Canadian Emond, who has more than 20 years in industry experience, including as executive director of Dairy Farmers of Canada, replaced Nico van Belzen, who served as IDF director general since 2012.
While some companies and organizations have moved to a leadership model with fixed terms, Emond told DairyReporter her role at the IDF has no such restrictions.
“In the CEO world, they are starting to have shorter and shorter contracts actually,” Emond admitted.
“It seems to be the new trend right now. But it just makes the job more difficult because obviously there's [only] so much you can deliver on a short term, and your board need to understand that.
“Sometimes it takes a bit of time just to understand the full scope.”
Emond added, “You have an idea quickly in the first few weeks but usually it takes a couple of months to a year to have a full visibility to make you fully efficient in a role.
I'm lucky because I have some knowledge on the dairy industry, so in my case at least, the learning curve was a bit shorter.”
Emond said her background was very different to that of van Belzen in that she comes not from a scientific background, but more the influencing aspect of the role, in communication and public affairs.
“I bring a different experience to the position and I'm hoping that members are able to see it already,” she said.
“I've been trying to put a lot of emphasis on communication, on sharing information and listening.
“I'm talking to a lot of people, in order to make my proper observations; I need to get feedback from a lot of people and partly because IDF is really a community. It's a community of experts and people devoted to the organization around the world.”
The organization is more than 100 years old, so Emond said it’s important to embrace and understand that history, as well as gain knowledge of what has been tried in the past with respect to the challenges of the role.
Emond said taking on the new position has been a little easier because she knew the dairy industry and has worked in Brussels, where the IDF is based, previously.
“I know the international environment. I've worked with the organization, I was with IDF Canada for more than two years. I knew a lot of the people that compose the organization, and I knew most of the challenges, so there's no big surprises,” Emond said.
“But it's a question of making sure I'm proposing the right changes and continuing in doing what we do great. And I think the beauty of it is that I did get an organization that is in a strong position with a strong reputation and credibility, and that worked a lot.
“The organization is very well recognized with a very broad scope of experts around the world. People are devoted and committed. My challenge is really to bring all of that good work, and make it available in a relevant and understandable manner.”
Emond said that, for years, a lot of good work has been done on the science base, but she believed it has not been fully integrated by the international organizations the IDF works with.
“I don't think they understand the fullness of what we do and what the impact of all the work that we do. So there's really a role of ‘translator’ that needs to be done,” Emond said.
The IDF does not make any policy or trade-specific decisions, Emond said, but added the organization does have a committee on policy and economics to generate discussion.
“But nothing discussing in terms of policy and trade, and you would understand why with the broad membership that we have, it's not the appropriate forum for those kinds of discussion,” Emond added.
“That’s the beauty of our organization. We are a member-based organization, so our members are countries, so there are national committees in each country and those national committees are composed of broad stakeholders – so it could be producers, processors, some have a lot of government involvement, researchers or a university. It's a broad range of people in every country that are actually contributing to IDF.
“So that gives a very broad perspective and different angles. Then when we come to the table with a recommendation and work that we've done, it's taken seriously because it's credible and it's done in a manner that respects the science.”
Importance of the IDF
For the future, Emond said the IDF is more important than ever.
“In an environment where there is so much information out there, but so much wrong information and false information or partial information, we have a duty to make sure that the real facts, the science, are known, and that's a job that we can do, and only we can do, because we are recognized as the source of global dairy expertise.
“And it is our role to translate it to people. But the reality is that right now there's a lot of decisions taken in different forums that are mainly based on feelings or trends or what people prefer, but are not really based on the science, and that’s our mandate, making sure that everything related to dairy has access to the real information.”
The IDF doesn’t directly communicate to the public, more to its members, but does talk to farmers, for example.
“Our role is to make sure that they are aware of the latest guidelines that we've proposed and that's one of our roles, to make sure that we take, for example, international standards on animal welfare and that we explain to them what's the best way to make it relevant in their daily life on the farm.”
Emond is working on several subjects, including protein and nutrition, and on organizing and promoting the IDF dairy summit in South Korea later this year.
“We need also to go to our membership and it's an opportunity this year to have a better understanding of the situation in Asia,” Emond noted.