Committing to Doing the Right Thing with Xavier Roussel of Dole

March 5, 2024

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Xavier Roussel, the Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer at Dole Food Company, has worked in fresh produce most of his career and joined Dole 25 years ago. He has held various positions in Europe from product manager to general manager before moving to marketing in 2008 and sustainability in 2014. He is currently Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer at Dole plc further to its merger with Total Produce in 2021, with a focus on strengthening the Dole brand equity while defining a path for Dole to operate more sustainably and delivering on the company’s commitment to do the right thing.

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John: Welcome to another edition of the Impact Podcast. I’m John Shegerian and I’m so honored to have you with us today Xavier Roussel. He’s the Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer for the Dole Food Company. Welcome Xavier to the Impact Podcast.

Xavier Roussel: Thanks for having me.

John: Happy to have you today. Technology connects us wonderfully. beautiful Fresno, California today and you’re sitting in wonderful Charlotte, North Carolina. We get to talk about your great and iconic brand Dole today. But Xavier, before we do that, I’d love you to share with our listeners and viewers a little bit about your background, where you grew up, and how you got on this wonderful and important journey, not only at Dole but even before that and how you ended up here in this important position that you are today as a Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer at Dole.

Xavier: Absolutely. That is quite a journey. But I grew up in the center of France, in a small town about 200 miles south of Paris.

John: Okay.

Xavier: Beautiful region, with beautiful ancient castles, wine, and cheese like everywhere else in France, but like a very nice part of France. I went to college, I have a business degree. After that, I basically entered the produce industry by accident, really. I already had signed a contract with a bank. I got offered a job as a better-known salesperson. That was totally new to me. I didn’t expect that. I didn’t prepare for that much. But I really love that idea of the global trade. This was an industry that all of a sudden this proposal made me think and I basically accepted it. I declined on the bank and I never turned back. That’s been 30 years since I’ve been in the produce industry. It’s a great industry. Essentially, I think what got me there was my language skills. At the time, we’re talking here in the 90s, right?

John: Yeah.

Xavier: Europe became a single market. You had a lot of French people talking to each other, and a lot of German people talking to each other, but they weren’t very good at trading with each other. I think those skills, those language skills got me the job. They were looking for a new generation of people who were doing this. A lot of trade and I mean, going to Latin America, buying, I studied in Benin, right, purchasing products, coming back, and then the whole Eastern Europe opening as well. That was also a very important moment in the early 90s. Poland, right? All these countries were opening up. It’s been an important trade moment, which I participated in and that really got me in the produce industry.

John: Growing up in France, my experience and my travels on business, mostly business, some pleasure is that Europe as a whole, but France even specifically had already sustainability and circular economy behavior generationally baked into your community and your culture, dating back maybe 40 or 50 years, much further back and much forward-thinking than North America has been. Is that part of your upbringing, given that you’re a denizen of France? Do you grow up in a community 200 miles or so outside of Paris? Was it much more sustainable, sustainably oriented? Because when I grew up in New York City, sustainability, circular economy, and thinking about the environment really wasn’t, unfortunately, back then, part of the DNA of America or New York City. Was it different in France?

Xavier: You know what? Yes, I did. I mean, I have some connection to the farming world and communities if you will. My own dad has a farm. We [inaudible] my family’s and there are a lot of family conversations about this. It’s sort of it was around that I would be totally unable to manage a farm. Let’s be very clear about this. I never was a farmer, but sustainable, I mean, the [inaudible].

John: Recycling. [inaudible] is like recycling and taking care of the environment.

Wasn’t that more of an issue that was important to Europe and even France more specifically than it was in America much earlier?

Xavier: I would say probably yes. There was always the stewardship of the land. But it’s hard to say that I wasn’t in the same years in the US and met the farmer. Still today, the people I meet here in farming communities do seem to have a sort of very like-minded.

John: Yeah. Things have changed [inaudible].

Xavier: I’d say [inaudible] that sort of thing. But I wouldn’t want to hype it either. I mean, I think any farmer has that kind of conscience, regardless of where they are. I’ve seen farmers pretty much around the world. I would say you find that same care for their assets, but also their community, in that sense.

John: Right. Yeah. Interesting. Talk about when you specifically joined Dole, what you first did at Dole, and how your duties and title evolved at Dole.

