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Published on: 05 December 2022

The power of courage – on driving sustainability

Hanne Sondergaard, IRG Participant 2022, formerly Chief Marketing & Sustainability Officer, and now Chair of Operating Committee at Arla Foods, shared her sustainability journey.

“How can I as an Arla colleague make a difference in our sustainability journey? This was the question put to me just the other day during an internal webcast. My answer: It is about personal choice, vision and courage. Big words, but there is no easy path on this one.

We need to search within ourselves for what we personally believe in and identify where we are able to influence decisions, big or small, to help move our company forward. My personal vision (one that hangs on a poster on a wall in my home office) is to create a strong natural food system for farmers and people. Yes, it’s a massive task and one person or even one dairy company will not be able to do it alone. But we have to start with ourselves and what we can influence.

I want to help our farmers lead sustainable dairy farming through research, data, tools, support and concrete solutions. And through our brands, I want to reconnect people with food and the way food is made, and what good food means to us all. This vision is mine, and there will be different visions for you out there. So my message is to ask yourself the question: Do I care? If yes, what do I care about and what am I willing to change or even sacrifice to make it happen?

Personally, I have had to give up my commercial responsibility in Arla step by step. It is tough to leave behind something you love and know how to do as well as colleagues you enjoy working with. But today I’m so pleased that my leader, Peder Tuborgh, a couple of years ago convinced me to take on this new area of sustainability.

Until recently, it was combined with a responsibility for marketing and innovation. However, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to work full-time with sustainability across our value chain from farm to fridge and all the wonderful, time-consuming and complex dilemmas it entails. And I am very lucky to be able to work with this as part of my new responsibility for agriculture and sustainability and in Arla.

And that leads me to courage. Courage is not about being a hero. The word courage in Latin is to follow your heart and do what you really care about. You can only be courageous if you know what you care about and what you want to fight for. The world is facing a climate crisis, and there is also a health crisis and there is no doubt in my mind that dairy produced sustainably is part of the solution to both. This is what my heart tells me and this is what I’ll be fighting for. What’s your vision?"

Inspired by Hanne Sondergaard, IRG Participant 2022, Chair of Operating Committee at Arla Foods.

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