UTZ – Rainforest Alliance

Cross-cultural communication

Cross-cultural competences

Developing cross-cultural competences for UTZ management and employees


How can we develop cross-cultural competences for our UTZ management and employees?

An overall restructuring of the organization is taking place. A survey amongst all employees of UTZ led to the request and need for a training on intercultural communication and more intercultural awareness as different styles in communication and value orientations arise at times, in specific about direct and indirect ways of communicating, on task/goal oriented focus or relationship focus, to illustrate as example that came out of the survey.

In order to prevent further (minor) tension, friction and confusion from happening and improve skills of the staff of UTZ on dealing effectively and productively with cross cultural differences, expert advice from a specialized intercultural training organization / expert was asked. 

About the organization

UTZ is a non-profit organization aiming to create a world where sustainable farming is the norm. UTZ has the largest certification program for coffee and cocoa and has certification schemes in other commodities including (herbal) tea, rooibos and hazelnuts. The UTZ certified label features on over 20,000 different products across 135 countries.

UTZ consists of approximately 140 employees, of who around 100 are based in headquarters Amsterdam, The Netherlands and around 40 colleagues are based abroad on various continents. Most nationalities in the Amsterdam headquarters are: Dutch, German, French and Latin American. Abroad the nationalities vary from China, Vietnam, India, Kenya, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Turkey, United States, Nicaragua and Guatemala to name a few.

UTZ consists of four executive directors, responsible of different impact areas. UTZ has 16 executive managers: one manager has a non-Dutch background, the rest of the managers are all Dutch nationals. Twelve teams are overall operational within UTZ.





Diversity Matters offered a training support program to make UTZ a truly international company, with staff able to orient themselves internationally, shift perspective when needed and be effective in their communication across cultures. Diversity Matters offered several consecutive trainings for teams of 12-15 pp. to the international staff over the course of 1 year (2016-2017).

Intercultural Communication – Communication across Cultures

(1 day – max. 12 – 15 pp. employees)

  • Meaning of culture and how does it impacts communication
  • Cultural dimensions and how they impact on behavior 

  • Personal, cultural and universal layers of behavior 

  • Awareness on own cultural lenses and biases 

  • Awareness on dominant communication styles and how this impacts 

  • Switch perspective/style in order to be most effective in a given 

  • How to act effectively to cooperate and communicate with colleagues across 

  • Optional: participants of the training can take a Personal Cultural Assessment giving them in 30-45 minutes a valuable insight and orientation on their own dominant cultural profile, communication style and characteristics. It will serve as a useful basis to work and compare cultural styles and profiles with others in the organization. 

Managing International Teams

(2 days – max. 8 pp. per group)

  • knowledge and awareness on personal communication management styles and increasing the ability to effectively navigate, manage and lead international/cross cultural teams.
  • Know about culture and how it impacts communication and behavior 

  • Know their own preferable cultural behavior patterns and management 
communication style 

  • Aware of their dominant cultural communication style and how this impacts on 

  • Learn how to solve cultural misunderstandings, frictions and possible tensions 

  • Learn how to obtain full commitment and participation from team members 

  • Learn how to facilitate and make inclusive decisions within full buy-in from team 
members (without necessarily needing all to agreeing on the same things) 

  • Learn how to manage existing polarities effectively 

  • Learn how to manage intercultural team dynamics effectively 

Making International Teams Work 

  • Know how to effectively make use of each others talents and differences 

  • Know how to connect with their differences and make effective decisions 

  • Know how to solve frictions or tensions within their team effectively 

  • Aware of the importance of an all-inclusive team culture where every one

Reaction of employees and management to the training intervention

  • ‘more understanding of how communication styles influence interactions between colleagues, my own strengths and weaknesses in relation to those styles and how to deal with conflict when styles clash’
  • ‘opportunity to look at myself out of the box’
  • “I have gained more knowledge if intercultural communication, the different styles and their way of communicating and how to avoid mistakes”
  • “more insights about myself and good tips to understand others”
  • “refreshing, makes you think about sometimes the obvious tings but usually not things we give enough time to”
  • ‘more aware of the different intercultural communication styles’
  • ‘insights in your own dominant communication style and how this is perceived by others’
  • gained better understanding of what communication style I am lacking, what experiences of others can help me improve collaboration with my colleagues