Value, pro-activity and co-creation: this is the vision of Wouter Schaekers, president of the GS1 Belgilux board
“Driving positive impact”. These first words set the tone for the interview, because if there is one thing that characterizes Wouter Schaekers, president of the GS1 Belgilux Board, it’s his positivity. He wants to create this positive impact to add value for GS1 members. “You can’t have an impact on your own. It’s only when we realize that we are all part of GS1, that we’ll start to make progress.” Co-creation is the common thread in Wouter’s vision on GS1. He wants to use the power of collaboration to put GS1 on the map for all players in the supply chain.
As of April 2021, he’s the president of the Board of GS1 Belgilux, but Wouter Schaekers is a man with many functions. He is Director Product Supply (Global Innovation, Capability and Sustainability) at P&G and Council Member at Popai Sustainability as well. Wouter’s career at P&G started 17 years ago and up till now, he has seen all the sides of the supply chain. He has been a member of the GS1 Belgilux Board for five years. Whether he always had a sweet spot for standards? “The love has grown throughout the years,” he laughs. “I have learned to appreciate the role of standards. They’re a necessity for the future.”
Besides, standards don’t appear all of a sudden. They come from good collaboration and considered action. “There are so many challenges that come our way. We have to take these opportunities by entering partnerships and find solutions together. Only then you know if the standard functions well and if it offers added value. To do so, pro-activity is crucial.
Wouter stands fully behind GS1 and its mission. “GS1 is a forum, where all types of voices and expertise come together,” he says. “Together, we achieve conclusions which enable us to create added value for our members time and time again. You can interpret this ‘together’ very broadly, by the way. GS1, that’s not only the employees of the organisation, but it’s everyone that operates in the value chain: from producer to retailer. That goes beyond national and continental borders.” The president wants to reach out to the presidents of other GS1 organisations, but also to overarching sector organisations. “GS1 has a positive story to tell. We have to involve different associations within each sector and across sectors, and thus work together to create the best for our common members.”
The Board has drawn a multi-annual plan up, that captures the directives of GS1 until 2022. Wouter sees the plan as a compass, in which he wants to set accents in order to be more effective and move forward faster. To do so, he chooses resolutely for conversation to hear and know what lives in and around the organisation. “Before, GS1 was only for FMCG and Foodservice. Throughout the years, several sectors have joined. This also asks for a reorganisation of our Board as every sector has its own needs. I therefore want to listen to each board member to know what is on their mind and how they see this evolution. This way, we can build on the good work that has been done the past years.”
One of the action points of this multi-annual plan is to include the transport and logistical sector. There, it is a question of listening to needs, converting them into work groups and then proceeding to pilot projects. One of those projects within the transport and logistical sector, that GS1 recently joined, is the PILL project of imec, VIL and VUB. The project wants to connect transport networks with each other and this way organise freight traffic in the best way possible.
Value for members as ultimate goal
“What it’s actually all about, is creating value for our members. That value is a balance of efficiency and sustainability. As long as these go hand in hand, we’ll offer our members the added value of GS1,” explains Wouter. This balance is also crucial towards creating a circular economy. GS1 can be the facilitator in much needed conversations. “You don’t work on data quality just for fun. You do this with a clear reason, namely creating value.”
If it is something that types him, it is his will to bring people together to create a positive impact. Positivity is what drives Wouter, but is always followed by the required action and drive, and he always keeps the GS1 members in the back of his mind.
The key to staying relevant
Who says GS1, says barcodes. According to Wouter, this is important, but it can’t stop there. “If you’re relevant, you can once again bring that value. Thanks to the different committees, like the innovation committee, you keep the finger on the pulse. What lives in our society? What do our members really need?”
Just as you cannot separate GS1 and barcodes, you cannot separate Wouter Schaekers and innovation either. He therefore always looks for the connection between innovation and the masterplan. “With the innovation committee, we anticipate future trends. This is incredibly important to stay relevant. As I’ve said before, standards don’t suddenly appear. Someone has to create them. If we anticipate on those trends, we’re really going somewhere. Besides, you always need two currents: innovation and a basis. Without the basis that has been created in the past years, you can’t innovate, but without innovation, your basis becomes irrelevant.”
As an example, he talks about the Digital Product Passport, where a product gets in a manner of speaking a passport that follows it throughout its entire life cycle and contains information about its origin, composition and previous repairs, among other. This makes traceability and circularity possible. “It brings sustainability and standards together. This will only benefit the quality of data exchange. At a single glance, you can show the core of your story, your products and the various parties involved. In this way we also increase the value for our members and make standardisation less complex."
Wouter has already a lot of ambition and looks forward to starting his journey as president. His goal is clear: create value for members. How he wishes to do this, is by bringing different parties together, actively listening and next proceeding to action. We close off with a clear statement: #WeAreGS1.