The First 100 Days as Chief Sustainability Officer at FrieslandCampina

The First 100 Days as Chief Sustainability Officer at FrieslandCampina
‘Sustainability is our license to win’, says Mireille Einwachter about her first 100 Days as Chief Sustainability Officer at FrieslandCampina. 

Who: Mireille Einwachter
Chief Sustainability Officer at FrieslandCampina since August 2023
Interviewed by: Arjan de Draaijer, partner at Deloitte

You started in your new role last year. What did you experience as the most significant change?
‘I came from a business group where we were used to working with multi-year plans. We could phase those plans into the organization as you would decorate a Christmas tree. My current role differs completely. Here it is ambitious to have control of even 60 percent of my agenda, which is something I needed to adjust to. After a while I realized: I can stand on my head, but I will never get to the 80 percent control I was used to, so I decided to embrace it. This role is more about dealing with things suddenly cropping up and rules changing, and seizing opportunities as they arise.’

That sounds like a significant change...
‘It is like the difference between a vacation and a journey. With a vacation, you know what the destination is. You booked a hotel, planned some outings, and you know how and when you will return. On a journey, everything is open. The journey itself is the goal. That also applies to this role. It is exciting. It places significant demands on the organization and my team. What does help me is a holistic approach, where we try to connect the company, the planet, the food chain, the employees, and the more than 14,500 dairy farmers who own FrieslandCampina as members of the cooperative, to each other and consider them as a whole. And to keep returning to the fundamental question: why are we doing this?’

Do you have the answer to this question? Why are you doing this?
‘Ultimately, we do this to provide a solution in the field of healthy nutrition, in balance with the planet, and in balance with people and animals. If you can boil everything down to these pillars, you automatically get your compass.’

How do you tackle this?
‘We embedded sustainability deeply into our organization. We connected the business and sustainability strategies. In the past, sustainability was often seen as a license to operate – something which needed to be done because regulations required it. But we now see it as a license to win. We now include sustainability in all our considerations. We put all the associated complexities on the table and discuss them at the highest level. To us, sustainability is a top priority.’

Have you had to make tough decisions?
‘Every decision has its rough edges. Every choice has its winners and losers. But I have never experienced that we were unable to work it out. Our agenda is widely supported, and not only within the company: our customers are also asking for sustainable solutions. We want to and can provide those.’

Why does this position suit you?
‘I think it is a wonderful role. I enjoy bringing people together, looking at solutions, making resources available, and then driving them forward. I consider it as my main role to ensure that we build momentum. And I like doing something for a cooperative. FrieslandCampina has existed for over 150 years, and we will be here for the next 150 years too. That means we should not chase short-term gains. I would like to play a part in this.’

This article was published in Management Scope 06 2024.

This article was last changed on 25-06-2024