Environmental and Economic Goals Shouldn’t Be An Either-Or Proposition
A conversation with Alexandra Brand, Syngenta
Bringing a background in international business and a doctorate in chemistry, Alexandra Brand became Syngenta’s chief sustainability officer in January 2018. She discusses integrating sustainability and aligning it with other company goals.
Hear more from Brand at the Bloomberg Sustainable Business Summit on June 18 in London, where corporate executives, influential investors, and prominent experts will provide a high-level look at the evolution of sustainable business and finance strategies in a post-Brexit world.
How has your relationship with Syngenta’s CFO developed over your first year and a half as CSO?
Mark Patrick, our CFO, and I work very closely. We meet and discuss weekly. We share a deep understanding of how sustainability is driving our customers’ demands. The strategy that we’ve put in place, accelerating innovation for a changing world, will ultimately drive the growth of our company – while supporting nature and the environment.
How do you balance Syngenta’s sustainability goals with your company’s other goals?
The world is changing. Consumers today want a bigger say in the way food is produced with respect to climate change and environmental concerns. Farmers in turn want to adapt to these changing societal demands. Farmers’ challenges are our challenges.
Our commitment to sustainability is tied to our business goals. There cannot be a contradiction, and we need to stop thinking in terms of trade-offs between economic and environmental targets. Sustainability is as important as financial performance – they’re inextricably linked.
Today’s sustainability goals must produce economic results. This holds true for all companies, including Syngenta. This is not about charity and philanthropy, although I am very proud of Syngenta’s philanthropic investments.
What would you advise other companies to keep in mind when building a financial case for sustainability?
It’s important to keep in mind that there’s a business case for sustainability. Business leaders can find opportunities to invest in and develop products for customers and consumers, as well as care about sustainability. There are also savings to be had, in areas like energy efficiency and quality management. We all need to understand that sustainability is a part of the business model, not just an add-on. That’s why we’ve been working to improve the sustainability of agriculture since 2013 with the Good Growth Plan. For example, we’ve implemented 301 projects to support biodiversity initiatives in 39 countries, benefiting a total of 6.4 million hectares, in support of farmers and linked to our product portfolio.