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At the 2019 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland, Chr Hansen CEO Mauricio Graber ’89 took to the stage to accept an award on behalf of the 145-year-old Danish bioscience company.
Chr Hansen had earned the top spot on the Corporate Knights’ Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World Index and Graber was addressing a room of government leaders, prominent economists and cultural thought leaders, and the top executives from the globe’s most successful companies.
During his acceptance speech, Graber detailed how Chr Hansen dedicates 82 percent of its revenue to UN Global Goals in part by using its fermentation technology and library of probiotic strains to reduce the antibiotic overuse in animal farming and eliminate food waste.
To hold such a notable position and address such a prestigious crowd might have seemed impossible to Graber 30 years ago, but looking back now, his path appears to have been inevitable from the time he entered Kellogg.
“Going to Kellogg was a life-changing experience because it really created in me a big curiosity about global businesses and made me want to pursue an international career,” says Graber.
Born and raised in Mexico, Graber entered Kellogg with a degree in electronic engineering and what he describes as less work experience than the average Kellogg student. He assumed he would pursue a career in technology at a company like Motorola or Intel, but something changed when he met NutraSweet CEO Robert Shapiro after an on-campus talk.
“[Shapiro] said NutraSweet was looking for people to help expand the international brand and after interviewing I really liked the team,” recalls Graber. “But I told him that I didn't know anything about food ingredients and that I was going to work in technology, which was what I knew. Then he said something that has stayed with me for my whole life. He said, ‘You know technology and you can go with what you know, but you can also go work in a place where you find the people and the environment thriving. And that's where you're going to grow and develop.’”
Graber took Shapiro’s advice and accepted a position working on brand strategy at NutraSweet where the vigorous environment helped develop in him a passion for the food ingredient space. He then began leading the Latin American region for Swiss company Givaudan S.A., the global leader in the flavors and fragrance industry. After six years he was promoted to president of the flavors division.
Perhaps unironically, it was a trip back to the Kellogg campus that inspired his next career move.
“I was approaching 50 and went back to drop off my oldest son for his MBA and being at Kellogg again made me remember 30 years ago when I had these great ambitions,” he laughs. “I thought about how settled I was in my role at a very successful company, but that I had committed to never stop pushing myself. So I decided I was ready to take a CEO role.”
Graber joined Chr Hansen in June 2018, where he is inspired by the Danish bioscience company’s purpose and use of microbial solutions to address some of the world’s greatest challenges pertaining to food, agriculture and pharmaceuticals. And most importantly, he continues to be inspired by a thriving team of people that is truly global.
“I'm a Mexican national and the CEO,” he says. “The chairman of our board is a woman and we are working toward nationality and gender diversity because we view that as part of our commitment to social sustainability as well.”