Responsibly caring for the world

Sep 05, 2019 by Kelly Barnett

In Jewish culture, the phrase Tikkun Olam, or "repairing the world," is a responsibility to do good, to act in a way that is constructive and beneficial. This, is a fitting way to start Naty Barak’s story—from his past as a farmer in an Israeli kibbutz to his present as an ambassador for Orbia in its journey to take action on the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Born in 1944 and having seen the establishment of the State of Israel as a small boy, Naty grew up in the city of Haifa. From the young age of 20, he lived on a kibbutz. That was Naty’s first interaction with the agriculture industry —as a farmer, growing cotton, sugar beets, potatoes, and peppers. Naty loved the connection to nature and learned that when natural resources are treated with care, they reward you with great crops.

After completing his mandatory national service, Naty joined a group of 100 men and women, fellow kibbutz members, who had a vision. The vision was to turn an innovative irrigation system that used as little water as possible to grow more and better yields into a thriving business. They created a company called Netafim, with the determination to "grow more with less": less water, less energy, less contamination. This was an answer to the challenges of Israel, where water is scarce, but it scaled globally quickly to tackle one of the world’s largest problem.

During his days in Netafim, Naty has filled multiple roles across different parts of the business, including director of marketing, senior VP, of Netafim USA, and president of Netafim South Africa.

"As a young idealist I believed in sharing, in living a life of 'to each according to his needs, from each according to his abilities’."

- Naty Barak

Perhaps because of his passions for the kibbutz way of living and "repairing the world", Naty has developed a love for nature and a strong sense of community and that passion has guided his career as well as his lifestyle. When he took on the role of chief sustainability officer in Netafim in 2005, the transition was very natural.

For Netafim, sustainability was not a marketing buzzword; it was a core part of the business, inherent to its products and offerings. Naty has been working actively to raise awareness and action to enable Netafim to make the world a better place.

As part of those efforts, Naty found himself, in 2015, at the United Nations General Assembly Hall, when the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by all member countries. The impacts of Netafim’s activities are relevant to many of the SDGs. Drip irrigation directly leads to improved food security, enhanced livelihoods, empowerment of women, conservation of water, and less waste of valuable resources. Indirectly, drip irrigation contributes to positively transform lives.

As of 2019, Naty and his colleagues have helped over 2 million farmers around the world irrigate over 10 million hectares of land.

“This Sustainable Water Management goal is close to my heart because 660 million people today still do not have access to clean drinking water. 40% of the world’s people don’t have enough water. Every day, 1,000 children around the world die because of a lack of clean water or sanitation. Each of these deaths is avoidable. It doesn’t need to be this way, so we need to work hard to solve the water problems around the world.”

- Naty Barak

In 2019, at the age of 75, Naty decided he wanted to scale his impact beyond irrigation. So when Orbia acquired an 80% stake in Netafim, that was a great opportunity for him to join Orbia’s sustainability team in its quest to advance life around the world and to contribute its part in reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goals, by pursuing the world’s most complex challenges.