Xavier: Well, it changed quite a bit. I worked in the citrus industry for a bit. I lived in Spain for some time. Then I moved to South Africa for grapes and other types of fruit. We opened up an office there. That’s now the late 90s. Then I came back into the banana trade and I got a number of positions, most of them like in in product management. It has to do with the sort of like from the farm. How do you sort of split a crop of bigger and smaller fruit early and late, right?

Where do you ship them to to basically maximize income from a farming side? What packaging do you use, right? Then ultimately, what kind of campaigns do you to activate? But this is the way you look at marketing and produce is a lot of supply chain. That’s what I did in the early years that that was at Dole, basically until 2008 in different positions in different countries. I always had the sort of new job. I got lucky because I was the job that nobody had done, like the new assignments.

John: Right.

Xavier: I’m very thankful for this because these are very formative years where you encourage everybody to pick up jobs that nobody knows how to do. Because it’s really sort of [inaudible].

John: You can make it what you want and what they need.

Xavier: Yeah. Absolutely. Then in 2008, I moved into marketing properly, sort of a marketing job. But there as well, I came back to those those those those farming. Much of what I concentrated on was trying to give the value behind the product, right? There are so many things we do and the public doesn’t know when we wish they did. Products like bananas, right? They are ubiquitous. They’re fairly inexpensive. For 60 cents, you have a pound of bananas, right? That very few items in any store would go at a value.

Yet there is so much care behind it. There is so much manual work and attention. Many of my campaigns and I think the most successful one, the most fun to do, too, was called Visit by Farm. It rolled several years in a row. The best experience we could give anyone is to fly them out and show them a farm. But we can’t do that, right? Like we do this to our buyers, but we can’t do this to people on the street. We basically give them a digital experience of that as a proxy. We label the farm codes on the stickers.

People could see where food comes from. The back of this, we would sort of either in VR or in all sorts of Google Street View type of videos would show them, like give them a sense of how much effort there is behind a product that may look fairly sort of commoditized. I ended up spending quite a bit of time on farms and talking to people who were in charge of sustainability. That was between 2008 and 2014. In 2014, actually, sustainability was added to my titles almost 10 years ago. Then ever since I’ve been sort of running the twin parallel, both marketing and sustainability.

John: That’s marketing I get and is a legacy position throughout most corporations and organizations around the world sustainability since we’ve been doing this show now, Xavier, of almost 16 and a half years, 2100 guests or so. What we’ve learned along the way is sustainability or impact or diversity and inclusivity can mean, NESG can mean so many things at so many different companies. What does it specifically mean in terms of your philosophy and goals at Dole? For our listeners and viewers, the find Xavier and his colleagues and all the important work they’re doing in sustainability, please go to I’m sorry, I’ll go back to my question. What does sustainability mean in terms of your goals and philosophies at Dole?

Xavier: When we think of this, we already have a framework that goes around three pillars. What’s material to us, where we have an impact, right? Where we focus on. The first pillar is definitely central is people. We have 40,000 employees and from this 40,000, about 30,000 would be blue-collar workers somewhere in a farm in Latin America or Central America. We have this large workforce and then around these, we have, of course, all the growers that are associated with us. We know the first and last thing, right? This is not like we’re not buying commodities in the stock exchange or anything. These are farmers we know that farms next to us.

John: Right. Sure.

Xavier: We have a long-term relationship with them, sometimes decades. Then we have the communities around them. All of these different pieces make the people’s side very relevant to us. This is a labor-intensive industry. We write a lot of hands, doesn’t mechanize easily and it does progress, but there’s still a lot of manual labor. Then we have a second pillar that is very intuitive about nature. We, as a business, own over 100,000 acres of land on which we have five or 6,000 conservation areas, and forests, right?

These sorts of things. A lot of ecosystems to protect. We are the steward of that land and we need to give it back better than we found it, right? I think that’s how people describe it. But we take that same mission at heart and these are important, an important mission in our case. I mean, we’ll go into detail more in the details of this, but nature overall covers water or covers biodiversity covers, so we can talk about it. Then there is a food pillar, the third pillar. It’s very specific to our produce industry. We feel we have a greater responsibility to promote healthy eating.

We supply incredible products and therefore we have to promote health and nutrition in different ways, right? To different audiences, to different people. I mean, some people can afford them, but they don’t quite, but we believe at the heart, our products offer people longer and healthier lives. It’s almost like a public health type of messaging, right? We do a lot of this and then we also, we’ll talk about like food insecurity is something that we do at heart too. We can speak about it separately, but that’s the food pillar, the third. Again, a special responsibility because of the product we sell.

