Meet Luz del Carmen Nájera Colunga, VP of Global Government Affairs and North America Sustainability Lead at Ingredion, a leading global ingredients solutions company.
“See your dreams and see the way to make them come true, always accompanied by a talented team, that gives you a push and at the same time, makes them shine by themselves, all in search of a better business and a better world”
Who is Luz del Carmen? Define yourself.
I define myself as a person who believes in the power of people as a force of good; with a purpose that coincides with Ingredion’s “We unite the potential of people, nature and technology to make life better”.
It has nothing to do with being a man or a woman, I am a human being aware that your personal and professional actions must bring value and have commitments to the planet. I am a wife, mother, daughter, friend, leader, and committed boss in all my roles.
How were you as a kid?
As a kid I was always asking questions, exploring, and playing. I remember that I use a lot of imagination in my games with friends; playing to be an adult.
You hold a degree in corporate law from the Universidad Panamericana, a specialty in corporate law from the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, and a diploma in business administration from Harvard Business School. Why did you choose those courses of study?
Since I was a child I liked justice, my dream was to be a corporate lawyer and to see the best of companies through the law and here I am.
Tell us a little about INGREDION, what does it make unique in the market?
Ingredion is a leading global ingredients solutions company. We make sweeteners, starches, nutrition ingredients, and biomaterials that our customers use in everyday products from foods and beverages to paper and pharmaceuticals.
We turn grains, fruits, vegetables, and other plant materials into ingredients that make crackers crunchy, candy sweet, yogurt creamy, lotions and creams silky, plastics biodegradable, and tissues softer and stronger. Our innovative ingredient solutions help customers stay on trend with simple ingredients and gluten-free or high-fibre foods that appeal to today's consumers.
Grounded in our values of Care First, Be Preferred, Everyone Belongs, Innovate Boldly and Owner's Mindset, we employ approximately 12,000 employees around the world. Our customers operate in more than 120 countries and represent 60 diverse sectors, including food, beverage, paper and corrugating, brewing, and other industries, as you see, we are part of your daily life.
In Ingredion, you have served as Senior Director of Corporate Affairs and Sustainability, responsible for leading the functions of Legal, Public, and Regulatory Affairs, Corporate Communication, and Sustainability for Mexico, later you got a new role as Head of Global Government Affairs at Ingredion Incorporated and North America Sustainability Lead and now Global Corporate Headquarters in Westchester. What´s the recipe for your success?
To see your dreams and see the way to make them come true, always accompanied by a talented team, that gives you a push and at the same time, makes them shine by themselves, all in search of a better business and a better world.
“My family is my first reason for impulse and also to be a person who adds value to my family, to my work, and to the people that I have the opportunity to interact with”
Taking about your role, what activities do you do?
My job is to shape Ingredion's strategy for the globally functioned VP of Global Government Affairs. This includes leading the development and implementation of strategies to effectively protect Ingredion's reputation, represent its interests, mitigate risks, and build stronger connections with a wide range of stakeholders, including government officials and other important sectors of the community and industry.
What are the things that make you proud to be part of this company?
Being the Global VP of Government Affairs and Sustainability Leader for North America, one of my greatest accomplishments was creating the corporate affairs function within the Mexican business and using that platform to leverage our stakeholder relationships, which has enhanced Ingredion's brand reputation to position Ingredion Mexico as one of the top 500 companies in Mexico for the eighth consecutive year—transforming the function into a key strategic area of the business that supports the business by enabling strategic growth, reputation enhancement and the development of key contacts across the business and government in Mexico. This has enabled the company to anticipate and mitigate risks before they occur and create new business opportunities.
As part of this effort, my team created the Mexican sustainability report. Mexico is the only Ingredion country/region to issue a separate sustainability report highlighting the actions taken by Ingredion Mexico around this important effort, and the sustainability report has been received by government officials, customers, and other key stakeholders. We also incorporated communication, including HR NA and Corporate Communications, which allowed us to have a 360° view of the internal and external messages and coverage around our business during the COVID crisis.
Do you have any particular philosophy that guides your career decisions?
Always act with ethics, values, and consistency in personal and in all professional actions in daily life.
You are an expert in legislative matters, legal, reputation, and corporate communication leader of the sustainability teams and crisis, communication, diversity & inclusion committees, your negotiation ability for the installation of new companies is recognized. You were President of the Food and Chemical Derivatives Industry Maíz (IDAQUIM), Legal Vice President and Advisor of the Chamber of the Food Industry CIAJ, and Chairman of the Committee of RSC, among other positions, what does drive you?
My family is my first reason for impulse and also to be a person who adds value to my family, to my work, and to the people that I have the opportunity to interact with.
Do you have a book, podcast, or talk that’s had a deep impact on your thinking?
I like the book (Disruptive - Constructive - Conscious Leadership): Success is at your fingertips. There are a few speeches by some influential women that have impacted me, the ones from Michelle Obama, Indra Nooyi, Ilene S. Gordon ExCEo the Ingredion in differences moments of my career have inspired me and impacted my life decisions.
“You should always believe in yourself, and your personal and professional, approach mentors, and be a mentor, as a leader never stop preparing yourself”
What does a normal workday look like for you?
A typical day starts with an agenda, with priorities in every way for your own peace of mind and that of your business.
What do you love most about your job? & What is the most difficult part?
It is in a more integral area that allows contact with internal and external audiences. I believe that there are no difficult issues, there are challenges and that is part of my job, move forward to balance and prioritize.
What is one strategy that has helped you to thrive in your professional career?
Getting close to brilliant minds, being an ally, and, above all, listening and observing what's going on out there to always keep you on your toes.
What are the do's and don’ts of female leadership?
You should always believe in yourself, and your personal and professional, approach mentors, and be a mentor, as a leader never stop preparing yourself.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to be with my family, go for a walk, and have a good coffee.
“Get out of your comfort zone, visualize, experience, think about the job that you're in, and focus on that being the best that you can be, and take risks”
Many authors say women can and must strive to have everything – a shining career, a blossoming family life, and a perfectly balanced lifestyle all at once, others point out that– then women are placing unrealistic expectations on themselves if they believe they can have it all, you are married and have kids, so according to your experience, what do you think about these statements?
I grew up, I had a great family, and my parents were great supporters of being everything that you can be. So today, my sister is a businesswoman. So, she went a different route. But she was very focused on that. And so, we never thought about choosing a family or career, we always thought that the world was ours to achieve. I never held back. And even though there were some norms, I always wanted to be the best I could be. And so, I'd say between my parents and the environment I was in and my personality was to just go for it. I used my legal, and analytical skills to be successful and just push ahead.
What are your plans for the future?
Professionally my major focus is to consolidate the global government affairs organization, and personally, I’m in a new phase as a mom of a college student and a teenager. Love spending time with them and doing activities together.
What tips, can you give to young girls who want to become like you?
I will say that every person has to shape his/her own aspiration and work hard to become their best version. Keep always as priority to be kind to yourself, align with your values, and always work with purpose.
The advice that I give to both men and women, especially women is, you know, get out of your comfort zone, visualize, experience, think about the job that you're in, and focus on that being the best that you can be, and take risks. So don't just stay with what's comfortable and get global experience. And then mentor others, be willing to give you wisdom and learning, and go out of your way to do that.
Name: Luz del Carmen Nájera Colunga
Designation: VP Global Government Affairs and North America Sustainability Lead
Country: Mexico / USA