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Alessia Cogliandro explains our company position at the EU level – to enable balanced decisions.

Alessia Cogliandro

Close to Europe

Alessia Cogliandro works in Brussels to ensure that our interests as a breeding company are heard in European politics. So her job is lobbying? Our Italian colleague wants to dispel the negative image associated with that word.

Politicians in Europe deal with sensitive matters. One current issue, for example, is whether certain new genomic techniques should be regulated as conventional-like rather than GM as is the case nowadays. Environmental associations oppose that because they suspect it entails risks. Breeding companies such as KWS believe such concerns are unfounded. It is ultimately up to policymakers to decide Europe’s stance on this question.

As Governmental Affairs Manager, Alessia Cogliandro is tasked with presenting our company’s position to decision-makers “It’s not about persuading people. It’s about giving others a closer idea of the findings we have from research and day-to-day work. Members of the European Parliament need to know that perspective as well as the other side’s viewpoint in order to make a decision.”

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In the thick of it

Alessia Cogliandro describes the ambitions of European agricultural policy and the importance of transparency. |

However, Alessia Cogliandro not only engages with politicians, but also with other interest groups – be they institutions and companies with the same orientation as KWS or non-governmental organizations (NGOs), which tend to have a more critical attitude. “We often have the same goals, such as to enable greater sustainability in agriculture. People with different views should also join together to find common ground. Sometimes it is only the path toward achieving a certain goal that is different.”

Leveraging and communicating know-how

Alessia is the face of KWS in Brussels. “But a lot of colleagues are involved inside the company.” They are from the Business Units, Regulatory Affairs, Strategic Planning, Variety Approval, Patent Law and Corporate Communications – and from all the European countries where KWS is represented. “I have great confidence in the specialist knowledge we have internally. I need this exchange of ideas to be aware of all perspectives and to be able to represent KWS properly.”

Alessia Cogliandro’s task is then to prepare the information transparently. She compares her work to that of a moderator, teacher and communicator: When position papers on an overarching topic have been discussed and formulated internally – likewise one of the tasks of Governmental Affairs – Alessia Cogliandro participates in events or organizes meetings and events herself, inviting policymakers and other stakeholders and presenting KWS’ views in a clear and understandable way.

“We often have the same goals. Only the path is different.”

Alessia Cogliandro

Her large network in Brussels is vital in that, and nurturing and expanding that network is part of the job. “Interestingly enough, some politicians don’t know anything about us. However, it helps us a lot as a company if they have us on their radar as a European player.”

That functions all the better when the persons responsible and officials from the same country meet: Just this September, Alessia Cogliandro initiated a meeting of our Bulgarian Country Manager, Petko Vasilev, with Bulgarian representatives of the European Parliament. “Such meetings are useful to make parliamentarians aware of us so that we can reach them better in the future.” For Alessia Cogliandro, in turn, it is an opportunity to build new relationships and enlarge her network.

Communication is a big part of the job.

Transparency to promote a positive image

But isn’t that lobbying? Alessia Cogliandro uses the word herself a few times when talking about her work – and believes the term is associated with negative connotations. “I understand the concerns of people in individual EU countries, but the processes in Brussels are subject to regulations on transparency: For instance, meetings of the European Parliament Committee are recorded and streamed on the Internet. There is transparency for lobbyists where relevant information and interests are accessible to anyone and meetings with high level decision-makers, such as European Parliament rapporteurs or European Commissioners and their cabinet, are reported on the Institution websites. There are no such rules at the country level – that’s where the negative image comes from.” And she emphasizes once again just how important it is for decision-makers to be informed about all sides of an issue whose future they are voting on.

It makes sense for us as a company to be represented in Brussels for another reason: KWS is also a member of the European Seed Association Euroseeds, which represents the interests of the European seed industry. This association also campaigns for our interests, and our Head of Nutritional Food Ingredients, Nigel Moore, was even its President and is currently a member of the Board for KWS. However, we can position ourselves even more independently with a dedicated Governmental Affairs unit. “That way we’re informed about new developments and can address them at an early stage.”

Keeping her finger on the pulse: Alessia Cogliandro finds out about new developments in EU agricultural policy at an early stage.

Shared values

Alessia Cogliandro first came into contact with the sector when she herself worked for Euroseeds – and it appealed to her. “But after a while, I wanted to grow in my role and get to learn different things – that’s different from working at a big company.” So she moved to a consulting firm that had seed companies as clients. “We were awarded contracts lasting a few months and didn’t have the opportunity to dive deep into a topic.” She therefore moved again, this time to a medicinal plant company. “That was fun, but I wanted to return to the seed sector.” She knew KWS from a visit with Euroseeds, saw that a position for Governmental Affairs was being advertised and decided to apply. She has now been supporting KWS’ political positioning as part of the Corporate Communications team since June 2021.

She is committed to KWS with body and soul. “I couldn’t work for a company whose values I don’t share – it takes passion to familiarize people with a company’s activities. KWS develops products that help farmers run their business better every day. I have to like these aspects for my message to get across.”

Alessia Cogliandro is developing a transparency website.

Alessia Cogliandro notices that her work is bearing fruit when NGOs or politicians contact her of their own will on certain topics and want to discuss them with her. Or when they talk about PILTON, a project that aims to establish fungal disease tolerance in wheat through new breeding methods and in which KWS is involved. She also sees that information contributed from KWS’ expertise and the work done with Euroseeds and the relevant stakeholders has helped shape the EU Commission’s proposal on new genomic technologies – which is testimony to the effectiveness of Governmental Affairs. “It’s important that we exist. We’re a piece of the puzzle.” |


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