We need a trust breakthrough: Yara’s Svein Tore Holsether

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  • Meet The Leader is a fortnightly podcast from the World Economic Forum that features the world’s top changemakers, showcasing the habits and traits effective leaders can’t work without.
  • After the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015, Svein Tore Holsether sharpened his focus on decarbonising food value chains, a shift that is changing the company and how he and his teams work.

Svein Tore Holsether started as Yara’s President and Chief Executive Officer in September 2015, just three months ahead of the historic Paris Climate Agreement. That meeting was pivotal for Holsether in many ways – and even changed how he saw his role and how he could contribute.

He was moved by the passion shown by both leaders and demonstrators, sure, but as the 2015 climate talks centered on energy and emissions, he realised Yara would need to be proactive in finding sustainable solutions that tackled decarbonisation while creating ways to support farmers and help feed the world.

This led to a new type of thinking at Yara and even a change in how Holsether ran his day. He took more and more meetings with external partners and reached out to top leaders who’d scaled sustainable solutions to learn from their expertise.

“That’s the key, really, to listen … and talk with people in all parts of the value chain,” says Holsether.

Today, Holsether asks his teams to check that they are looking outside Yara for new ways to connect and collaborate. “I ask people: check your phone at the end of the day. How many calls went outside our organisation? How many emails went outside our organisation? And the reason that I’m stressing this is that we have nine years left until 2030. And it’s impossible to reach the Paris Agreement without collaboration.”

Such connections are also critical to building the trust we’ll need to create the solutions that can achieve climate goals. “We don’t need any technology breakthroughs,” says Holsether. “We do need a breakthrough on collaboration, on trust and transparency in order to facilitate it.”

Holsether talked to Meet The Leader about these shifts and how he has sought new partners and collaborators to explore innovations in green ammonia, work that can lead to fossil-fuel-free fertiliser and could even play a role in decarbonised long-range shipping. Learn more in this week’s episode.

Articles by Svein Tore Holsether

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