Daniel Spitzer, founder and CEO, Mountain Hazelnuts
BY PAKSY PLACKIS-CHENG
Mountain Hazelnuts is committed to growing 10 million hazelnut trees in Bhutan. The company is charged as a significant commercial producer in the world and has between 10,000 to 15,000 farm households and monasteries involved in their planting program. The triple-bottom line enterprise employs over 800 people, of which 50 percent are women.
impactmania caught up with Daniel Spitzer, CEO of Mountain Hazelnuts, at the United Nations Business Call to Action Forum (BCtA) in New York. BCtA is focused on organizations that are committed to driving Sustainable Development Goals as part of their standard business practice.
Daniel, what was an unexpected learning experience while building Mountain Hazelnuts?
How profoundly challenging and ultimately rewarding it is to work with my wife. Despite having spent three decades together, finding that there are lots of different issues that arise are important grounds to address.
There is still so much to learn. I thought that I knew the answers after having built big social impact businesses in the past. Finding that there are still lots of challenges that are unique to the environment and also personal growth is essential to becoming more effective, so its a very personal kind of learning.
In Bhutan, there are subtle cultural social factors that one needs to address in management. While I have a language background and decades of experience living in the region nearby, I had no sensitivity to the professional ego that I found in Bhutan. It was important to learn how to be sensitive and effective while having a whole lot to learn.
What’s next for you?
I’m going to continue to work more broadly in the Himalayas in adjacent countries for both for-profit and social impact projects, including social impact work in agriculture, community, and spiritual institutions.
Give me one word that describes your journeys so far.
Heart: driven by passion and intuition.
Where is this coming from?
I think a profound respect and love for nature from my mother, lots of time in the mountains, and an intuitive faith, not an institutional faith.
A previous interview with the co-founders of Mountain Hazelnuts: Social Enterprise in the Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan.