Meet our Sustainability Working Group: Birgitte Sørheim

At Benchmark our Sustainability Working Group is the engine of our sustainability effort. With senior members from all our business areas, we make sure that our Sustainability program is lived across our operations around the world. 

Our first interview is with Birgitte Sørheim, Marketing Director for Benchmark Genetics. 

What does sustainability mean to you?

Sustainability in terms of aquaculture means leaving the smallest footprint possible with existing technologies and within regulatory frameworks. In my view, we need to be realistic but still ambitious and bold in terms of daring to change the ways we are operating and implementing new technologies. I believe Benchmark is a good company to work for in this aspect.

How did you come to work within sustainability?

In Benchmark, all of our jobs are in some ways connected with sustainability – all the way from the group’s vision down to the tasks of our daily jobs. Just the fact that we are selling products that are improving the sustainability of the aquaculture industry means that we are delivering upon the vision every day. Being responsible for marketing and communications for Benchmark Genetics, I have been lucky to be in the position of communicating all the great achievements we are doing on sustainability to our stakeholders. This job also was an opener for me being invited to the Sustainability Working Group of Benchmark.

What is your role within the Sustainability Working Group?

I am representing the business area Benchmark Genetics in this group. My role is to proactively contribute to the strategy and plans of the group and to ensure these are implemented in my business area.

What do you enjoy the most about your role in the Sustainability Working Group?

I really enjoy working across the business areas in Benchmark and to learn how the other divisions are engaging in sustainability. I also like having an impact on how we are delivering upon our vision as a group.

What issues around sustainability concern you the most?

I believe that climate change and the risks associated with it is a big worry for the development of the industry into the future. Will we have enough clean water for producing aquatic species? Will we have enough energy to run our sites and the sites of our customers? Will the animals still thrive and survive in the new conditions such as higher sea temperatures? What about storms, floods, droughts? I try to be optimistic, but when you start thinking about all the possible negative effects it is very worrying. I hope humankind manages to stop the temperature rise according to the Paris agreement. If not, we will be in big troublesome decades ahead!

What’s it like working with the other members of the Benchmark Sustainability Working Group?

The team consists of enthusiastic and skilled professionals, who are willing to share their thoughts and speak their minds. We are lucky to have Ivonne Cantu leading the group and she is brilliant at combining strategic and managerial skills. With her in the leading role, we have seen great advances in our sustainability work over the last two years.

How do you live sustainably? I go to work by bike and I try to use as little electricity as possible at home. I also make sure to recycle my waste. My “bad” doing is frequent air travel. However, Covid has had a good impact on my footprint for travel and I have the ambition to continue this post-Covid.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given? In terms of sustainability, it must be to educate me for a job within the aquaculture industry back in 1988. The industry was very young (at least in Norway) and the bachelor’s degree in aquaculture engineering was brand new when I started. The next to best advice must have been to take the job offer from Benchmark!

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