John: That’s right. Talking about produce, I’m in my sixties now and I grew up and to me, Dole means bananas, which I love your Dole bananas and I love your pineapples. Talk a little bit about what you’ve seen has changed. You’ve been doing the produce industry and you’ve been a leader in the produce industry now for over 25 years, Xavier. How has the produce industry changed in terms of how we get our produce now, as opposed to when you got in the industry?

Xavier: Many things have changed. Maybe we can split this one into a piece. I mean, that consumer see and the piece that they may not seem like the one that’s really [inaudible].

John: Yeah, that’s important.

Xavier: But just to remind people, because sometimes you go by and we don’t quite realize, but first of all, local farming has been heavily promoted and that is credit to retail. I think that’s great. I think connecting people with their own communities, with their own farming, I encourage everyone to go and visit a farm. I mean, it’s a life-changing experience, I think, in my view. Anyone we brought to our farms, I’d have that kind of experience to encourage, everyone to go visit local farms, and ideally produce one, of course. The promotion of these products is very seasonal, but it’s very important.

But then we have the sort of flip side of this is, what has changed truly is that we have categories that run the 12 months. How does this go? If you want to improve the consumption of anything in food, you need to have them at a high level of quality and always available. Consumers want to choose, right? As much as they would sort of have very seasonal things. If your health and nutrition are built around habits, good habits, and o build those habits, you need to have food around you every day or every week, depending. You change, you rotate, there are so many, right? But that kind of availability, think of berries 20 years ago.

They were very seasonal, they’re very uneven in quality, and you never knew whether you were going to pick a good one. Today in retail, you find that superb type of berries, like things, I mean, strawberries have been around, of course, a long time. But think raspberries, think blueberries. They’ve become year-round. That’s when, from a consumption perspective, we truly see the number coming up. It’s not just a one-off, right? But it’s part of your diet. This is the food you’re defaulting to. That’s your comfort food, right? All of this. This is where you stop building consumption and healthy eating. I think this is what we see. Then you could talk about the varieties, like think of the apple category, right?

How many varieties of apples there are today? You may even make your head spin, there are so many. But they’re delicious, right? They’re superb. What goes for apple goes for many other things. We are given a wider choice. For many years, we didn’t see much innovation in the category, right? We recently bought a new pineapple. I mean, great success. We thought, “Okay, that’s one more pineapple. People know what a pineapple is.” This is a great product. This is really a higher sort of standard of the eating experience is awesome. [inaudible].

John: Explain, how’s it different. Explain what your new pineapple is.

Xavier: It’s called golden selection. We let it longer on the plant, right? We harvest it at peak maturity. When you buy it, you need to eat it pretty quickly because it’s really ripe, but it’s superb. It flew off the shelf. This is a category in which there is a lot of innovation now and more hunger for it. I think this is what has changed if you go back 20 years, I’d say. The last point that comes to mind is convenience. Think of salads in bags, right? Bag salads. It’s double-digit growth for years and years based on making the product convenient. You have your your pouch, you have the dressing, the croutons, or whatever comes with it. This really nice mix of salad and they offer you wonderful flavors. This has really sort of expanded the category dramatically. Pineapple nowadays, about 50% of the categories sold are cut. It was a fraction of this sort of 20 years ago. It wasn’t that much today. The shift is towards buying pineapple chunks fresh in cups as opposed to the whole fruit.

John: What’s forward-facing are some of the great things you just mentioned. More availability of products, new categories of products. But talk about some of the things we don’t know and don’t overtly see as consumers. What should we know about fresh produce that you know that’s important for us to know?

Xavier: I mean, the main message here is we became so much better farmers and these came in many different ways. I mean, in the change in the categories, I could have said the rise of organics, for example, right? Double digits for years and years.

John: Right.

Xavier: But as a consumer, you see organic as a product. We see this, of course, it’s a farming method. We started our organic business already 25 years ago this year. We were among the first ones to explore it. We learned a lot from it. I mean, from a philosophical standpoint, from a goal standpoint, we like soil management. That got us into a lot of new approaches to farming and we were [inaudible], right? People rotate, and we had our organic people go into conventional, back and forth. We had a lot of cross-pollination between the organic business on the farming side and the conventional business.

