“Ethical Markets congratulates Danone North America on becoming a B Corp, like us! See our TV show with Marcello Palazzi , distributed to business schools colleges and conferences worldwide by www.films.com or free on demand at www.ethicalmarkets.tv! ~Hazel Henderson, Editor”
Exactly one year ago, upon closing of the WhiteWave acquisition, DanoneWave, the $6bn company resulting from the combination of our North American dairy business and WhiteWave’s activities, was incorporated as a Public Benefit Corporation in the USA, making it the largest PBC in the world. That same day, we announced that we would seek the outside, independent B Corp accreditation for this new entity by 2020.
A few weeks later, at Danone’s Annual Shareholder Meeting end of April 2017, I announced that the next chapter was going to be the creation of a roadmap for the whole of Danone to become a Certified B Corp.
Today, on the first anniversary of the creation of DanoneWave, we are announcing that it is renamed as “Danone North America” and that it has just been certified as a B Corp. In only one year, the teams have been able to achieve what we had said we would in three. Kudos to everyone involved. I am so proud of you all!
The reason I am writing is because this new major milestone is a breakthrough point for Danone on our global B Corp roadmap. With our major North American activities being certified as of today, it is now proven that it is possible to certify as a B Corp for large organizations that are committed to being change agents, for business and for the world we live in. And I want to acknowledge this.
Nearly 30% of Danone’s global sales are now covered by the B Corp certification. We started our journey about 3 years ago. Beyond our subsidiaries in the USA and Canada, Dairy entities such as Danone Spain, Danone UK, and Les 2 Vaches, Happy Family in Early Life Nutrition, Aqua Indonesia and Danone Aguas de Argentina in Waters are also certified members of the B Corp movement. And about the same number of additional Danone entities are underway to obtain certification.
Danone is committed to pursuing a dual economic and social agenda.
Naturally, if we see such positive traction, this is because for us, in a way, the B Corp certification journey started several decades ago, with the declaration as far back as 1972 that Danone is committed to pursuing a “dual economic and social agenda”. This continued with the implementation of “Danone Way” nearly 20 years ago: our audited, scorecard-led integrated reporting and monitoring process for all of our business entities around the world. Moreover, today’s company-wide enthusiasm for B Corp is a deep reflection of how the food generation, both inside and outside the company, is changing its relationship with brands when it comes to eating and drinking. In line with our ‘One Planet. One Health’ vision, B Corp offers transparency as to a company’s high standards of social and environmental practices. And as a mark of trust, it also offers a proof point of who the people behind the brands are, highlighting both their intent and ways of working.
In a manner consistent with our long-time advocacy for social purpose to be included in the French Company Law (now under concrete discussion in the French government), we are supporting B Corp accreditation as a way to ensure people chose brands, employers, business partners that meet their ethos and are ready to continuously be held publicly accountable. Indeed, to keep your B Corp certification, you need to re-do the rigorous B Corp self-assessment and be re-verified by B Lab every two years.
I therefore look at Danone North America’s accreditation today as a responsibility for us.
A responsibility towards the B Corp community and its governing NGO B-Lab. By certifying Danone North America as the largest B Corp ever by far, we have – together – treaded into unchartered waters. And we will need to devote even more resources, time and energy to now pursue the global certification process for Danone.
This is creating a lot of hope for many large companies, multinational or not, which are regularly checking in with us to discuss the merits of our B Corp journey, some of whose CEOs texted me this morning on the announcement. Some of them have also joined us in the Multinationals and Public Markets Advisory Council created by B Lab to help progress the matter by defining a certification path for large and publicly traded companies. And we don’t want to disappoint the growing number of supporters of the B Corp movement among big business. As scale and diversity of companies are essential to change business for the better, B Corp can provide a framework that enables a relevant response to the mounting pressure to measure the non-financial externalities of their impact. Going one step further, companies can also build on social and environmental engagements to become a B Corp to contribute in a measured way to the UN SDG agenda.
I realize that equally so, this is an everyday responsibility towards our business partners and the hundreds of millions of people that regularly choose Danone’s brands throughout the world. And that this helps fuel the trust of our financing partners. Beyond our shareholders, to whom we started explaining the rationale behind our B Corp ambition last year (helped by Doug McMillon, CEO of Walmart commending our decision in a specially-made video), a few weeks ago, as I reported here, 12 of the largest banks in the world syndicated a 2bn euro bank loan to Danone with interest rates that are lowering as Danone progresses on its B Corp (and other ESG) metrics. The paradigm shift is in fact that these banks have identified B Corp as lowering the beta risk of our credit status.
Even more recently, we successfully issued the first corporate bond ever aligned with the new Social Bond Principles, for €300m, to be entirely used for our sustainability and social integrated programs that, in turn are feeding our B Corp accreditation.
B Corp is not just another CSR program for us.
It is clear from these examples that B Corp is not just another CSR program for us. It is about transforming Danone at the core of how we want to do business, to embrace the food revolution and as such be preferred by all our partners (people, shareholders, banks, customers, etc.); to be more resilient as a business; and to have more impactful brands supporting our ambition to inspire healthier and more sustainable eating and drinking habits.
Ultimately, this is also a responsibility towards the people that are making it happen every day. As I meet with them around the world, I can see that a growing number of our Danone team members see in B Corp what it can or already brings to them, both as people and for their contribution to Danone’s mission.
As one of our Mexican colleagues recently told me: B Corp is a way for us to be a company closer to what we, each of us, truly aspire to be as a person. This is my guiding compass in the journey, and this is why Danone will be a B Corp.