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A Day in the Life: Frucor Suntory's head of sustainability Ben Walkley

A Day in the Life: Frucor Suntory's head of sustainability Ben Walkley

Ben Walkley is head of sustainability at Frucor Suntory. He shares how he gets through the day, how he organises his time and how he handles the madness of business.

What time do you wake up?

I’m usually up between 5:45am and 6:45am, depending on what I might do for exercise. A few mornings a week I get out to a spin class or a run and I find this is a great way to start the day.

What kind of work do you do?

Mostly office based – either at my computer or having conversations with people.

What’s the ideal way to start your day?

With a black coffee (!) and some exercise.   

Do you have any morning rituals?

I’ll always make an aero-press coffee before starting anything – for the drive to work / walk to the train.  

How soon do you begin doing work-related things each morning, such as checking phone or emails?

I try to allow myself a bit of time to wake up and get my head together before starting work. Once I’m out of the door – usually around 7:30am – then I’ll start. I use the drive to work to call people ahead of the day at the office.

What’s your media consumption or interaction like – which podcasts, radio, videos, books, magazines, and news sites do you read or listen to?

I enjoy local NZ and Australian music – Fly My Pretties, Black Seeds, Angus and Julia Stone, Busby Marou. It was a few months ago now, but I listened to the Teacher’s Pet podcast – and also enjoy hearing about innovation via the Innovation Ecosystem podcast series.   

What do you think is unique about the way you approach your work?

I think I have a unique perspective and mindset. I enjoy working with ambiguity -when things are unclear.  You need to take a step to discover what to do next – testing and learning along the way. Sport taught me from a young age that you create your own future, and you shouldn’t be limited by challenges of your current situation.   

We have seen an acceleration of interest in sustainability over the last 24 months which has driven us to go even further and build on the work we have already done. Consumers want complete transparency and the ability to understand where the food and beverages they choose are coming from, as well as what happens to waste when they have finished with it. 

What responsibility do you have in a typical day? What takes up most of your time?

We’ve never been under more pressure to increase our sustainability efforts.

The issues of sustainability impact every part of our business and the topic gains lots of interest from media and scrutiny from consumers.  I work alongside industry, colleagues, partners and Government to ensure the effort is collective and we are all doing our bit to improve.

I drive momentum for our eight big sustainability targets for 2030 and oversee our steering committee meetings to discuss and analyse the positive changes we’ve made so far, and what we must do next.

Where do your best ideas come from?

Totally random places! I have a note pad by the bed just in case it’s at 2am. I think it comes from joining the dots in different and sometimes unconventional ways…and often not from behind a computer!

What does inspiration look like for you?

I like to create a space / environment for ideas to flow. Sometimes you need to ask the right questions, set up the right physical environment.

What has been the most transformational business practice you’ve implemented at your work?

This time 12 months ago I was knee-deep fermenting Amplify – our kombucha brand!  What most people don’t know is that Amplify was very much a start-up project, meaning we had to do everything from creating new processes, to installing machinery, to mulching a scoby (symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeast) in a bucket of fermenting Amplify!

What social or environmental issues inform the work you do, as well as what you’re aiming to do with your company’s overall vision?

We have seen an acceleration of interest in sustainability over the last 24 months which has driven us to go even further and build on the work we have already done. Consumers want complete transparency and the ability to understand where the food and beverages they choose are coming from, as well as what happens to waste when they have finished with it. We need to act alongside industry, partners and Government to ensure the effort is collective and we are all aligned in doing our bit to improve. 

This is why we created our eight sustainability targets for 2030, which actively focus on big issues; our electricity consumption, water usage, landfill waste, on-site recycling, greenhouse gas emissions, packaging and sugar, as well as conducting ongoing reviews of each of these issues.     

What’s the most enjoyable part of your day?

Discussing and being able to action some of the key opportunities around sustainability with those in the business who are passionate about the topic.  When it comes to the environment, there are so many dedicated people at Frucor Suntory. It’s hugely inspiring to see the conversations and ideas that have translated into action so far.

What about the least enjoyable?

Admin…especially expenses.

Do you have any side hustles you’re juggling alongside being an entrepreneur?

I’m working on an idea that involves advocating for our oceans and waterways. I grew up either on or under the water, kayaking, surfing, swimming and diving – and recognise we can all play a part in its maintenance and protection. Not a fully formed idea by any means, but something I’m developing. 

  Do you procrastinate? Is it good or bad?

Yes, and I think it’s a good thing actually. It allows me to cut through the unnecessary tasks. If I sit on something for some time, I might then realise it's not even a priority and won't waste time working on a task which I needn't have! Procrastination often highlights what's important, and what's not.

What’s your best productivity hack?

Not sure I have one…but enjoy your job! If you enjoy what you do, I think you’re able to achieve more.

Do you measure your accomplishments or productivity? If so, how?

Accomplishments are very much a team effort at Frucor Suntory, but achievements such as our CEMARS certification shows that we’re on the right path for protecting our environment.

We have kicked off a detailed piece of work to understand our carbon footprint. To ensure we used the right assumptions, our result was audited by a third party (CEMARS) to ensure it was true and correct. It demonstrates our commitment to the environment and continuous improvement into the future. Very few companies in the FMCG sector have this accreditation, which makes it even more special.  

What’s your interaction with friends and family throughout the day?

I speak to them either before or after work – I’m not a great multi-tasker!

Can you be both a successful entrepreneur and a good mother/partner/friend? I think you can do both, if you share common elements. For me, exercise is important, so I find that I exercise with my wife and mates.

Do you get stressed? If so, how do you manage it? Do you practice any mindfulness or meditation?

Get outside.  Often what works for me is to get to the beach and feel the sea breeze. I like to call it “vitamin-sea”!

What do you do once you get home? Can you switch off?

Frucor Suntory is Trans-Tasman, which means with the time zone someone is always working slightly earlier (or later) depending on where you are. I enjoy cooking from time to time and the process of preparing a meal switches me off from the day. 

What do or don’t you eat or drink to maintain your performance throughout the day?

I drink coffee.

What time do you go to sleep? How many hours sleep do you try to get each night? Any special techniques for a good night’s rest?

Seven hours is my magic number. I try not to look at my phone for the last hour before bed and leave it in the living room (rather than having it on the bed side table overnight). My wife sets the alarm for both of us and puts her phone on flight mode – so no annoying buzz / beep in the middle of the night. 

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