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2020 is turning out to be a landmark year for GFSI. In addition to releasing Version 2020 of the Benchmarking Requirements and announcing the Race to the Top initiative, the organisation welcomed two new co-chairs to lead its Board of Directors: Craig Wilson of Costco Wholesale Corporation and Roy Kirby of Mondelēz International. The shift in governance marks GFSI’s redoubled commitment to parity between the manufacturing and retail sectors.

Craig and Roy, both longtime GFSI Board members, sat down during the GFSI Conference in Seattle to discuss their new roles and how they plan to support the Race to the Top. Watch their conversation on today’s episode of the GFSI Experts Series, or read the transcript below.

Roy: We’ve been talking a lot about Race to the Top. Can we explain that a bit better?

Craig: I think we can. … Race to the Top, in my mind, (is) an interesting phrase, but what’s really interesting about it is, we want people to understand that it’s simply continuous improvement in everything we do. It’s focusing on the details a bit, and making sure that we’re following through and working with our valued partners so we all get better together.

Roy: I think that’s a great explanation. For me, it is exactly that, about continuous improvement. … We know how well we’re doing now; how are we going to get better in the future? How are we going to continually drive that through? Which is what we do in our own quality systems in our day to day business in the factory anyway, so why wouldn’t we do it with GFSI?

Craig: Exactly. We do the same at Costco. If we can’t find a way to simplify and make things stronger and better, then we shouldn’t do it, and we move on to what we can make better. It works well, and it’ll work well within GFSI.

Roy: I think so. … One of the things that’s really exciting about now is that, I don’t know about you, but in the past, I’ve sensed there was a point of tension between retailers and manufacturers. I think that’s gone now. The fact that you and I are now doing this together is a great signal that it’s gone.

Craig: I think you’re quite right. Tension, of course, leads to angst and lack of trust. Our focus has to be, and has been and will continue to be, to build trust. To build trust between not only the retail section, the manufacturing section; but what’s most important here is the consumer. … We want to help make food safe for everyone, everywhere. The GFSI format, continuous improvement, working with the people that do the real work and (helping to) provide guidance, I think, (are some) of the business imperatives for GFSI.

Roy: Trust is a key word, isn’t it? I remember a talk from one of my old CEOs, (who) basically said: Trust is the foundation of everything we do. You put your money in the bank because you trust it. You and I are sitting here having a chat because we trust one another. People come and they use GFSI because they trust it. I think GFSI has done a great job over the last 20 years building a trusted brand. … One of the things that I’m really conscious of is, are we going to make sure that we maintain the trust in the GFSI brand? That way, we will serve the consumers and make sure they continue to trust the food that they can eat.

Craig: Absolutely right. It’s got to be a cornerstone, and it has been a cornerstone of what GFSI is all about. I’m so pleased to be a part of GFSI at this level and see them come up, and the level of trust that’s not only given to us by the folks that we work with. Consumers are starting to recognise the brand, and GFSI is becoming a global resource for food safety, food safety questions and food safety standardisation, which is very important. When you think about our public-private partnerships and governments accepting GFSI certificates as we move forward, we know that’s going to grow. … (That is a) very good example of where trust can take you.

Roy: That circle of trust (is) expanding. We’ve now brought the other people, like the certification bodies and the accreditation bodies. (We’re) bringing them into the circle of trust, having discussions with the regulators, bringing that into that circle. I remember Mike talking about how we can’t do this on our own. We’ve got to do this together. The bigger we make that circle of trust, and the more people we bring in, the more chance we’ve got at success.

Craig: Oh, no question. I love the idea of bringing these people together and being a part of it, and then understanding who else we can bring in. Can we bring in a consultancy? … There’s areas where we’re going to be weak, and we don’t have all the answers. I think the trap that we can fall in, as GFSI, is to assume that we have all the answers. And we don’t! But we’ve got such a strong board, and they’re going to help us make sure that we bring in the right consultancy at the right time to help us solve a particular problem. That’s new thinking, and it’s fresh. I really want to pursue that, not only with the board, but with our Technical Working Groups. Everything else that we’re responsible for has got to be a part of this circle of trust.

Roy: Speaking of Mike … he and Anita and Gillian; haven’t they done a fabulous job over the last four years?

Craig: What they’ve accomplished in the last four years under Mike’s leadership, quite frankly, has been stunning. I’ve been along for the ride for quite a while now, being a board member, and the changes that they’ve recommended, and the brilliance of the forethought (that) Gillian and Anita and Mike have; in some ways, it’s a bit inspiring. You can see why they’re so completely successful in their private positions within their companies.

Roy: Do you know what? …The only reason that there’s now two co-chairs is because it takes four feet to (fill) Mike’s shoes. … That’s a big legacy to build on.

Craig: It is. I’m looking forward to the next step, working with the new director. I’m very excited about working with Erica and the new framework that we’re developing for GFSI to work as we move forward. It’s going to be very aggressive, very passionate, and making sure that we’re doing the right thing for the consumer to assure safe food for everyone, everywhere, through our CPOs, the CBs and the ABs and the guys that are really doing the work. You boil all this down, we’re just providing a little guidance. We’re not doing the real hard work. The hard work’s done by all those people that are out there and maybe listening to some of our guidance.

Roy: Absolutely. I think that Erica struck a really nice balance with this. It’s a bit of a term, isn’t it, this conceptual framework. But I really like the idea that we’re not giving people a blank piece of paper, because that would take too long. We’ve got a good skeleton, something we can hang the meat on, but in a collaborative way. … It’s a really nice balance.

Craig: Yeah, it’s a great balance. When you look at the future and what we get to be a part of building, it’s quite exciting. … We need good counsel, we need good advisors, and I think GFSI has that. We’re going to be open to new collaborators, and we don’t want to play that down. Collaboration is the key, and … that’s another exciting part of how GFSI’s going to move forward.

For an introduction to the Race to the Top initiative, check out our previous episode with GFSI Director Erica Sheward, and stay tuned to the GFSI Experts Series to learn more about the organisation’s next steps. Be sure to follow #GFSIexperts on TwitterFacebook or LinkedIn and subscribe to GFSI News to make sure you do not miss an episode!

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