Innovation as a Critical Strategy: A Q&A with The Mosaic Company
The COMMIT!Forum is fast approaching. With a month-and-a-half to go, we at CR Magazine are speaking to companies who are presenting at the forum. Below is a Q&A session with Ben Pratt, vice president of corporate public affairs at The Mosaic Company. He disuses how innovation has lead the company to success.
CR Magazine: What drives innovation at Mosaic?
Ben Pratt: Innovation has always been a part of Mosaic’s culture. From product R&D and crop trials to co-generated electricity and unique land reclamation efforts, we are constantly striving to be better at meeting our customers’ needs, lower our costs, and operate more sustainably.
Today, during challenging times for agriculture and broader commodities markets, we know that innovation will play an even bigger role in our future success. That’s why innovation is a critical element of Mosaic’s new strategy, and is one of our four new guiding principles. We realize that innovation doesn’t happen just by talking about it. It requires commitment, continuous support and a culture that embraces ideas and change. Our people—over 8,000 employees around the world – are committed to innovation, and we believe their smart, executable ideas will help us grow, endure and thrive.
CR: What kind of unique innovative initiatives is Mosaic using?
BP: We view innovation through a broad lens. It’s more than big, disruptive ideas—it’s also small improvements that save time, or reduce our environmental impact, or minimize costs. These small ideas can be tremendously valuable to Mosaic. We are actively soliciting ideas from employees, and we’re excited about the momentum we’ve seen in a short time. Since March, we’ve received over 100 ideas from 18 different locations.
CR: What supply chain practices do you use to ensure sustainability?
BP: We do not underestimate the impact we can have by implementing innovative solutions in our supply chain. For example, we are in the third year of contracting with a vendor to operate a fleet of clean-burning compressed natural gas trucks to transport raw materials and finished products in our Central Florida operations. We continue to explore opportunities to convert additional shipping volumes to CNG—in fact, another trucking partner added four CNG trailers to its fleet in 2015. There are many benefits with this arrangement. We have improved our own transportation emissions footprint, and two new CNG filling stations in the Tampa Bay area that were built to meet the needs of our contract have enabled public access to clean-burning CNG.
CR: What do you predict in the future of sustainable fertilizer manufacturing?
BP: This isn’t a glamorous response, but in a commodity industry like ours, costs are paramount—the low-cost producer is best equipped to endure the inevitable low points in the business cycle. Driving costs down—while maintaining the integrity of our assets and, most important, strong employee safety performance—requires day-by-day innovation, and it often requires investment now to reduce costs later. Company-wide commitment to improving processes, finding efficiencies small and large and challenging the status quo is required. Sustaining our business keeps fertilizer manufacturing sustainable for the long term.
CR: Why is participation in the COMMIT!Forum so important, in your opinion?
BP: The best part of the forum is having the opportunity to network with like-minded corporate responsibility peers from a variety of industries and experience levels. There are always takeaways and lessons to apply based on your own company’s needs. The unique opportunity to tell Mosaic’s story and hear stories and best practices across a variety of CSR topics is invaluable.
CR: What is Mosaic looking forward to the most at the forum?
BP: Good coffee, forward-thinking panel conversations, and seeing how the SharedXpertise team makes this year’s event even more sustainable. Last year’s zero-waste effort will be hard to beat!
CR: What should forum attendees know about your session—why should they attend?
BP: Let’s face it: Innovation and fertilizer manufacturing may not seem to go hand-in-hand, so that alone should pique attendees’ interest. We’ll discuss some of the challenges and barriers to entry for a company operating in the commodities space—and how we’re harnessing the power and ingenuity of our people to improve our competitiveness and live up to our potential. I believe these are concepts anyone can relate to.