ST.2 Interview the CEO



In this activity you will try to build an understanding of the current company strategy by reviewing any formal strategy documentation and through an interview with the CEO.


• Key threats and opportunities for the value chain from the activity PR.5 Identify the general opportunities and threats across the value chain.

• Data gathering checklist from the activity ST.1 Plan my data gathering strategy.


• Current business strategy used in the activity ST.7 Do a SWOT analysis.




In some companies the business strategy will be formally captured in a presentation or some kind of document e.g. a ‘five-year plan’. If such a presentation or document exists, this should provide you with the majority of information that you need.

However, in many companies the strategy will not have been captured formally and may simply reside in the mind of the CEO. If this is the case, you will need to interview the owner/CEO to discover more about the strategy. You can use the Business Strategy template to guide you discussion, and capture notes. The main elements of the template are:

  • Strategic goals – provides specific and tangible short-medium term targets that will help the company make progress towards its company vision.
  •  Markets – provides a broad description of where and to whom the company will try to sell its products and services.
  •  Products – describes what it is that the company sells, whether this is a physical product or a service.
  •  Selling points – describes the characteristics of the company’s products and services that it thinks will be particularly appealing for potential customers compared to the offering available from competitors – see the Tips & Tricks section for examples.


The interview with the CEO can also be a good opportunity to validate the desk research that you completed during the PREPARE phase. This can be done by presenting the sustainability hotspots, threats and opportunities that you identified for the value chain. The CEO should be able to confirm if the hotspots, threats and opportunities that you have identified are relevant to the company. This may also lead to discussions about other threats and opportunities that are more specific to the company, which you should make a note of.


After the interview, you may wish to send a copy of the completed Business Strategy template to the CEO to check that you have understood the business strategy correctly.

Tips & Tricks


During your interview you should also be trying to build an understanding of beliefs and attitude of the CEO e.g. Do they have a personal interest in sustainability issues? What is their attitude to innovation and risk? Are they looking for quick fixes or do they want to invest in long term, fundamental changes?


Here are some descriptions of commonly used selling points that might crop up in your interview with the CEO include:

LOW COST – Capability to sustain lowest overall cost or price

QUALITY – Capability to deliver highest quality products or service versus customer specifications

SPEED – Capability to pro- vide products/services to the customer faster

SERVICE – Capability to assist consumer use of the product/service or provide direct follow-up services

INNOVATION – Capability to continually reinvent product/service and be first to market with new concepts

SUSTAINABILITY – Capability to provide products and services with enhanced life cycle sustainability properties

— Success story from Sri Lanka

Coconut innovator targets new, high-value production

Sri Lankan company Asian Agro Products has taken big steps… >> read more.