Can you outline what your position at Forto involves?
My official title is Director of Sustainability. Overall, that involves creating a vision, developing a sustainability strategy, and setting goals that inspire people to work towards a promising future. For us at Forto this means getting the right balance between what’s good for people, the planet, and also the company’s profits. A big part of what I do is making sure all our internal and external stakeholders are aligned with this vision because sustainability is a key part of Forto’s identity.
Of course I’m not doing this alone. We’ve started to build up a team of experts who support the whole company on content matters, continuous implementation, and support. Internally, my team and I lead a lot of initiatives to create sustainable supply chain products and make our internal operations more sustainable while engaging our employees. We’re always striving to build bridges to all teams so sustainability is integrated into everything we do and empower our employees to make it part of their decision making.
Externally, a major part of my role is to develop new strategic partnerships and collaborations so we can push the sustainability agenda throughout the logistics industry.
A lot of our time is spent keeping up with new developments in sustainability. There is a constant stream of new technologies, methodologies, and approaches to help with sustainability. This is good, but sometimes the complexity of the topic can be overwhelming and that’s why it’s super important to be open minded and always willing to learn.
Being open to new developments ensures that we can keep our customers and partners up-to-date, as well as everyone who works at Forto. It also means we’re in a good position to question the status quo and ask how we can do things differently — how can we be more sustainable?
Did you always want to work in a tech company? What motivated this decision?
When I was a child, I wanted to become a vet and work with animals. Then as a teenager I was a keen dancer and trained five times a week, dreaming that I could become a professional. I only got in touch with business and leadership through my grandfather, who taught me the difference between a manager and a leader when I was 14 or so. Writing a school paper on women in leadership positions was probably the starting point for me wanting to change things, so I started my studies in general management and international business at EBS University. Even then I didn’t yet actively think about working in a tech company.
EBS has a strong network and good links with entrepreneurs so a lot of my fellow students started doing internships in start-ups. This caught my interest and I wanted to experience working in this field for myself. I was already hugely enthusiastic about digitalisation and when I started as an intern with Forto I saw that I would have lots of responsibility and ownership of different projects from the beginning. That’s what really sparked my interest in working for a tech company.
What attracted you to join the company? What was your impression of the company during your first weeks?
I joined Forto when it was still in its infancy. It seemed pretty random and coincidental at the time but I don’t believe in coincidences. A friend of mine was working with our founders and he suggested I give Forto a try. I didn’t know anything about logistics but the idea of revolutionizing an industry through digitalisation sounded very intriguing. Five plus years later, I’m still just as intrigued — especially since now we have the opportunity to once again be a change agent, transforming the industry from within, this time for sustainability!
What, in your opinion, are the key skills and attributes you need for your work?
I spend a lot of time pitching the sustainability message to my colleagues inside the company and to our partners and customers externally. Good communication is absolutely vital to get the right messages across to a huge variety of stakeholders who have very different starting points — you have to find the right balance between emotions and data.
Curiosity is a key attribute because sustainability is increasingly important and there are always new developments we have to keep up with.
Forto is a young company and I’ve been there from the beginning. When you start small, you have to be willing to take risks, make mistakes, learn from them and move on. That’s how you grow and develop.
Finally, caring is one of the most important attributes. We need to be more sustainable for the sake of all people and the planet so I couldn’t do this job unless I genuinely cared about the consequences.
What would you say is your proudest achievement (within Forto) so far?
Before I became director of sustainability I was building up and leading our Global Supply Chain Operations team, which at the time consisted of four sub-teams. Part of the team was built up from scratch out of a project I was leading. Back then, we started making an active effort to reduce gender bias in the hiring process and decisions, resulting in a team with a relatively high female ratio, not to forget that we are still operating in a male-dominated industry. I was with the team on an offsite a couple of weeks ago and by now it has grown to 35 people with a super balanced gender ratio who come from 16 countries, making it one of the most diverse teams in the company. Seeing how this small team has grown, how the people have developed and progressed to leading their own teams … knowing that I was a part of their journey makes me truly grateful and proud.
What are your short-term and longer term sustainability goals at Forto?
Our main goal is to drive emissions to zero as quickly as possible — hopefully faster than most might say is possible — so we can come closer to having a climate friendly supply chain.
To help with this, our second goal is to inspire as many people as possible so they comprehend what sustainability is and the possibilities it brings — as we like to call it: taking them on the journey with us. It’s not just about reducing environmental impacts and improving social conditions — a sustainable & balanced business is a future-proof business.
The third goal is to build a network of companies, including partners and competitors, that put collaboration over competition for the sake of a highly worthwhile cause. Only if we work and act together on a global level will we be able to make the necessary changes to deal with the climate crisis and other sustainability-related issues.
You joined Forto in it’s very early stages — what motivates you to keep going?
I’m passionate and determined about playing a role in making the world we live in more sustainable. By continuing to work with Forto there is potential to create a huge impact within and beyond the company. We have over 700 employees, all with their own personal networks who can spread the sustainability message. We have 2,500 customers and hundreds of partners and that equates to lots of people who can be inspired to think and act sustainably. The faster we can spread the message, the faster we’ll be able to change things. This is a huge motivator for me.
I’m also motivated by the constant and new challenges. Once again, I’m building up a team from scratch that will need to be fully integrated into every part of the company. It feels like I’m leading a small company within a bigger company and I enjoy that.
Are there any particular sustainability challenges you face at Forto?
Initially, our offsetting product wasn’t actively requested by our clients. We had to be the ones to start the conversation about sustainability. We listened, explained, educated and discovered the problem and possible solutions together as partners.
We also trained our sales team on our offsetting offering and sustainability in the logistics industry. In the very beginning, we had a few cases where clients wanted to learn more about our sustainability offering but we couldn’t communicate our messages clearly enough. Now our sales staff are super well informed about everything we do as a company, what we offer at this moment in time and what we plan to offer in the future.
Within the first two quarters after the official launch of our first sustainability product, 65% of our customers with committed sea freight volumes have joined in for our offsetting program, which translates into 50% of the related volume. It was an astonishing success. We made a difference by being transparent and by explaining our goals and values, and taking our customers on the journey with us. And we did all this while freight rates were increasing tenfold, there were shortages of capacities and an overall increase of traffic on the oceans.
It is important to mention that the offsetting product is just the first step to create an immediate impact. Going forward, our focus will be on further creating visibility on emissions and other sustainability factors to enable conscious decision making, as well as providing access to net zero and zero emissions solutions — there’s always more to do when it comes to sustainability 🙂
What would you say to other women who are thinking about applying for a job (engineering or non-engineering) at Forto?
Forto is a great place to work regardless of your gender, race, sexual orientation, and so on. I can only highly recommend taking on the challenge. It’s a workplace where input and feedback are always welcome, where your voice will be heard and where no one says “but we’ve always done it this way.” The learning curve is steep and the chances for personal development make it rewarding.
There are so many inspiring people and especially also women working at Forto to learn from and be inspired by. We’re not yet where we want to be when it comes to diversity, but Forto is a young company and we’re making steps in the right direction. There’s a great collective will to change things for the better and you can be part of it!
We are hiring — and you can join us in making a difference #Fortomorrow! Check out our career page now.