It was quickly apparent that the Co-op’s management, farmers and employees had similar motivations and goals. We all wanted to produce and sell high quality milk that got the best return for our farmers. We wanted to meet the expectations of our customers and the New Zealand public. Without a doubt, we wanted to ensure a future for the dairy industry so it could be a viable option for future generations of farmers. And like anyone, we wanted to be proud and respected for the work we did. We needed to change our approach in three ways.
1. We focused on our shared goal.
We threw out the name “Supply Fonterra” and called the new programme TIAKI - a Maori word meaning to look after, to guard, to care for, keep and nurture. While the name change was minor in the grand scheme of things, it underlined the purpose of the programme and put the shared goals of the Co-op’s management, farmers and employees at the heart of the programme.
2. Next, we changed the way we communicated with our farmers about sustainability.
Instead of focusing on the “what”, we started with the “why”. We explained that by farming sustainably we could make sure future generations of New Zealand dairy farmers could do the same. We could use evidence of the good work being done on farm to demonstrate to our neighbours, country and customers that we are all committed to doing the right thing by the environment. The resulting compliance data supports Fonterra’s Trusted Goodness brand that is estimated to deliver $15 million back to the Co-op this year. By approaching it this way, we could start a two-way conversation based on our shared goals and motivations.
3. We changed the way we worked with our farmers to improve sustainability.
We increased the number of our Sustainable Dairying Advisors who provide their knowledge, expertise, and services to help farmers stay ahead of regulatory requirements and rising expectations. No longer is it a “to-do” list – but instead it’s a “we-do” list. We help farmers see how best practice can boost their bottom line through lower fertiliser costs, greater milk production or better pasture management. We tailor our services to fit our farmers’ needs, recognising that every farm, budget and region is different.
It was by changing our approach in these three ways that we have been able to have a more positive, focused and motivating conversation about sustainability with our farmers. And this is the first step to long-term, wide-spread, sustainable improvement.