After weeks of travel, I only started checking my agenda a few days prior to a scheduled group meeting with Princess Máxima, the wife of Crown Prince Willem Alexander of the Netherlands, at a congress organized by the Sustainable Trade Initiative. I was honored to have the opportunity to meet her but I assumed that it would be no more than a hand shake and a smile. Nevertheless, I decided to check on any protocol issues to make sure I would not create any embarrassing situations. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I would actually speak for a few minutes to the Princess on cocoa sustainability issues, together with Jonas MvaMva and Joost Oorthuizen from IDH, and Rosemarie Tanoe from the Ivorian Government.
Of course I knew of the Princess’ work as a young professional (she worked as an investment banker before graduating from the Universidad Católica Argentina with a degree in Economics), as well as her many responsibilities and accomplishments in her position as Princess and future Queen of the Netherlands. She has not only focused on the integration of immigrants into Dutch society, but was appointed as United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s Special Advocate for Inclusive Finance for Development and has been deeply engaged in Micro-finance for lesser developed countries. Even knowing this, neither I nor my conversation partners were prepared for the Princess’ depth of knowledge not only on the subject of Microfinance but also about issues in the cocoa sector, and the programs that various organizations and companies such as Mars have developed to drive change in this sector. We also appreciated that the Princess, who, besides her native Portuguese also speaks fluent Dutch and English, purposely began to speak French with Rosemarie Tanoe to put her at ease and make the conversation easier.
I stepped away from this meeting not only with a sense of pride that ‘our’ Princess was so well-informed and gracious, but also with the feeling that efforts on Cocoa Sustainability, and Mars’ leadership role in this work, is appreciated by the ‘captains of industry’ and even members of our Royal Family. I just wish our whole cocoa sustainability team would have been there to share the moment.