Øistein Thorsen

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In a recent client satisfaction survey, we asked our clients why they work with us – to which one of our long-standing partners answered: “Because you think the future”. It doesn’t get better than that.

Øistein Thorsen

Head of Agri-Foodchain and Director, Benchmark Knowledge Services, New York, USA

How long have you been with Benchmark?

As long as I’ve been a father – 6 years, which makes it easy to keep track of.

Where were you before and why did you join Benchmark? 

I grew up with parents actively involved in civil society organisations – both in Norway and in East Africa – and I followed in their footsteps, trying to make our world better for people living in poverty, and those suffering from conflict and humanitarian crises. I studied African Studies and Development Studies for my Bachelor (SOAS) and International Political Economy for my Masters (LSE). I had the privilege of helping to produce a feature documentary film about the inequities of global coffee trade, following the bean from its Ethiopian origins to the high street cafes in Europe and US. And I joined Oxfam, first as a campaigner for Make Trade Fair at the UK headquarters and then as an advocate at Oxfam International’s United Nations liaison office in New York. My main job there was to help secure an international arms trade treaty to curb the flow of arms into the wrong hands – which we did!

I was introduced to Benchmark via a friend from university. After months of inspiring conversations about the three Es, the sustainability challenges and opportunities facing humanity, and the particular role business and the food chain plays both as a cause and a potential solution, I was convinced that Benchmark – and FAI – was the place I wanted to be.

Øistein (back far right) at a laying hen welfare summit in São Paulo, Brazil in 2018

Can you describe your role?

I am based in Brooklyn, NY. I lived here when I was hired all those years ago, and I made it work. The focus of my work is global, and most of my colleagues are in the UK, Norway and Brazil – so I spend most of my days on Zoom, and a fair amount of time on the road.

I recently took on a new role within the growing Knowledge Services Division. We are implementing a market-focused strategy under the direction of James Banfield and I’m responsible for our Agri-Foodchain market area. This includes delivery of sustainability consultancy and data services to major food brands, online publishing primarily to the global pig and poultry sectors as well as an emerging portfolio of agricultural professional education and training.

What’s your favourite part of the role?

To work directly with our brilliant team to deliver real value and impact for our clients by helping them solve pressing and emerging sustainability problems. In a client satisfaction survey we did recently we asked our clients why they work with us – to which one of our long standing partners answered: “Because they think the future”. It doesn’t get better than that.

In 2018, FAI Farms won a Oxfordshire Business Charity award in recognition of their support for FarmAbility

Tell us about the people you work with

The best analogy of our team is that of a band. We all play different instruments and when we come together we create something magic.

Everyone brings their own skills – their own discipline – be it veterinarians, commercial agriculturalists, scientists, social scientists, communicators, data scientists, strategists or farmers. It is the combination of all these amazing people’s point of view – brought together – that make our clients and partners love working with us.

Addressing national and international audiences on food chain sustainability issues is part of Øistein’s role