Being a sustainability nerd at a dairy cooperative

If you’re reading this, you might be considering to apply for the F15 programme at Arla, but another side of you might be questioning if this is the right way to go. I’ve been there before and I’m so happy I am here today. I began my first rotation three months ago, and I have never been this excited about the sustainability transitions that I can be a part of.

My fresh university brain had an assumption that most big businesses, especially those with a bigger environmental footprint, should just be boycotted and outrun. That if I were perfect, I would stay away from any involvement with them, from applying to their jobs to consuming their goods. On the other hand, I recognized that my university peers formed a bit of an ‘eco-bubble’ and there was often not much interest in engaging with people that simply had different experiences and views. Deep down I felt that this lack of interest was working against the future that we envisioned. That if we really want to be a part of true change, the conversation must happen everywhere and every organisation needed to think about what to do from now on. These two sides of me were continuously talking to each other.

Time went by, the application process continued and I gave this life decision more and more thought while also learning more about Arla and the programme.

I thought about my home country, Brazil, where we consume a lot of dairy-based products. I thought about how many dairy products were sold every day around the world. I started noticing that dairy was everywhere, at family events, in my home, in my friend dates to the local café, even in the eco-bubble get-togethers. I thought about the farmers that worked with cows, the older and the young. I learned about regenerative agriculture, and how cows have an important role in regenerating life on farmland. I could also see that Arla was putting sustainability as the way forward. To name a few actions, they were investing real resources in their climate checks, starting to engage on regenerative agriculture through a pilot programme, and their Future26 strategy made sustainability central in the organization. I found out that Arla is a cooperative – owned by its farmers – meaning decisions were finalised by those that were on the ground, working with the land and directly in contact with our environment.

Ultimately, I felt that having an impact on something as important as food production was more my truth than criticising it from a distance, and Arla felt right.

The application process gave me confidence in my decision: I was very honest about my views in every phase. I remember that after my interview I thought to myself : “if they don’t call me back, it’s not the right place for me,” because I had made my views on businesses’ role in sustainability very clear. And they did call me back! From the start, I have experienced over and again a genuine interest in creating a better future together, and a recognition of the times we live in.

Currently, I work in the commercial side of sustainability, where I am lucky to be involved in projects related to organic milk and biodiversity. I have been a part of developing pieces of work that have the potential to influence the cooperative in these fronts, with very ambitious and forward thinking colleagues that inspire me. I have tasks that make me motivated to work because I am able to bring those university sustainability principles to the real world. The projects I work with can have an effect on the changes that I’ve always wanted to see, and potentially at scale! I certainly do not have golden formulas just waiting to be unlocked from my university years (the challenges we face are extremely complex) but I do have a vision and so do many people around me.

So if this resonates with you, you should apply for the programme! Be open to learn and explore the ways in which something as basic as food can be more sustainable, come see what people are already doing and how you can be a part of shaping the future you want to see.

Alici Muhana Iannitelli

F15 Graduate

Period: 2022-2024

Alici Muhana Iannitelli