But I also say that the conventional business has improved incredibly. That’s probably the most overlooked topic here. Like people would steal in their heads, they might not know how much. I mean, we can blame them for that. You’d have to visit a farm for it and not many people get to do that. But how much more efficient this industry has remained? We keep a lot of research in-house. We kept that knowledge, the investigation, selecting better varieties. It’s us, but it’s across the industry, other companies, and the produce industry overall.

A lot of research is being made, a lot of efficiency is being gained, and a lot of precision. That’s resulted in that, I mean, for better water management, lowering crop protection application. I mean, ultimately resulting in a lower carbon footprint, when you have better soil management. Yes, it has evolved for the better and at a steady pace and elevated pace. I would think this is something that people do not see, but I think it should be highlighted that the work that farmers have done collectively in the background is tremendous.

John: Sitting in the seat that you sit, which is very unique, Chief Marketing and Sustainability Officer, now that you’ve been there 25 years, are you more excited about the future and about what you see as trends coming, such as Dan Buettner and his wonderful Blue Zones and the democratization of information about the Blue Zones where people live the longest and the healthiest on the planet. Mostly, that’s that Mediterranean diet, which of course is fresh fruits and vegetables, grains and legumes, and a little bit of meat.

Of course, there’s other things that go into their healthy lifestyles as well as community and purpose, but the trends of Blue Zone, of getting away from processed foods to more natural foods, including plant-based eating. As you say, in the proliferation of these wonderful food chains that care about where their products are derived, such as Whole Foods, Irwin, and other Albertsons and all these other wonderful food outlets that care about sustainable and regenerative agriculture and organic fruit and vegetables. Are you more excited really in now about the future and these wonderful trends that are going to push more people towards your great products that you’re taking more care in creating anyway, or is there something else going on?

Xavier: No, we’re beyond excited by these trends because this is what we’ve been advocating for. Again, it’s something that is good for people, right? It’s something that living a longer and healthier life should be on everybody’s agenda, of course. It’s a bit of a no-brainer. Making this change in your life, I mean, again, it’s public policy, right? It’s not me as a private company advocating for it, but it’s the common good. This is very much where we are, a balanced lifestyle. We take people where they are. Like we understand that consumers want choices. They have different approaches to this, but we see the direction very clearly and we’re very excited to see that sort of tide coming at us and sort of, the consumers onboarding that journey with us. Many people remain on the fence, right?

John: Yeah.

Xavier: There is a growing group of people who embrace that lifestyle. There are still a number of people on the fence looking at it and thinking, “Yeah, well shall I?” Then it’s the how, right? Like what we’re trying to do is how do you get there? Because of the idea, I think everybody knows, right? You don’t need to convince anyone about the goodness of fruit and vegetables or the benefit of this lifestyle in general, right? People know. The question is, how do you do this? We were talking about how we gain those habits. How do we get into them? How do we do this and it doesn’t feel like we are constrained in it or we’re not pushed towards it? This is something we like doing. The how is very important therefore we are leaning a lot on recipes and sort of the, how do you get there? Like people helping people incrementally get towards that goal that they’ve set for themselves.

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John: I’m now 61. I’ve been a vegetarian since I was 17 and a plant-based eater for about 13 years. One thing I’ve recognized Xavier is this. I have a three-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter. As a Chief Marketing Officer, I see what her friends eat, but I also see that since we keep so many fruits and vegetables in the house, children basically look to their elders in the household for leadership on how to eat. They’re blank canvases. They’ll mimic their parents or their grandparent’s eating habits. How do you now market to the next young generation to help improve their eating habits? Or are you marketing to their parents and grandparents so they bring it into the household and those children grow up enjoying your delicious pineapples or bananas, blueberries, or strawberries or all the other wonderful array of delicious products that you guys carefully and sustainably grow and then deliver to us to our local supermarkets.

Xavier: We have multiple initiatives there. I mean, very different one from the other. But in certain countries, we would go from school to school. We have teams of nutritionists and the school welcomes us with open arms because it’s not part of the curriculum, right?

John: That’s wonderful.

Xavier: In many places, it is not. I think there is a definite appetite, if you can say so, from schools, like principals, teachers, and parents, for their kids to be exposed to that type of messaging. Then we do a lot of campaigning on our products. We’ve been in partnership with Disney for quite some time. We’ve used Marvel and Star Wars and all these products. People initially thought, ‘Look at this. This is odd. We’re finding Star Wars.” Well, how about if it helps your kid eat broccoli, right? I think the community sort of self-regulated there and people saw the benefit. That’s another avenue to address these younger groups. Then, of course, we are on social media. Talking to all these generations in a different way, but we meet many of these young consumers on social media promoting fresh produce.

