Simon Denye: Creating Positive Impacts Through Caring Style Of Leadership & Sustainable Operations In Businesses

Simon Denye: Creating Positive Impacts Through Caring Style Of Leadership & Sustainable Operations In Businesses

Simon Denye , Managing Director

Simon Denye

Managing Director

“The road to success is crowded. It’d be impossible for everyone there to succeed – that’s why only the passionate ones do”, Cameron Herold. CEO Insights Asia's exclusive team rendezvous with one such highly competitive and passionate business leader, Simon Denye (Managing Director, Harmless Harvest), who has overcome many challenges to reach where he is today and now embraces the deep personal fulfilment of being a successful business leader.

Simon began his professional journey with ICI where he worked for more than two decades across various geographies including the UK, France, the US, and Thailand. Before joining Harmless Harvest, he was with Dole Thailand for almost a decade in various leadership roles spearheading five legal entities and all operations in Thailand, contributing 40 percent of the worldwide packaged food profit of Dole. Simon is also a Non-Executive Director of Prime Hemp Science and Industry, an advisor to the board of Thai EuroCoat, and a Governor on the Board of AmCham Thailand.

At Harmless Harvest, he is instrumentally implementing regenerative organic farming to improve the environment and brand image while fulfilling the vision of providing the best-tasting, organic, and fair-for-life coconut products to the world. Simon is a believer in value-led business approaches and is passionate about generating profit for all stakeholders through good business leadership. Let’s hear it from him.

What has been your leadership approach throughout your professional journey and what is your success mantra?

Heroes or Farmers? Too often business leaders look for heroes to advance their cause, imagining that it only takes one person to make an organization successful. I prefer the more distributed version of leadership, which is that everyone is a leader, or as I prefer ‘farmer’. By farmer, I am referring to the trait of hard work and dedicated focus on maximizing productivity, by getting better with learning, knowledge, and experience. The culture in Thailand, where I have spent most of my working life since 2003, is based around families. Everyone pitches in, nobody gets left behind, and success is achieved and celebrated as a team. So, what leadership style works best in Thailand? Well, leadership is a situation-dependent thing, so there is no one style, but I can say from experience that a caring style of leadership works well in Thailand, because it resonates well with the Thai culture. It puts people at ease and allows them to open up, so they can share their successes and challenges with confidence.

What is the vision of Harmless Harvest? Tell us about its sustainable approach towards the business and community.

Harmless Harvest’s vision is to create a world where the climate and community impact from coconut farming is net positive. From the beginning, we started our business with organic coconut sourcing and later developed our social responsibility fund under the Fair for Life program to support health, education, and regenerative organic farming in our coconut communities. We embed sustainability into our business operations and are working to better our sustainability performance every day. We focus on organic farming for all of our products with zero usage of pesticides, herbicides, fertilizers, or chemicals of any sort.

We are carving a niche in the market with our production of the best-tasting coconut water & now have a cultish following in the US

Now we are embracing regenerative agriculture, a farming practice that combines multiple practices (such as cover-cropping, inter-cropping, and composting to create a healthy ecosystem on the farm). One compelling statistic is that if all agricultural land on earth adopted regenerative practices, then climate change would be reversed in just five years.

What are the toughest challenges you have encountered in your journey so far? How did you overcome them?

The toughest challenge, for us, was to stay ahead of the competition in the market. And we were able to overcome roadblocks by implementing innovative strategies and adopting new process technology for our business. Our founders, at the time of launching the business, had a vision that one day consumers would reward sustainable companies that care for people and the planet. Back in 2010, that was probably a long shot, but now in 2023 with climate change an accepted reality, it is paying dividends. Today, we are carving a niche in the market with our production of the best-tasting coconut water and now have a cultish following in the U.S.

Tell us about some of the significant milestones that you have achieved for Harmless Harvest so far.

Harmless Harvest is on a steep trajectory. Just in my three years, we have relocated all packaging activities from the U.S. to Thailand, expanded farms and factories by 20 percent per annum, delivered millions of dollars in savings, invented a host of new products, launched career development and other engagement programs for our people, distributed over a million dollars in Fair for Life funding to local communities and started to transform coconut farming to be regenerative.

I and my leadership team have developed a five-year road map and summarized it in our ‘Strategy House’ to align the organization for rapid execution on four strategic pathways: care for people, their careers & well-being, reduce costs through management focus & new technology, grow through NPD and capital investment, and implement the best sustainable practices in the industry.

Simon Denye, Managing Director, Harmless Harvest

A Chemical Engineer from Imperial College, London, and a graduate of Cambridge University, Simon has worked in the Agriculture and Food processing space in South East Asia for the last 20 years. He is passionate about subjects concerning the environment, and climate change and focuses on working for mission-driven organizations.

Hobbies: Mountain biking & sailing

Favorite Cuisine: French & Thai

Favorite Book: Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brien

Favorite Travel Destination: New Zealand

Awards & Recognition:

AmCham’s CSR Award presented by the U.S. Ambassador to Thailand.

Thailand National Winner of the Best Factory Award for Safety and Health.

Grand Kapatid Award for the most admired company by President Aquino.

Twice Winner, British Junior Chamber of Commerce Leadership Award.

Five Best Factory Awards for GMP Health, Community, Welfare and Supplier of the year.

Winner, BMA Impact Award for best promotional marketing, NJ Chapter, ICI’s Innovation, Creativity and Excellence in Science & Technology Award.

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