SDG Pioneer for Large National and Multinational companies

Shay Bialik

Director of Global Sustainability and Ethics Strauss Group


Middle East

Embracing the superhero within: Becoming an SDG Pioneer is like becoming a sustainability superhero, fighting to make our world greener and fairer. What's your special power for this mission?

In his book “Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah”, gifted to me by my 9th-grade teacher, Richard Bach proclaims: “Every problem has a gift for you. You seek problems because you need their gifts”. I agree. Perhaps the biggest problem that becoming an SDG pioneer entails is balancing and bringing together actors from diverse and often disconnected backgrounds. It just so happens that this is my special power.

Origin story: Please briefly describe your journey towards becoming an SDG Pioneer (background, education and professional journey, etc.). 

Born and raised in a remote desert town, I learned to embrace my unique outlook on life early on. This paid in dividends; it helped me to achieve positions and education in Jerusalem and gave me the courage to move to Paris and New York to pursue my academic and professional interests and dreams. I have a deep desire to fulfill my purpose, to grow and give back. This, alongside my curiosity and eagerness to learn and share, drives me.

Turning passion into purpose: Your SDG Pioneer recognition shines a spotlight on your incredible work. Please explain the work for which you are being recognized as an SDG Pioneer and how your interest in this field developed.

Working as Director of Global Sustainability at Strauss Group affords me the opportunity to greatly impact almost every household and demographic in Israel and beyond. Leading the Group’ sustainability journey, I get to partake in bringing millions of women, men and children sustainably sourced, crafted, packaged and presented produce. Moreover, as the founder of the national ESG Private Sector network in Israel, I support and sustain a passion for peer learning and a never-ending flow of knowledge enriching me, my colleagues and my students. 

Every epic tale has its share of challenges: Please share some challenges and battles you've encountered while pursuing your SDG ambitions. 

I am prone to exploring and seeking to gain more knowledge. This ‘weakness’ for which I’m thankful, pushed me to pursue a dream of studying, living and learning in a new land with new languages and cultures. I was accepted to a full-time graduate program in the New School while already holding a full-time job in NYC, some 4,000 miles away from my friends and family. It was an extremely challenging year, with little sleep and many cold pasta bowls, but it also gave me a unique perspective, scholarship, knowledge and understanding for which I’m grateful.

Accomplishments: As part of your SDG journey, what stands out as the most rewarding? Please describe a moment that made you feel like you were unlocking a new level of impact.

My greatest passion is equality and, in particular, gender equality. I see it as a struggle we must always be vigilant about - especially with the resurgence of intolerant, illiberal and chauvinist actors on the global stage. I strongly believe in the power of words and see language as having a near-infinite power in shaping reality. Hebrew is a gendered language, where even artifacts are either male or female. Upon graduating from Hebrew University, I realized my diploma refers to all graduates as men. I approached the president of the University, supported by my dean, and after many letters, meetings, expert opinions (and some 12 months), he accepted my suggestion to include gender-based pronouns in all diplomas. Ten years later, almost all Israeli academia diplomas include a reference to the graduates’ gender.

Next chapters: What’s next in your career and journey? Please give us a sneak peek!

Israel has a long way ahead of it, insofar as it pertains to solving its deep societal cleavages and achieving its SDGs, with nature and people. I thoroughly enjoy being part of the corporate world and in particular that of consumer goods, but I know I will be back in the public sector eventually. I aim to lean in and take a seat at the decision-making table, impacting not only how we do business but what we do and why. 

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