IFS Blog

IFS Faces - Helga Barrios

I believe that the IFS ESG Check supports companies on their way to better sustainability. It will also have a positive effect on food safety, as the two topics are linked.

Helga Barrios, IFS Head of Sustainability 

The IFS is happy that Helga Barrios has taken on the responsibility for the important and future-oriented topic of sustainability in connection with food safety in the last year. Her dedication has enabled us to offer small and medium-sized enterprises a new tool, called the IFS ESG Check, to assess their current sustainability management and prepare for the future. In this blog post, Helga introduces herself.

Passion for business improvement

My name is Helga Barrios. I am originally from Madrid, Spain, but I've been living in Berlin for almost ten years now. I started my professional career as a pharmacist. Shortly after graduating, I joined a pharmaceutical NGO where I was able to support local communities in Ecuador to build a network of local pharmacies. Since then, this passion for trying to make things better for others has accompanied me in different challenges.

Besides my degree in pharmacy, I have a master's degree in International Cooperation and NGO Management and in Food Safety and Technology, and thanks to the latter, I could start an internship at a French retailer based in Madrid. During this time, I became the opportunity to join IFS and did not think twice about it. During the last years, I completed my education on sustainability in the food industry.

The golden ticket to IFS

I remember my first interview in Barcelona with Stephan Tromp very well. Only two hours later, I was thrilled to receive my "golden ticket" to start working at the Berlin office of IFS. Accordingly, I moved to Berlin in June 2013. During the last year at IFS, I have focused on how to make the connection between food safety and sustainability and how stakeholders can work together to create a more sustainable food system.

Currently, I am the Head of Sustainability and Standard Manager of the IFS Household and Personal Care Standard (IFS HPC). I am also part of the IFS Technical Team and co-responsible for the IFS National Working Group in Spain. In addition to the professional development at IFS over the past nine years, I have continued to grow personally through various volunteer assignments in Costa Rica, Tanzania and Mexico, among others.

Sustainability is not a trend, it is here to stay

What we can expect for 2022 in terms of my responsibilities is a lot of new things. We have recently published a new IFS programme on sustainability called the IFS ESG Check. Also, the third version of the IFS HPC Standard is coming up.

I believe that the IFS ESG Check provides the impetus to show that food safety and sustainability are interlinked. They are both sides of the same coin. If sustainability is affected, you can also expect food safety to be compromised.

In addition, the European Union has been preparing regulations for various sustainability issues related to the environment, such as measuring the carbon footprint. In addition, issues related to the social aspects of the food supply chain are in focus, especially regarding human rights. It is time for food businesses to prepare for this evolving legal landscape. Furthermore, society and business partners expect more from food operators. We must understand that sustainability is not a trend, but here to stay. I am convinced that the IFS ESG Check is the right tool to help companies better understand the ESG principles and orientate themselves on their way to better sustainability.

Developed a lot with my IFS Family

From the beginning of the conception of this project until its publication, I was surrounded by professionals who helped me to develop this excellent tool for small and medium-sized enterprises. It was very fulfilling and sometimes challenging, but I was always grateful to have the opportunity to learn from the best.

My colleagues at IFS always have accompanied and supported my personal and professional development over the last years. They have contributed significantly to my career and made me feel at home in a foreign country. To me, it feels like they have become my second family. Together we have been through good and bad moments. Everyone in the company has helped wherever they could. What I like the most at IFS is this spirit of support and understanding of each other. We are really a good team made of good people.

When I am not trying to improve things at work or during my voluntary service, I like to play the keyboard and do sports to burn energy and switch off from work. I also like eating delicious food. With its huge variety, Berlin is just the right place for me.

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