John: Right. Given that, there’s also been a very big push for low-carb, high-protein eating, keto eating, or whatever you want to call it. This is not to knock any of those programs if it works for you. I’m happy for other people. But the people say, “Fruit has too much sugar.” I don’t adhere to that. I love fruit, and I love all good produce and fruits and vegetables. How do you work around those sometimes faddish trends, sometimes longstanding trends? How do you help those folks integrate fruit and vegetables into their diet to make them understand that, “Yeah, keto eating or low-carb eating can be great for you in some way, form, or shape if it helps you maintain your weight and your wellness goals.” But how do you help them also integrate your great products into their systems and also get over some of the more common myths that are out there?

Xavier: Yeah. We have a list of these myths that we kind of debug them [inaudible].

John: Right. How do you debug the myths? [inaudible].

Xavier: I think on social media, I’d see it’s such, I mean, you’d see these kinds of those pop-ups and say, “Don’t eat these, don’t eat that.” I think we’re trying to debug many of these and we have a nutritionist in-house because it’s a core competence we want to have and to spread the message and to address each and every one. But also, let’s say, again, we don’t come into the very detail of the little kind of, the smaller pocket of this. We advocate for a holistic lifestyle where it’s not highly functional. Although, let’s say, this is a test we’ve done. It’s more of a fun fact. But if you are, say, if you exercise the weekends or even more regularly, if you’re sort of an athlete, you might eat different bars and different sports drinks.

We’ve actually, in a performance lab, compared athletes on sports drinks versus athletes on bananas and water, and guess what? The performance doesn’t change. You might as well rethink the sort of the type of food you take to exercise because even sort of on a performance basis, bananas and water would supply you with exactly all you need in terms of nutrients, antioxidants, et cetera. All the nutrition you need as an athlete as well, right? It’s food for every day, it’s food to go to school, it’s food to snack in the office, it’s food. But it’s also food to exercise and it’s in a more functional type of environment.

John: It’s so interesting you say that because you see some of the greatest athletes in the world, the highest performers in between during their games or in between their sets or matches or whatever they’re playing, whatever the type of the sport, always eating a banana in between. I eat a banana in between my workouts and it’s the easiest thing on the stomach and it just gives me the cleanest energy, honest to gosh. I’ve always relied on bananas, I just love them.

Xavier: We don’t have quite the marketing budget to get them to be our own ambassadors, but in a certain way, they do by their lifestyle and I think that counts too.

John: Sure. Correct. That counts too. In your position as Chief Sustainability Officer, do you guys produce at Dole an impact or sustainability report every year that you publish?

Xavier: Yes, we have our latest report online on It can be found. Yeah.

John: It lives in perpetuity on

Xavier: Yes.

John: Got it. What keeps you up at night, Xavier? Obviously, for a leader like you, there are so many things that we could find to worry about. We’re inundated with bad news all the time. The externalities that we don’t have control over sometimes can make things feel a little bit out of control. You know, you’re a seasoned professional. You’ve been doing you’ve been with Dole for 25 years. What keeps you up at night and what are some of the counter actions that you take to overcome the things that are issues that are worrying you the most?

Xavier: Plenty, right? I mean, first of all, I want the message out because I think we discussed the nutrition piece just now, how nutritious is good for you.

John: Sure.

Xavier: People also need to know that diet has the lowest environmental impact there is. We are on both sides of that pyramid in the best spot. Meaning, if you think of your, carbon footprint or water footprint as a matter of fact, if you compare fruit and vegetables to other sorts of food, our impact is the lowest. Way below or multiple times below any type of food and eggs and poultry and grain and cheese and I’m not even mentioning meat, right? I think if you want to have not only nutrition, a good for your diet, but also a low impact diet, fruit, and vegetable is the food to go to, right?

One more reason I think that people should be aware of and relook at their food and veg under that kind of light. But I think this is from a communication standpoint, that keeps me up at night. I would like people to know that. But then, I mean, there are many challenges, right? In spite of having the lowest carbon footprint, it doesn’t mean that we don’t need to decarbonize because we still have a footprint.

