every department and every process. On one hand, it means working on the long term strategy of the company and on the other, it involves achieving immediate improvements through short term projects. One day I could be working with our agronomists, helping suppliers implement sustainable agricultural practices, and the next I might be focusing on an energy saving project in one of our factories.

What have been the highlights of your company’s history, in your opinion?
Maybe I should say the quality of our products, but for me it is really the building of such strong relationships with farmers. Our team of agronomists out there on the fields, helping farmers to improve their business, has helped us host more than 3,000 farmers a year at our training programme in Poland and achieve industry leading supply chain management.

What is your pet hate?
Bullying.

Give us a positive prediction for the food industry over the next 12 months.
The food and beverage industry is more diverse than ever and will surely continue to expand, driven by the rise in global population and economy recovery. The expansion will particularly be mirrored in delivering more transparent and sustainably produced product choices, which is the right direction to go. The solutions will need to meet the needs of the modern affluent consumer, focusing on natural, healthy and quality products with clear ingredient labelling, as well as transparency on ethical and environmental standards.

What do you consider to be the most important attributes for a leader?
The ability to listen, the courage to act on a long term vision and the willingness to set your own ego aside for the cause.

Who do you most admire?
People that follow their heart.

Which people/organisations or companies are the ones to watch right now?
Companies that have embedded sustainability deeply into their commercial strategies and provide the indisputable evidence that sustainable businesses are equivalent to successful businesses. Unilever and Innocent are two good examples.

If you weren’t in your current position, what else might you be doing?
I would either work for an NGO or be a teacher, but that would a second choice as I truly love my job as sustainability manager in the food industry.

Tell us something about yourself that few people know.
I lived in Norway for a few months during my biology studies.

 Any vices?
I am, as we say in Holland, a ‘burgundian’, meaning that I love all kinds of food and drinks. I am particularly fond of Belgian beers and Indian pale ales.
What single thing would most improve the quality of your life?
I truly believe that when you are able to see and enjoy the little things in life, you can be the happiest person in the world. Even though I am very conscious about this, the routine and stress of daily life sometimes distracts me from that.

How do you relax?
Running, playing tennis or going on a hike and afterwards enjoying a good Belgian beer with friends.

How would you like to be remembered?
As being positive and open minded.

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