Having young children, I often think about what the world will be like in 20 years — and what the future holds for future generations. 

When it comes to dairy processing, this can take several different shapes, including succession planning — something I should certainly discuss in a future column — as well as sustainability. The latter is what I will focus on this go round, as International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) President and CEO Michael Dykes, D.V.M’s “Inspiring a New Vision for Dairy” speech at the IDFA Dairy Forum in January truly hit home for me. 

“We are all bound by a common thing and that’s to leave the next generation in better shape than we found it, to build a brighter future for those that are behind us. So if that’s our goal, if that’s where we want to go, if that’s our driving motivator is to leave things better for those that are following us, what’s it going to take for us to do that?” Dykes asked during his Jan. 23 speech in Orlando.

Dykes highlights that he firmly believes the U.S. dairy industry can become the world’s leading supplier of affordable, sustainable dairy nutrition, adding, “I believe it with every fiber in my body.”

He set forth a five-step plan to achieve this goal. First on the list is courage.

“Act with courage, courage to take the bold decisions, courage to lead,” IDFA’s president said. “Because you know where things need to be, you know what the facts are, you have the courage to do it. You have the courage to move the business forward.” 

Second is the ability to anticipate and adapt. “Things change. If there’s one thing that’s for certain, change is always coming, and I would say even faster. So we have to anticipate what that is and adapt our plans,” Dykes stressed.

Third is putting people first. “We need to put people at the center of everything we do. If we express our gratitude to them, if we show them they are appreciated, show them that they matter, value them, they’ll value your mission, your vision,” Dykes relayed.

Fourth, be bold. “Be bold enough to accept the facts as they are, maybe not as you would like them to be,” he noted. 

Last on the list is to unite. “The dairy industry’s greatest minds, working together, can truly solve many of the world’s greatest sustainability issues, as long as they do so,” he said.

“Since I’ve been at IDFA, I have encouraged unity, unity of our industry; uniting to come together for the greater good of the industry,” he stated. “That requires collaboration, requires courage, and we know courage will inspire others to act.”