John: Right.

Xavier: We have emissions in two areas. One is shipping. We own and operate 13 ships ourselves. Works like a clock, right? They go from one place to the other, leave on a certain day, arrive on a certain day hour every week for decades, right? This is how efficient that business is. But we look at the future of the shipping industry. We’ve already invested in our fleet to get more efficient vessels. But the future is like, what are we going to do? What kind of technology is going to establish itself?

What kind of fuel is going to be available to us? In terms of decarbonization, the main topic is time, right? We are against tight deadlines. We need to act as a company, as an industry, right? But the guidance is always clear and the solutions are always available. I think these kinds of balancing act between the deadlines and the assignment. I think that’s a very important topic and the same applies to emissions from fertilization. In farming, this is an important source. Can we find alternative fertilizers? How can we best manage soil to be able to do that? We’ve made a great achievement in the past in our pineapple production, actually.

By incorporating residue of crop residue into the ground, we were talking about regenerative agriculture earlier. For seven, eight years in a row, we’ve actually taken those residues, shredded them, put them into the soil used microorganisms to digest them faster, and eventually reduced carbon emission by 30%. These are the issues. We’ve done great things, there is more to go, right? The road is still there. Decarbonization, definitely. I think water availability is at a certain horizon. Like, what do we do there? Some areas we farm in are high-stress areas.

Think Chile, think Spain, think Morocco. Whether we have our own farms or somebody else is farming regardless, right? Like, I think we need to think of this proactively. I was mentioning biodiversity or, and I mean, land, but reversing that trend that is experiencing biodiversity is a very high priority. We do have a special role there. We can speak about what we do there. Then, generally speaking, social impact, right? We have a large workforce. We want these people to stay engaged, to basically, I mean, how do we train them? How do we make this community thrive and grow them in the long term? It’s true for us, it’s true for labor. I mean, the labor force in agriculture has been a shrinking pool. We need to think of this long-term and basically secure the long-term future of our labor force. This is very important.

John: Understood. I know you’re a publicly traded company and there’s only so much you could say, but if I were to ask you, in 2024 and beyond, Xavier, what are you most excited about? What initiatives get you to jump out of bed in the morning and get over to your office in Charlotte? What are the most exciting initiatives you have coming up that you’re allowed to talk about?

Xavier: Now, we have a few that we definitely can talk about. I think I’m excited about the research we’re carrying out.

John: Okay.

Xavier: If we have diseases that we need to face, like [inaudible], basically affects our production. There is so much more research to come and we are ramping up our efforts. I mean, these are important topics that we work on, and we’ve published on it. These are important challenges that we want to see progress in. These are this is one aspect, for example, research in general. I’ll talk about circularity. We have amazing projects. We generate a lot of plastic waste on a farm, right? You have twines, you have bags, you have all sorts of pads. Then we built factories to recycle this and we turn them into pallets and then we turn them into corner boards and then we send them to market.

This was an incredible project because it turned out that this factory, the one we built in Costa Rica, for example, ended up recycling the plastic from the community. We have people collecting plastic in the community, creating jobs. Then if plastic doesn’t end up in the environment, it goes into the plant and it’s turned into that. The way we would like to take this is to increase circularity, right? Like, make sure the plastic, a part of it or a growing part of it actually returns to the farm. What kind of plastic could we reuse, right? We can’t exactly redo bags or twines. We’d have to find an alternative product. But these are the sort of things that we are excited about.

John: But still, that would be closed-loop recycling. The fact that you’re doing open-loop circular economy recycling in that they’re going back into new products, even though they’re not going back directly to your farms, still disavows us of this boogeyman of plastic. When you watch the mainstream media, all plastic is the boogeyman. All plastic is bad and polluting the ocean and you’re just disavowing that saying, “No, John, we’re taking a good chunk of the plastic that we’re creating. We have our own recycling facilities and put it into new products.” That itself is wonderful news. That is-

Xavier: Yeah, I mean, it’s quite an achievement. If you’ve traveled, in many of these countries, plastic is poorly recycled. Again, this is like a groundbreaking work that [inaudible].

John: That’s wonderful. Good for you.

