Dole Packaged Foods, a division of Dole Asia Holdings Pte. Ltd., recently announced “The Dole Promise,” which aims to increase access to sustainable nutrition, decrease food waste, plastics in packaging, and carbon emissions, and grow value for the company’s stakeholders, including farmers and shareholders.
I caught up with Pier Luigi Sigismondi, President of Dole Packaged Foods to find out more.
Afdhel Aziz: Pier Luigi, welcome. Could you please talk a little about your personal journey to Dole?
Pier Luigi Sigismondi: My personal purpose in life is – ‘build to last.’ I learned very early on from my immigrant parents about the importance of working hard to build a brighter future with a long-lasting legacy for our generations. I consider myself a builder of sustainable brands and businesses and that’s what I enjoyed the most in my Nestlé and Unilever days.
When I was approached for this role at Dole I was energized about the prospect of transforming a 169-year-old company into a purpose-led business that can offer health and wellness to millions of people across the world, whilst reverting a concerning declining trend in revenues and margins. Dole gave me the opportunity enjoy the convergence between my life purpose with our new company purpose. It’s a dream job.
Aziz: Thank you for sharing that. Could you please tell us a little about the ‘Dole Promise’ and what that covers?
Pier Luigi Sigismondi: The growing problem of food inequality, which existed before the pandemic, has now reached crisis proportions and needs a collective effort to address. Dole’s commitment to increase access to sustainable nutrition will play a role, along with its effort to eliminate food waste. Our promise is not just about improving our world today. We have a responsibility to future generations to work towards a more equitable and sustainable future. So we have 6 areas that we focus on together cover of people, planet, and prosperity.
We are also moving to Zero added sugar in our packaged products by 2025 and we will contribute to combating the health risks associated with it.
By 2025 we aim to have eliminated fruit waste from our own operations, starting with a search for innovative ways to repurpose organic waste to new products. What cannot nourish people will go back to nourish the land. We will work with customers and suppliers to reduce losses across the supply chain.
We are committing to zero fossil-based plastic packaging by 2025. This will not be easy. Packaging is important to protect produce, but we must focus on sustainable alternatives and be part of the move to generate demand for them
Our promise to become carbon neutral in our operations by 2030. We will achieve it by sourcing 100% renewable energy for our processing facilities and reducing our greenhouse gas emissions by 50% from 2019 levels. We will also work with partners across the value chain to further reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Prosperity is part of our promise and an important one. To really make a difference to a billion people in five years demands that we remain economically sustainable – but not at the expense of other stakeholders. We promise to create shared value for our farmers, communities, workforce, suppliers, customers, and shareholders through our commitment to equal opportunity, living wages, and a relentless focus on safety, nutrition, and well-being. Our aim is to increase the value of our business by 50% by 2025.
Aziz: That is pretty ambitious! Could you elaborate on How ‘the promise draws on the spirit of ‘Sampo Yoshi?’
Pier Luigi Sigismondi: The 18th century Japanese philosophy of ‘Sampo Yoshi’ views the well-being of society and business as interdependent, and ensures the business is beneficial to the seller, to the buyer, and to the society. This has been our inspiration as we weave an interdependent way where People, Planet, and prosperity thrive together, not at the cost of each other. The uniqueness of the Dole Promise are the interdependent goals of doing business in a way that way provides better care for people and the planet, both for today and for future generations to come, while also increasing shared value to all involved along the food and supply chain.
The promises have three interconnected pillars – people, planet, prosperity. So whatever we do and promise works together for all three and achieving it does not come at the cost of one or the other. For example, we have taken our goal of access to nutrition; and actually supercharged it by connecting it to other important promises like ‘zero fruit waste’ which in turn impacts our climate promise.
Aziz: What are some of the ways the partnerships and the Sunshine For All Investment Fund bring this to life?
Pier Luigi Sigismondi: We are humble enough to recognise that we do not have all the answers; and we can’t do this by ourselves. We are putting our faith in innovative, enduring partnerships with others who, like us, see that it is time for a change. Already valued partners like Solidaridad, are partnering with us to help create a sustainable sourcing and marketing model for fruits.
Future Food Network have committed to providing new innovations that allow increased access to nutrition and Forum for the Future has helped shape our promise to keep it forward looking and robust in its commitments. With Rocana, we will identify investments in the right start-ups and products that will help improve access to good nutrition and reduce nutrition waste. Our Dole Sunshine For All $2m investment fund designed to find and fund the innovators who will help us close the gap between nutrition and those who need it. We will also welcome our competitors to join us on this journey, if they want to.
Aziz: Finally, what advice do you have for your fellow corporate leaders about taking a stand on such issue?
Pier Luigi Sigismondi: The pandemic has made us recognise that we cannot go back to “business as usual”; that it is time for a change of direction, of responsibility, and of accountability for business. It’s not good enough to say the right things and a stand is only effective when you walk the talk with your actions. I will share three important learnings I have had on this journey so far.
1. Burn the ships. Once you take a stand, there is no going back. Create your own Hernan Cortes story, who during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, scuttled his ships, in the move that meant there was no going back. Be decisive about change and lead your teams to embrace this.
2. Build partnerships. Seek help. Many out there can bring their superpowers and multiply yours and will help eventually get you to your destination faster.
3. Have the right blend and balance between humility, ambition, and self-confidence. The lack or excess of any of these will only keep you in the averages. Life is a long learning journey and you can feed all three continuously despite great successes and adversities. The taller the trees become, the more they sense strong winds.
Originally published on Forbes.com