How McCormick’s Yolande Schulz Promotes Good Health and Hygiene for Women and Girls in South Africa
When Yolande Schulz accepted a Research & Development (R&D) Manager position at McCormick South Africa three and a half years ago, she was confident it was the right move. Already familiar with the company’s culture because McCormick was a key strategic supplier at her last employer, she knew McCormick's commitment to customers and consumers resonated with her own values. “I continue to experience today as I did back then, the passion and dedication of McCormick employees. They really care about what they do,” she says. At the end of 2020, Yolande transitioned into her current role as interim Head of Commercial for Flavor Solutions in Midrand, South Africa; working alongside multinational food manufacturers, global restaurant chains, and culinary professionals to help create an extensive range of differentiated flavor solutions and capabilities, all of which are supported by sensory and consumer science.
Unlike R&D, which is more technical and purposeful, her new leadership role touches all aspects of the business. In addition to managing cross-functional partnerships, Yolande focuses on growth and innovation and builds customer relationships. Her background in Quality and R&D has been advantageous. She knows products like marinades and grinds very well, which allows her to speak in detail to Procurement, and she understands customer’s needs, so she is confident in selling McCormick’s value to management and decision-makers. In an emerging market like the EMEA region, Yolande’s ability to think both long-term and short-term has been valuable, as has her fluency in English, German, and Afrikaans.
During the past few months, Yolande’s job has been greatly impacted by the recent unrest seen across the country. “Business plans can change without notice and I must be able to pivot at any second of the day to address critical challenges like security and safety,” she says. In these challenging times, Yolande listens to what customers need before helping them.
“I recently spoke with a distressed customer where several restaurants had been destroyed or burnt down. I listened to her with an empathetic ear and simply asked her how McCormick could help,” she says. “Our customers need me to stay focused and lead in the midst of chaos and unchartered waters. They want a true partner – someone who goes beyond just supplying a product – who will be there through the good and the bad.”
Inspired by the resilience and perseverance of those around her, Yolande is optimistic that she will return to traveling and meeting customers in person soon. Until then, she remains committed to enabling people to progress in their roles, leading the Flavor Solutions business in the right direction, and making a positive impact in her community.
A member of EmbRACE, an EMEA McCormick ambassador group, Yolande works to raise awareness of the negative impact of exclusion by encouraging dialogue among her colleagues and promoting them to think and act diversely and inclusively at all levels. “It is important that I work for a company that values the diversity of people, ideas, and geographies,” she says. “As a South African, I live in a multi-ethnic society that includes many cultures and religions – we have 11 official languages.”
Yolande leverages her leadership role to align with McCormick’s corporate outreach efforts to support activities that proactively address social challenges and issues. She has inspired the McCormick South Africa team to support initiatives that fight period poverty, a global problem that affects women and girls who lack access to safe, hygienic menstrual products and are often shamed or stigmatized due to menstruation. Yolande understands that this health risk directly impacts girls' education and well-being, as millions of them leave school as a result.
“Raising awareness to this problem – and getting men and women involved in the solution – is a step toward gender equality and women’s economic empowerment, one of McCormick’s Purpose-led Performance (PLP) goals,” she says. In 2018, Yolande hosted a breakfast for female colleagues. One of the guest speakers shared her story about climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to raise money for sanitary pads for underprivileged girls and to educate people about period poverty. Shortly after the event, the Women's International Network (WIN) South Africa Employee Ambassador Group was formed, and its priority was to establish an initiative to address period poverty. This led to a group of McCormick women starting the “Dignified Dreams” Team, which collects donations from employees within EMEA to sustainably provide sanitary pads for young girls in disadvantaged and at-risk communities. This McCormick team creates partnerships with schools and delivers their donations in person, which allows them to get to know the girls and teach them how taking care of their health allows them to stay in school.
Today, all WIN South Africa-sponsored events ask for sanitary pads and donations as entry fees, and employees across EMEA can donate throughout the year. Other countries where McCormick operates, like France, have also adopted the initiative, which inspired the EMEA lead team to roll out a program at a regional level in 2020 and make donations in each market.
Each year when South Africa celebrates Nelson Mandela Day in honor of the country’s late president, people are encouraged to take action, inspire change, and make a difference in their communities. McCormick employees donate their time to cleaning and cooking in orphanages and schools, giving caregivers much-needed time off. This year, due to COVID constraints, the South African D&I Council collected much needed school stationary and sanitary pads for The Love Trust Foundation, a South African not-for-profit organization committed to delivering quality education and social care to vulnerable children.
“The enthusiasm and spirit our employees have given to this project have evolved into something much greater than we expected, says Yolande. "And it shows that everyone has the ability and the responsibility to change the world for the better."