I started our conversation by asking him about the currency of trust and why it is imperative that companies need to ensure that their supply chains are fully transparent, and what he learned from working at Barry Callebaut, which, because of its size, was able to push the cocoa sustainability agenda.
"The time when companies could grow just by selling products without looking at the consequences of their operations to society … those days are gone,” he says. “I think nowadays, investors, customers, employees, talent … all want to invest, buy or work for a company that's basically through its operation is solving certain societal issues - rather than creating problems.
“And I think that is really where companies can now create a competitive advantage. Issue solving is, in the end the new currency for business growth, and that's where theLOOP communications comes in.
“We support companies, basically identifying what they can do through their operation and through their expertise to solve society's issues. And help create a competitive advantage.”
He said he would advise companies to start by asking ‘not what do I want to tell society, but what does society expect?’
“For me and my operations to do that, that should be the starting point. From there, you can then look at what does the company do, what is the expertise, the resources they have in order to meet some of these expectations. And then to turn that into a compelling story.”
He said his new company is ready to ‘loop’ organisations into those societal discussions relevant to their operations through confident communication and engagement strategies on the solutions it is providing.
Prins says while he has taken a lot of learnings from his experience of cocoa and chocolate sustainability, lots of the lessons can be adapted to other commodities or other industries such as construction, food or pharma.
He reveals that Barry Callebaut was a fantastic company to work for, and as head of comms he was involved in some very high-profile public discussions about how to solve some of the challenges in the cocoa and chocolate supply chain.
“I was, of course, being the main spokesperson and being the main, let's say, architect of designing how do you interact with the different stakeholders, in a prime time position. it was a truly exciting time, a roller coaster but I loved every minute of it.”
As well as getting the company’s sustainability message out, and countering any negative feedback, Prins’s time at Barry Callebaut also included a series of ground-breaking innovations in the chocolate world, notably the launch of Ruby Chocolate, Wholefruit and so-called ‘Second Generation’ chocolate.
“It has been phenomenal …. there were some big, innovative brains who were cooking all of these ideas up … every time you thought, you know what .. what can you still change in cocoa and chocolate?
“You were surprised again by the new directions. Ruby chocolate, the fourth type of chocolate, Wholefruit, chocolate …. And of course, all done through fantastic launches in fantastic locations.”
- Listen to more of the interview with Christiaan Prins in our special podcast and email him at email@example.com for more information on theLOOP Communications.