China Daily (Hong Kong) - - Q&A WITH CEO -

Age: Na­tion­al­ity:

Ca­reer: 2016 on­wards: CEO, Syn­genta, Switzer­land 2012-16: Pres­i­dent and CEO, Uni­var, US 2011-12: Pres­i­dent, Eco­lab, (6 months), US 2008-11: Chair­man and CEO, Nalco, US 2003-08: Group Vi­cePres­i­dent, DuPont Co’s Agri­cul­ture & Nu­tri­tion, US 1980-2003: Var­i­ous re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at DuPont Co, the US and Ja­pan

Erik Fyr­wald is a United States cit­i­zen run­ning a Switzer­land-based multi­na­tional agribusi­ness owned by one of China’s largest cor­po­ra­tions.

You can’t get more global than that.

But then, the 57-year-old chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Syn­genta AG be­lieves Europe’s big­gest crop pro­tec­tion and seeds group is en­ter­ing a new era of ex­pan­sion and growth.

Last year, State-owned China Na­tional Chem­i­cal Corp an­nounced a $43 bil­lion bid for the com­pany and the ac­qui­si­tion has since been com­pleted.

ChemChina’s move came just af­ter the merger of agri­cul­ture and chem­i­cals gi­ants Dow Chem­i­cal Co and DuPont Co was dis­closed.

“Un­der new Chi­nese own­er­ship, we can work to make a ma­jor im­pact in China,” Fyr­wald said. “Food pro­duc­tion sys­tems face de­mands in both qual­ity and quan­tity in the coun­try.”

A ma­jor player in the farming sec­tor, Syn­genta was founded in 2000 and re­ported sales of $12.8 bil­lion last year with net in­come of $1.17 bil­lion.

Op­er­at­ing in 90 coun­tries and re­gions, the com­pany em­ploys more than 28,000 staff with at least 5,000 tech­ni­cians work­ing at 119 re­search and devel­op­ment cen­ters glob­ally.

The an­nual R&D bud­get comes in at $1.3 bil­lion, ac­cord­ing to Syn­genta’s official web­site.

“We lead the in­dus­try in our com­mit­ment to re­search and devel­op­ment,” Fyr­wald said. “We are proud of that.”

In an in-depth in­ter­view with China Daily, he talked about the com­pany’s busi­ness plan in China, his com­mit­ment to help­ing farm­ers through in­no­va­tion and how he han­dles set­backs.

How do you as­sess the prospects of your com­pany in China?

Nat­u­rally, China is a top pri­or­ity for Syn­genta. We have a strong team here and we will in­vest more in China in the fu­ture. Our goal is to pro­vide ad­vanced seeds and crop pro­tec­tion tech­nolo­gies, com­bined with ad­vanced agro­nomic ad­vice.

This will help farm­ers im­prove Chi­nese agri­cul­ture, so they can pro­vide food se­cu­rity, safety and qual­ity for the coun­try’s con­sumers. We must also do this in a way that helps im­prove the en­vi­ron­ment by re­duc­ing car­bon emis­sions and water us­age. Since Syn­genta was formed, we have in­vested more than $360 mil­lion in China and we have 2,000 em­ploy­ees.

What is the devel­op­ment po­ten­tial of the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive to Syn­genta?

Well, the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive is sup­ported by more than 100 coun­tries, re­gioins and in­ter­na­tional or­ga­ni­za­tions. This pro­vides fur­ther po­ten­tial for Syn­genta to ex­tend part­ner­ships and in­crease its global pres­ence.

We serve farm­ers in nearly all the coun­tries and re­gions re­lated to the ini­tia­tive, and we will now be able to ex­tend out prod­ucts and ser­vices.

What are you fo­cus­ing on in China now?

We have de­vel­oped so­lu­tions that im­prove pro­duce such as rice, corn and pota­toes. We can de­liver im­prove­ments in both yield and qual­ity while im­prov­ing re­source ef­fi­ciency. We have also im­proved the taste of veg­eta­bles through breed­ing tech­niques.

But then, we con­stantly de­velop these prod­ucts and ser­vice so­lu­tions. They con­trib­ute to our com­mit­ments un­der The Good Growth Plan, which has very spe­cific goals to im­prove the sus­tain­abil­ity of agri­cul­ture. new

What can you do to im­prove the agri­cul­tural in­dus­try of China?

Agri­cul­ture in China needs to be more sus­tain­able as there is lim­ited land and water. Also, there is a de­sire to cut car­bon emis­sions. By pro­vid­ing bet­ter seeds and more ef­fec­tive crop pro­tec­tion prod­ucts that re­quire lower vol­umes of water, we can help im­prove pro­duc­tion and en­vi­ron­men­tal sus­tain­abil­ity,

Of course, we must com­bine this with im­proved cul­ti­va­tion tech­niques that do not de­plete the soil. We also found that the pro­por­tion of the ru­ral pop­ula- tion liv­ing in poverty has fallen.

