Member Exclusive: A conversation with Robert Erhard, Corporate Sustainable Agriculture, Nestlé

28th September 2020

“We and our members are going to be challenged with having to re-think some of our approaches, and we have to equip each other to be ready. We all need help in one way or another and SAI Platform can help us address that.”

Robert Erhard needs few introductions. As an active member of SAI Platform, he has been Chair of the Dairy Working Group and in recent years, a member of the Executive Committee. Now, as President of SAI Platform, Robert welcomes the opportunity to reflect on where SAI Platform is today, re-examine the 2025 goals and most importantly continue with SAI Platform’s evolution in a systematic way that supports and delivers value to members.

Exclusively for SAI Platform members, Robert reveals in this 25-minute video podcast his passion for sustainable agriculture and why collaboration is a key driver for industry improvement. He explains how SAI Platform is well positioned as a global community to address members’ challenges both locally and at scale and why trust, willingness to listen and openness have proven key components to enabling the delivery of industry solutions, such as SAI Platform’s Sustainable Dairy Partnership.

If you’re thinking about whether or not you should be involved in a working group, the clear answer is yes – because it makes a big difference.

Robert is a visionary and sees the recent decision to open affiliate membership to farm input providers as a clear call for “all-hands-on-deck”. For Robert, this is a necessary integration that covers the full spectrum of the supply chain from farmer to retailer. Robert makes the point that not everything can be done by the farm or through cooperatives or corporations and therefore, farm input providers have an active role to play and need to be at the table, listening to the issues and being a part of the discussions and solutions.

“People are interpreting COVID-19 as a sign that we’ve gone too far and that this is nature’s way of pushing back.”

Looking at the impact from the global coronavirus pandemic, Robert sees the current situation as a potential accelerator for change. Already, the reappearance of topics such as food sovereignty, revisiting discussions on a living minimum wage and restarting with a green economy are all indicators of the urgency to rethink and a collective realisation that things cannot continue as they are.

“Companies that come to SAI Platform, are not just part of SAI Platform because it is the right place to be, but because we offer tangible support to our members’ day to day operations.”

Robert understands the evolving nature of SAI Platform and how it will play an important part in forming a new sustainable future. For Robert, fundamental factors that members now expect from SAI Platform point to industry structure, common themes that can be integrated across the various Working Groups and Communities and a boots-on-the-ground collaborative approach that is real and can resonate across the membership.