#100: Pier Luigi Sigismondi President at Dole Packaged Foods

#100: Pier Luigi Sigismondi President at Dole Packaged Foods Featured Image

For over 20 years, Pier-Luigi Sigismondi has worked at the intersection of purpose-led brands and value creation for the business. He is a strong believer in the proactive role companies can play against climate change, social equality, and inclusion when doing business.

As President of Dole Worldwide Packaged Foods, a 169 year-old-brand, he is leading a profound transformation, with a vision to make it an iconic Nutrition and Wellness company. One that is driven by purpose, globally.

Prior to Dole, Pier-Luigi was the President of Unilever for South East Asia and Australasia. He joined Unilever and its Executive Board in 2009. Before joining Unilever, Pier-Luigi was Vice President of Corporate Operations Strategies at Nestle’ SA (CH) and VP Operations and R&D Nestle’ Mexico.

He has served as Non-Executive Director of Rexel SA Supervisory Board and was a Board Member of Ben & Jerry’s, one of the brightest purpose-led brands.

In August 2020, Pier Luigi was appointed non-Executive Chairman of Sustenir, a vertical farming start-up based in Singapore committed to delivering triple-bottom-line value to Temasek and other future strategic investors committed to the urban farming industry.

Listen to the full discussion here:

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Connect with the Guest:

Pier Luigi Sigismondi: LinkedIn

Some of the highlights from the podcast:

  • How Pier Luigi made the switch from being Unilever Chief Supply Chain officer to a CEO role
  • The importance of purpose beyond buzz words
  • How COVID-19 affected sustainability within different companies
  • Driving and selling sustainability
  • Carbon emission in transportation and manufacturing
  • Developing CEOs from supply chain
  • Shaping cultures in different organizations

Show notes:

  • [02:00] How do you see sustainability from your perspective in the context of COVID-19? Is it becoming a must for companies? Are companies doing even more?
  • [03:00] Putting the humanity tragedy aside, COVID has been a good crisis for us, because it has allowed us to accelerate the pace of change and to pivot into new areas, new categories that we’re now entering very quickly.
  • [05:00] A lot of people struggle when it comes to selling sustainability or getting the buy-in from their CPOs on sustainability. Maybe share a little bit of your views on this.
  • [07:08] Leadership is not something that comes at top management levels. Leadership is expressed by anyone in the reality of their jobs. So it doesn’t matter where or to whom you report, when you do things with passion, you can always find the narrative and confront people with realities that will allow them to convert.
  • [08:57] How do you convince investors that being a purpose-driven organization is not at the cost of profit?
  • [09:56] I think investors more and more are talking, not walking yet, but talking about the triple bottom line, which is planet people and prosperity but at the end of the day, you need to make the analytics work because no investor would only do it out of a leap of faith. 
  • [10:27] In terms of manufacturing do you see more production coming closer to the markets?
  • [11:04] As you build scale and efficiency, you’ll be centralizing more whether it’s manufacturing or distribution, so it is unavoidable. Now the question is how green and how smart?
  • [12:27] Transportation and manufacturing were only 2% – 3% of our total CO2 emissions footprint, we realize that working with partners, suppliers, and also looking at how we actually engage with consumers, made a much bigger effect on greenhouse gas, emissions, and transportation alone. 
  • [13:16] In terms of when the vaccines become available for distribution, do you foresee some challenges in terms of your supply chain with less capacity or all of a sudden available on the market? Do you see any impact to Dole and to your business? Or how do you see things moving in the next week?
  • [15:10] You need to be predictable. Plan for the worst and aim for the best. So at least you can manage and be prepared for it. We need to be adaptable, which means changing quickly scenarios based on the latest fluctuations on demand, on supply, and on partners.
  • [17:00] Your profile is quite unique because you made the switch, you were Chief Supply Chain Officer, then you were a PNL holder with Unilever. Now you’re a, PNL holder and you’re the leader of the company. How was that for you? Maybe some tips and tricks in terms of adapting.
  • [17:49] You can make your job meaningful no matter what you do in life and it doesn’t need to sound sexy to be meaningful and impactful for the world.
  • [20:35] The way I value people is not just about the depth they have, but also the breadth in their decision-making skills. And I think that’s what I will advise anyone, to keep stretching all the time. Always ask yourself what decision would I make if I were in that person’s role.
  • [21:31] When you became a CEO for Unilever, for Southeast Asia and Australasia, and when you became for Dole, what were some of the things that kind of forced you to fast track your learning? 
  • [21:45] Don’t pretend that you know everything and be focused more on the quality of your questions rather than giving answers all the time.
  • [23:59] For those who are jumping into a complete new uncomfortable zone, you need to be clear about what is going to be the agenda that you will drive in order to make a difference, stay true to yourself, and then surround yourself with the best people that you can trust.
  • [25:25] What do you think are some of the soft skills that need to be honed in the profession or to have more CEOs coming from supply chain? 
  • [26:18] In order for you to be a general manager, which is what a CEO is, you need to be comfortable in dealing with uncertainty. You need to be very flexible in the way in which you define alternative options and scenarios and have the ability to listen. 
  • [28:53] You need to invest time in forums, in relationships, in building your black book of people that you know, and people that know who you really are because these opportunities will come out of those and it is not something you can put on paper.
  • [29:42] What would be some pieces of advice that you may share with the younger generation?
  • [32:04] You certainly need to have depth and breadth, you cannot just be intuitive in a supply chain role. You need to have a good component of analytical skills and problem-solving skills.
  • [33:37] I would also want to go into the element of cultures and shaping culture as a leader and the differences between the organizations, and maybe you can share a little bit of your thoughts on that.
  • [37:15] We all need to ask ourselves, am I doing something that is really what takes me out of bed every day? What is my personal purpose that is consistently compatible with what the company wants to achieve? And if you find that alignment and that great chemistry, you’re going to do your very best and that’s when the results will come. 
  • [39:41] Just the notion of being the head of such a huge team can give you a sense of pride, but it gets to a point where your learning curve, your intellect, your capacity to reinvent yourself becomes very limited. And that’s what you need to watch all the time.
  • [41:46] Having dreams and ambition is no sin, and we should stay clear and loud with the conviction, which is number two of being humbled and displaying humility, which means understanding what your limits are. 
  • [43:02] Self-confidence leads to arrogance, too much humility leads to lack of followership and I think too much ambition makes you greedy as well. So it is the balance of the three and the sweet spot of those that will make you an exceptional person.

Related Episodes:

#97: John Church EVP of Supply Chain & CSCO at General Mills


#98: Daniel Stanton, “Mr. Supply Chain”

#99: Francisco Betti Head of Advanced Manufacturing and Production at World Economic Forum

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