Xavier: Most of it, say from a cultural standpoint, these are our sustainability efforts are truly grassroots-based. Meaning this is not anyone from an office like the one I sit in and comes and tells people, many of these initiatives are local and they’re very embedded into the structure. This plant was built 20 years ago and thrived since then. It has its ups and downs, but now it’s thriving. Many of the initiatives that we’ve done through the company are that way, meaning it’s someone who locally felt empowered enough, curious enough, involved enough to make a difference. To me, you’re sort of who inspires me, these are the people who inspire me.

These things were not necessarily part of the job description when they started, right? There are quite a few in our company that have done exactly that, that have sort of said, “Well, I’m interested in this.” Like, could I maybe study this? This has given amazing results. Like we have one guy who created a social foundation resulting in like, nowadays we operate about 20 doctors in rural Ecuador and Peru. We put doctors in containers, right? Like we turn containers into medical sort of offices and we have them tour the communities that are a little remote. People get their medical attention that way. I mean, this is not heavy medicine. This is the daily medicine, but this is the one for me.

John: Yes.

Xavier: These kinds of initiatives were created by people I know and people I so much respect for basically having invested their time, and went out of their way. Sometimes this project takes a long time, but when they flourish, it’s so good to see. This recycling is one project, but there are many others.

John: It’s really the stakeholders that get to inspire you and inform you as to what initiatives to tackle and how to go tackle them.

Xavier: Yes, because we need to tackle the needs where they are, especially for us. Like we operate in so many geographies. There is not a one size fits all. There is no [inaudible].

John: Right.

Xavier: I was in rural Peru and what the town wanted was a park to meet in the evening. That foundation is basically that we convince our growers to put a few cents of their banana price and our own and create those projects in those communities. We built them a park and the community was so, I mean, this is what they needed. This is what they wanted. You go there by the sunset, you see all these people congregating and the kids playing. That’s sort of a very impactful project at eye level, right? This is what the people wanted. That’s what they got. We feel extremely satisfied by this kind of realization.

John: I love that because like you said, sitting in our offices where we sit, there’s somewhat of a disconnect between all of our stakeholders around the planet. There’s no way for us to know. It’s better for them to come, to bring that to you from the ground up, so you fulfill the real needs and not just hypothetically come up with what should be done. You’re really filling the needs that are the most pressing and important needs that they care about the most. That’s wonderful. That makes the most sense.

Xavier: Let me give you another example of these because I think they truly inspire me. Workers have said that they were struggling with red tape, like administrative tasks, and in some of the Latin countries, it’s complicated. Opening a bank account is complicated. Filing for documents, like getting benefits is complicated. We created it, it’s just an office, a person on a phone, but who has these connections, who knows how to fill the forms. It was a worker’s request and we called it the information center, right?

It’s again, a glorified desk and telephone, but with a qualified person. That person resolves problems for them. They might have an undercommented spouse, right? Or they might have whatever the issue may be. We’re trying to make it like it makes a difference in their lives and I think that’s what matters. The very high-level, very grassroots, but common sense kind of thing. This is something that inspired me from what our teams [inaudible], you know?

John: It’s the simplest of ideas. You’re giving them an advocate who knows how to find the answers to the problems that they most commonly face. Brilliant.

Xavier: Yeah.

John: I love it. Well, Xavier, I love having you on. I want to have you on. I want to have you back on to continue this journey. As you and I both know, there’s no finish line in sustainability. It’s truly a journey. It’s just fascinating and wonderful to have such an iconic and important brand like Dole and you on the Impact Podcast because we’ve never had a brand such as yours on the Impact before after all these years. This is such an important episode to share this kind of information with our audience out there.

I thank you again for your time today, for our listeners and viewers who want to find Xavier and his colleagues and the important and sustainable work they’re doing at Dole. Please go to Xavier, thank you for your time today. Thank you for your wisdom and your thoughts. But most importantly, thank you and your colleagues at Dole for making the world a better place.

Xavier: I’ll share the message. Thank you so much for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.

John: This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by Engage. Engage is a digital booking platform revolutionizing the talent booking industry. With thousands of athletes, celebrities, entrepreneurs, and business leaders, Engage is the go-to spot for booking talent, for speeches, custom experiences, live streams, and much more. For more information on Engage or to book talent today, visit This edition of the Impact Podcast is brought to you by ERI. ERI has a mission to protect people, the planet, and your privacy and is the largest fully integrated IT and electronics asset disposition provider and cybersecurity-focused hardware destruction company in the United States and maybe even the world. For more information on how ERI can help your business properly dispose of outdated electronic hardware devices, please visit