To erad­i­cate poverty by 2020, China pledged to lift 10 mil­lion peo­ple out of this trap ev­ery year from 2016. Through bet­ter ser­vices, such as im­prov­ing yields, Syn­genta can fur­ther up­grade the liv­ing stan­dards of Chi­nese farm­ers.

How do you as­sess the prospects of the Chi­nese mar­ket and econ­omy?

The coun­try has great po­ten­tial when it comes to agri­cul­ture. In the process of de­vel­op­ing mod­ern and sus­tain­able farming, China needs to use ad­vanced tech­nol­ogy. The coun­try it­self has also de­vel­oped key tech­nolo­gies for agri­cul­ture.

We look for­ward to col­lab­o­rat­ing even more closely with sci­en­tific in­sti­tutes in the coun­try as a Chi­nese-owned com­pany. We must also find ways for these tech­nolo­gies to com­ple­ment Syn­genta’s high­tech ap­proach to bring even more ben­e­fits to Chi­nese farm­ers and con­sumers.

What is your se­cret to mak­ing Syn­genta suc­cess­ful in China?

Most im­por­tant to our suc­cess is our long-term com­mit­ment to the mar­ket in China — to our farm­ers, cus­tomers and our em­ploy­ees. We want to help farm­ers suc­ceed today. We also want them to suc­ceed in the next five years as well as the next 100 years.

My style of man­age­ment has changed by do­ing busi­ness in China. I am fo­cused on do­ing ev­ery­thing I can to help our cus­tomers today and in the long term. Also, I have learned how cru­cial it is to have strong lead­er­ship on the ground in China.

What is you big­gest achieve­ment in China as CEO of the com­pany?

My great­est achieve­ment has been to work with my team to rec­og­nize the op­por- tu­ni­ties that ex­ist in the mar­ket and to strengthen our abil­ity to serve Chi­nese farm­ers. We can help bring tremen­dous value to the coun­try un­der new Chi­nese own­er­ship and ex­pand glob­ally.

We be­lieve that with this own­er­ship change, we can work with oth­ers to cre­ate truly great op­por­tu­ni­ties, and make a pos­i­tive im­pact in the coun­try and the world by help­ing farm­ers be­come more suc­cess­ful. We strive all the time to as­sure safe, plen­ti­ful and healthy food, while mak­ing agri­cul­ture part of the so­lu­tion to cli­mate change and water short­ages.

How do you get along with your lo­cal part­ners?

Syn­genta has a long his­tory of build­ing part­ner­ships in China. Early in 1999, our legacy com­pany de­vel­oped a part­ner­ship with the Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture to spon­sor col­lege stu­dents in the sec­tor. This

Good ques­tion. It would have to be fo­cus­ing on our farm­ers and cus­tomers to bring sus­tain­able in­no­va­tion to ev­ery­thing we do. Look, we lead the in­dus­try in our com­mit­ment to re­search and devel­op­ment, and we spend around $1.3 bil­lion ev­ery year.

This helps us bring new prod­ucts to the mar­ket, which are even more en­vi­ron­men­tally friendly. We also have great teams — in China and around the world — and they col­lab­o­rate with each other as well as with other en­ti­ties to bring prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions to our farm­ers and cus­tomers.

How do you mo­ti­vate your in­ter­na­tional teams?

We have 28,000 peo­ple who work for Syn­genta in more than 90 coun­tries and re­gions. They are highly mo­ti­vated by know­ing that each day they help farm­ers feed the world. And we do this in a way that makes farm­ers, their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties more suc­cess­ful.

We also do it in a way that helps safe­guard the en­vi­ron­ment. We have a clear strat­egy on how we will con­tinue to strengthen our busi­ness. This is through bet­ter seed and crop pro­tec­tion prod­ucts, and bet­ter use of dig­i­tal tools as well as work­ing with down­stream food and grain han­dling com­pa­nies to en­sure safety and nu­tri­tion.

This cre­ates lots of en­ergy in our teams.

How do you han­dle set­backs?

There will al­ways be set­backs in life. I han­dle them by view­ing them as op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn and grow stronger. We have a trans­par­ent, open cul­ture and talk about our chal­lenges, so that we can help each other ad­dress them. The high­lights of my ca­reer have been when I worked as part of a team to ad­dress set­backs, and over­came them in a way that made the team and the com­pany stronger.



Erik Fyr­wald, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of Syn­genta AG. 57 US Cit­i­zen Ed­u­ca­tion: 1998: Har­vard Busi­ness School, Ad­vanced Man­age­ment Pro­gram, US 1981: Bach­e­lor of Sci­ence, ma­jor in chem­i­cal engi­neer­ing, Univer­sity of Delaware, US

Fam­ily: Mar­ried with three daugh­ters

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