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"If you know how to get to your targets from the start, your targets are probably too conservative"

This insight into how businesses should set their sustainability goals is just one of the lessons Rolf Ladau, President and CEO for Paulig Group, shared with an engaged audience at recent Knowit Strategy Forum, our regular forum for leaders to exchange ideas and best practices for strategy, execution and change management. Read further to learn how Paulig is delivering on both fast growth and class-leading sustainability, why Rolf is so frustrated with sustainability talk that highlights year 2050 goals – and why less is more in achieving real impact.

A strong sense of direction was the defining characteristic for Rolf Ladau timely Knowit Strategy Forum presentation of how to turn sustainability intentions into a strong action for growth, strategy and decision making. Tasked with high ambitions for both business growth and sustainability, Rolf and the organization have aimed for going beyond a mere tick-in-the-box exercise in the organization, but to drive significant change along the value chain.


“You have to eat the elephant one bite at the time”

Driving change across the value chain is no small feat, given that much of the Paulig´s business rests on two critical ingredients and their related value chain - coffee and wheat that is crucial to its largest business area, Tex-Mex. To achieve this, Rolf highlighted the need for clear and ambitious milestones and celebrating them when achieved, such as having 100% of coffee sourced from certified origins already in 2018.

In Rolf´s view, clear and ambitious are characterized by accountable roadmaps to identify milestones and successes, supporting international frameworks such as the UNs Sustainable Development goals and Science Based Targets and clear current state analysis to start with, but also the recognition that the road to goals includes some unclarity and uncertainty. In his view, If the road to target is already known, the target is probably way too conservative and needs to be upped in ambition.


“What is the alternative?”

 Ambitious sustainability action is sometimes – although increasingly less so – questioned from a profit point of view. Rolf´s answer was straight to the point: “What is the alternative?”. Not caring for sustainability is not just wrong by the planet, but also a real short-term liability in terms of regulation, company brand and talent attraction. Furthermore, businesses need to be a part of the solution, not a problem, and ultimately, on the right side of history.


“Just talking about the future is a Get Out Of Jail card”

 Rolf expressed real frustration with a lot of the sustainability talk that centers on what the world will look like on 2050 or onwards. In Rolf´s view this is a Get Out Of Jail card for current leaders and generation, shifting real action to the future instead of getting stuff done right now. There he gives a credit to Paulig where the mindset clearly covers both perspectives, short and long term.

While integrating sustainability and business growth requires multiple stages from ambition-setting, building competences and finally commitment to ongoing implementation, Rolf´s key message to leaders was that in getting real results, an organization needs to first choose key focus areas with greatest impact potential, deliver on them, and only then apply the lessons across the broader portfolio. Don´t spread your efforts thin if you want to make a real difference!


How to turn sustainability intentions into business actions and align yourself with customer needs?

In the current business landscape, the importance of building a solid, customer-driven business case for sustainability action is greater than ever. We need to understand how to challenge legacy structures, deal with tensions between short and long-term perspective and optimize resources for both organizational efficiency and emissions reduction. All these challenges require both diverse competences and agile ways to bring them together to driver customer-value. This requires a clear sense of direction, and alignment across corporate purpose and vision, brand and understanding of customer needs.


Do you want to integrate sustainability action with real-world business results, set a clear direction and execute with efficiency and build tangible customer value? Connect with Petteri Lillberg, Director, Sustainable Business at +358 50 359 1572,